Dogs have always been man’s best friend, but it’s only been in the last few decades that we have started behaving as if it works both ways. That’s an encapsulation of an idea that Betty White expressed last night, when she was honored at the Second Annual American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards — and Betty is one who would know.
The 90-year-old national treasure has been an animal lover throughout her lifetime, of course, going back to the days that, according to her, animal advocates were viewed as “a bunch of zealots” and our beastie besties were strictly considered beneath us. Now, though, every year we’re discovering more capabilities of these wonderful creatures, Betty enthused.
At the Hero Dog Awards, many of these remarkable capabilities were celebrated, as eight Hero Dog honorees and their stories were introduced with the help of emcee Kristin Chenoweth (and her own dog, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth), Joey Lawrence, Jewel, Pauley Perette, Kellie Martin, Denise Richards, Naomi Judd, Mark Steines, Jake T. Austin and other celebs.
For instance, there’s Jynx, the Law Enforcement/Arson Dog honoree. He was on duty with his handler, Deputy Sheriff Kyle Pagerly of the Berks County Sheriff’s Department, and other officers in rough terrain — and the German Shepherd alone detected a bad guy lying in wait, ready to ambush the law men with a sub machine gun and a cache of other weapons. Jynx alerted the deputies to the gunman’s presence, attacked the gunman — who nevertheless managed to fire several shots at Pagerly — and then attempted to pull his wounded master to safety. Pagerly died at the hospital, but the other officers on the scene that day feel they owe the hero dog their lives. Jynx now lives with Pagerly’s widow and baby daughter. It was Mrs. Pagerly, only a few weeks pregnant when she lost her 28-year-old husband, who tearfully accepted Jynx’ award — and a heartfelt standing ovation from the crowd.
There are stories of therapy dogs who’ve saved lives and brought troubled humans out of their shells, stories of courageous canines on the battlefield, dogs who’ve given people with disabilities ways to live normal lives. Yes, have the hankies handy if you watch the Hero Dog Awards on The Hallmark Channel November 8. Each honoree is loveable and deserving, unlike other awards shows we could name.
The Beverly Hilton Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, where such galas as the Golden Globes take place, was again the setting for the Hero Dog Awards, with quite a few canines, large and small, there to enjoy the event first-paw. (Whatever must those doggies have thought of being applauded by a ballroom full of people?) The crowd feasted upon sauteed tenderloin of beef and seared citrus olive marinated filet of sea bass — and a dessert of espresso almond tiramisu in a chocolate cup, complete with white chocolate hero dog medallions. For those who watched the first Hero Dogs Awards last year, with Carson Kressley as host — expect a more even program this year.