From now until July 31st, pup owners and handlers can nominate courageous canines for the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE). These awards celebrate dogs—like K-9 unit legend Appollo—who do extraordinary things in the service of humankind.
Appollo’s illustrious career as a member of the NYPD’s world-class K-9 unit was winding down when his ACE award was announced in 2001. No one knew then, as they celebrated his many years of service, that Appollo was about to play a pivotal role on one of the most infamous days in American history.
Just a few short weeks after the German Shepherd stood in front of his peers to be honored for his contributions to the community, Appollo became the lead dog in the search and recovery efforts in the aftermath of 9/11. Millions of TV viewers across the globe were given a first look at the grueling, dangerous work done by search dogs and their handlers. Appollo helped forever change the public’s perception of police dogs.
Each year, the American Kennel Club celebrates five exceptional dogs for making significant contributions to an individual or entire community. Since Appollo, several extraordinary dogs have been honored—including last year’s winner of the Uniformed Service Award, K-9 Deputy Radar.
The 4-year-old Bloodhound has been finding missing persons and tracking down criminals since he was 10 weeks old. Radar has worked with several law enforcement agencies, including the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.
Winner of the Service Dog Award went to Labrador Retriever Teddie, who helped inspire her owner Krystal after she suddenly became paralyzed at the age of 14. Thanks to Teddie’s assistance, Krystal has earned three associate degrees, works part-time, and travels as a spokesperson for Canine Partners for Life.
Last year’s ACE award recipients also included Jackie, a Sussex Spaniel who provides comfort to airport travelers; search and rescue dog Bodie, who averages 20 searches per year; and Haus, the German Shepherd who put his life at risk to save his 7-year-old owner from a rattlesnake bite
History of the AKC ACE Awards
The first ACE awards were announced in the fall of 2000 as an attempt by the AKC to reach beyond the purebred crowd. The awards program was created to honor dogs who, “enrich, inspire, or contribute to the lives of individuals and communities,” says Gina DiNardo, American Kennel Club Executive Secretary and Director of the AKC Humane Fund. This was the organizations first initiative to engage the greater dog-owning public.
In the early days of the awards, ACEs were handed out at local dogs shows. Before long, the awards were presented at the annual AKC National Championship dog show. DiNardo described the event as “a gala multi-faceted event where the year’s five ACE dogs and owners receive their awards and are saluted in the ring.”
Among the inaugural class of 2000 was a Whippet therapy dog for a hospital pediatric unit; a previously homeless Golden Retriever who became a top search and rescue K-9; a three-legged pet Golden Retriever who saved his family of four from a house fire; and a Belgian Malinois police dog responsible for the seizure of a million dollars’ worth of drugs and drug money.
How It Works
The ACE awards are administered by AKC staff. Each year, staff members sift through hundreds of nominations to select four or five nominees for each category. Senior AKC staff then review the panel’s choices to choose an overall winner. Since its creation in 2000, eighty-five ACE awards have been presented to dogs of varying breeds from across the nation.
“There are countless dogs that improve the lives of individuals and communities across the nation each and every day,” says Gina DiNardo, American Kennel Club Executive Secretary and Director of the AKC Humane Fund. “These remarkable canines touch the hearts of many and deserve to be recognized for their selfless acts. We are proud to honor five of these canine heroes each year with an ACE award.”
There are five award categories: Uniformed Service K-9, Exemplary Companion, Search and Rescue, Therapy and Service. Honorees receive an engraved sterling-silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip for the dog and owner to Orlando, Florida, to be honored at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in December. A $1,000 donation will be made in each pup’s name to the pet-related charity of their choice. Proud parents and the public can view the names of ACE award recipients—past and present—on the ACE plaque on permanent display at the AKC Humane Fund Library located at the AKC headquarters in New York City.
Owners or handlers can nominate courageous canines by submitting a nomination form. All submissions must include:
• An original print or digital photograph of the dog. Images will not be returned. All photos should be larger than 1 MB in size. The photo should only feature the honorary pup.
• A 500-word or less description of how the dog has demonstrated excellence.
• The dog’s call name, breed, age and sex.
Nominations are now open for the ACE awards. Nominations will be accepted through July 31st, 2017. Send in your nominations online at akc.org. Winners will be announced in fall 2017. Submit your favorite four-legged friend for a chance to be honored along with so many courageous canines.