Betty White, Julianne Hough, Michael Vartan, Pauley Perrette, Joey Lawrence, Victoria Stilwell, Faith Ford and a pack of other dog-loving celebrities turned out to honor extraordinary canines at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards over the weekend. There were lots of laughs with host Carson Kressley. Presenters including Peter Fonda added memorable moments. And performances by Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik were beautiful and moving. But clearly, the celebrities of the night were Sadie, Zurich, Stacey Mae, Bino, Sage, Harley, Ricochet and the late, great guide dog Roselle, who safely led her blind partner, Michael Hingson, down 78 flights of stairs in Tower One of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Each Hero Dog’s story — with their amazing abilities and depth of devotion — is enough to bring tears to the eyes of animal lovers. The show, airing Nov. 11 on Hallmark Channel, is not to be missed.
“I love dogs and any event that we can honor these great creatures, as much as they do for us, I want to be there for them,” Joey Lawrence told us before the start of the show that took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “I think it’s cool.” (By the way, Joey has a Black Labrador, an Australian Heeler and a German Shepherd at home.)
The “Melissa & Joey” star presented honors to Emerging Hero Dog Ricochet — a Golden Retriever who surfs with special needs children and disabled adults. Video of Ricochet’s story of finding her own calling after being released from a service dog training program went viral with 3.6 million views.
Betty White, looking smashing in red, talked with a twinkle about her beloved Pontiac — her Golden Retreiver — before giving a presentation that ended with her literally dancing into the wings with Carson Cressley. Carson’s “Dancing With the Stars” pro partner, Anna Trebunskaya, was on hand in the audience to cheer him on.
Cesar canine cuisine sponsored the event, and the company’s Westie spokesdog was there to present one of the awards with Pauley Perrette. The “NCIS” actress cuddled the pooch and pronounced him (actually, it’s a her) her favorite copresenter ever before noting that you’ve got to love an awards show where it’s okay to have animal fur on your clothes.
Guests dined on seabass and tenderloin of beef accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes and herb grilled tomatoes, and a chocolate mousse dessert garnished with a white chocolate cartoon dalmation and a dark chocolate Hero Dog bone.
We caught up with Hingson backstage after Roselle was proclaimed the top dog among top dogs.
“She was a great dog. I’m just so, so happy she was honored. We’re really excited,” he said. Hingson’s 9/11 experience with his faithful guide leading him down 1,463 stairs — occasionally being petted and greeted by firefighters on their way up — led him into a new career. He’s working with Guide Dogs for the Blind, and has traveled all over the country and abroad giving keynote speeches that promote dogs, teamwork and trust. He’s delighted that the Hero Dog Awards will raise even more awareness of the incredible assets of these canine companions. “I’m hoping to have a chance to do more work with the American Humane Association,” he says.
“I loved her and I miss her so much,” he adds of the yellow Lab, who died just this past summer. “I tell people that whenever someone wants in heaven, they ring the bell at the door and she barks, telling St. Peter, ‘Better get that.'”
Here’s hoping that this Inaugural Hero Dog Awards event will be the first of many, many more.