With this year’s group of honorees representing one moving story after another, it was a four-hanky affair.
There were interesting stories on the human side as well. James Denton was a last-minute replacement for Terry Bradshaw, who bowed out of co-hosting duties with Beth Stern in the wake of the stunning news of the death of Bradshaw’s son-in-law, former Tennessee Titans player Rob Bironas, in an automobile accident. The former “Desperate Housewives” actor gamely dove in, getting some of his best laughs of the night via a video bit showing him “interviewing” dogs and other critters using a device that purportedly translated their thoughts.
Between takes, Denton asked Stern how come there had been so many “Desperate Housewives” Mike-the-plumber jokes through the evening, but not a single quip about Beth’s husband, Howard Stern. “It’s in my contract,” the beauteous blond Mrs. Stern replied with a dazzling smile. Then the “Kitten Bowl” host told the crowd that Howard was home taking care of their 15 cats. The Sterns, we are told, have successfully fostered and placed more than 50 cats to date.
Wilson Phillips performed. The ’90s favorites are in the midst of a string of concert dates right now, including one at Beverly Hills’ Saban Theatre last week during which Chynna Phillips’ mother, Michelle Phillips, joined them onstage to sing “California Dreamin'”. The last surviving member of the iconic 1960s group The Mamas and the Papas was present at the Hero Dog Awards also, looking lovely at age 70 in a flowing white gown.
Chynna talked to her “mommie” several times from onstage and it was as sweet as Wilson Phillips’ singing “God Only Knows” backed by photos of their dogs.
Of course, the night really belonged to the hero dogs and their stories. For instance, there was the tearful parting and joyous reunion of a soldier and his four-legged buddy after tours of duty in Afghanistan; the fluffy white friend who turned out to have a gift for early detection of a little girl’s life-threatening extreme allergic attacks; the amazing career of a 15-year-old search and rescue dog whose first assignment was Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. And the over-all winner of the 2014 Hero Dog Awards, Susie the therapy dog, a Pit Bull mix whose story of the healing power of forgiveness and love exemplifies what the event is all about.