The show was hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, who was joined by special honoree Betty White, red carpet host Joey Lawrence and many guest celebrity judges. The winning dogs were voted by the public and more than 2 million ballots were cast. Each winner and their owner were flown to Beverly Hills for the special night and the best in pet care.
Holly, a Shetland sheepdog, was honored as the top service dog because of her uncanny ability to sense her owner Shanna Wilkinson’s seizures ahead of time. It is a special bond the two have shared since Shanna was a teenager, before her epilepsy was even diagnosed.
Shanna had originally received Holly as a birthday gift and planned to train her for agility competitions and sheepherding. Now, she takes Holly to classrooms to talk to children about how important service dogs are.
“They’re security; they’re a constant support in the person’s life that needs them,” Wilkinson told the Deseret News. “It’s amazing how they always know exactly what their (master) needs, and are able to accommodate that.”
Marissa Levy knows the feeling. Her standard poodle, Stella, was chosen as Therapy Dog of the Year based on her work at Richmond Community Services in Mount Kisco, according to the Daily Voice. Stella volunteers with children and adults who have significant intellectual, medical and physical disabilities and at a cancer-support organization. Not that long ago, Stella also helped Levy overcome a hard time in her life.
“I had lost my dad and my best friend three months apart,” said Levy, who learned to love again with Stella.
The dog named as the 2012 American Hero Dog was Gabe, who also won the Military Dogs category. While deployed in Iraq, Gabe completed more than 210 combat missions with 26 finds of explosives and weapons, according to the Hero Dog Awards Website. Gabe and his owner received $15,000 to donate to their charity of choice, the United States War Dog Association.
Other winners include Jynx for Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs; Tabitha for Guide Dogs; Soot for Search and Rescue Dogs; Tatiana II for Hearing Dogs, and Daniel for Emerging Hero Dogs (ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things).