October 7, 2009
First Annual Dogs of Valor Winners
We are pleased to announce the winners of the First Annual Dogs of Valor Awards. Our panel of celebrity judges, including Martina Navratilova, Candy Spelling, Tamar Geller, and Silvio Horta, chose the First Annual Valor Dogs of the Year and Finalists. You chose the People's Hero winner!
Scroll through the image slider to see this year's winning dogs. Visit the Hall of Fame to meet other Dogs of Valor winners.
Valor Dogs of the Year
Companion Dog Group
Owner: Will and Lagree Bartley; Oakland, Calif.
Buffy's guardian, Will Bartley, had just returned home from work when he was approached by an armed man who pointed a gun at his chest and demanded money. He gave him all he had, but the assailant demanded more. At that point, Buffy, a 7-year-old German shepherd who had just made her way out to greet Will, sensed danger and lunged at the gunman. He responded by firing two shots, striking her once in the front leg. Despite her wound, Buffy pursued the gunman who eventually escaped. Thanks to Buffy, Will was left unscathed, but the dog's condition was very serious and required surgery. Sadly, about a month after the incident, an underlying kidney condition that was exacerbated by the injury eventually forced Buffy's family to humanely euthanize her.
Working Dog Group
Owner: Sharon Yunker-Deatz; Louisville, Ky.
Yeager, a 2½ year old Labrador retriever, is trained to help his owner, Sharon Yunker-Deatz, live with multiple sclerosis. One day, Sharon took Yeager to the beach so they could enjoy some "off-duty" time together. That day children were playing far out in the water. Suddenly, one of them became separated from the others and appeared to be in trouble. Yeager jumped in the water and began swimming out towards the child. Frightened by the strong undertow, Sharon called out to Yeager, but he kept going. Immediately, those around her recognized Sharon's distress and saw Yeager swimming towards the struggling child. Nearby adults jumped into the water to help. While Yeager did not actually pull the child to safety, he did bring attention to the unfolding tragedy by responding without regard to his own safety. Yeager prevented another tragedy only a month later. While visiting a friend whose home had just burned down, Sharon started to walk through the rubble. But rather than letting her go, Yeager blocked her from moving forward, preventing her from falling through a hole that had been burned into the floor.
Owner: The Pieters Family; Willow Street, Penn.
In 2003, Maya Pieters, then a 3-year-old little girl, was diagnosed with Congenital Bilateral Perisylvian Syndrome (CBPS), an extremely rare neurological condition that mainly affects the oral motor functions. A year later, her family visited their local shelter and adopted Jack, a terrier mix who had been rescued from a trash dumpster. Jack and Maya developed an immediate bond that, nearly four years later, would save her life. One fateful morning, Jack soundly slept downstairs in his open crate. He suddenly awoke and darted upstairs to Maya's room where he began clawing and barking at the door. The little girl's family recognized that Jack was desperately trying to alert them that something was very wrong. It turns out Maya was having her first Grand Mal seizure in her sleep. She was rushed to the emergency room and treated for a new CBPS symptom. When her parents brought her home, Jack stayed by the little girl's side. Now, each time Maya has an epileptic event at home, Jack seems to sense it prior to its start. He has broken even her fall as she suffered a seizure.
Companion Dog Group Finalists
Owner: Candace Jennings; Idaho City, Idaho
Early Thanksgiving morning, Anna, an adopted Australian cattle dog, barked and nudged her sleeping owner as flames quickly began to sweep through their Idaho City, Idaho mobile home. Finally waking her, Anna, two other dogs, and their guardian, Candace Jennings, were able to safely escape the burning home. As soon as they were outside, Candace realized that all of her work keys were still inside. With Anna by her side, she crawled back in to find them but became disoriented by the thick smoke and could not find her way out. Anna came to Candices rescue again by pushing and nudging her towards the door that led to safety. Thanks to the plucky herding dog who became an overnight media celebrity in their small mountain town, both escaped with minor burns just moments before the roof collapsed. The home was a total loss.
Owner: Jeremy Rogers; Palmer, Alaska
Bear's two owners, Christopher E. Rogers Sr. and Elann Moren, were startled awake before dawn in a frightening way: Rogers Sr.'s 28-year-old son, Erin, stood over them with a machete. Even as Erin hit him multiple times with the deadly blade, Rogers Sr. tried to fight back. When he finally collapsed, Erin turned his attention to Elann, his father's fiance, and began to attack her. According to friends, that's when Bear, the couple's 160-pound Mastiff mix, attacked the assailant, giving Elann a chance to escape to the bathroom where she was able to lock herself inside and call the police. His attack thwarted, Erin fled the home and allegedly continued his 26-hour rampage in nearby Anchorage. Sadly, Rogers Sr. died from his injuries. While Elann suffered a dozen devastating slashes to her head, neck, and back, she survived in part because Bear, who siffered a split lip and shattered tooth, slowed the attack and gave her a chance to escape the nightmare.
Working Dog Group Finalists
Owner: Adrian McKee; Big Bear City, Calif.
Pearl is a service dog who is trained to help her owner, Adrian McKee, with her mobility. The 70-pound boxer mix also alerts Adrian to oncoming migraines and has developed a skill for "tasting" (licking) Adrian's skin and notifying her when her potassium levels are low or are dropping. One day Adrian collapsed from potassium loss and was barely conscious. Pearl used her nose to try to raise Adrian's head. When that failed, Pearl went to the phone, knocked the receiver off the hook and stepped on one of the large emergency buttons Adrian had shown her. When there was no response, an ambulance and police car were dispatched to the home. When they arrived, Pearl opened the door as she had been trained, grabbed a ball in her mouth, and ran to the gate. Because Pearl's appearance had frightened paramedics and police in the past, Adrian trained Pearl to carry a ball in her mouth in an effort to ensure visitors that she was friendly. Paramedics followed Pearl to Adrian and took her to the Emergency Room where she was treated for dangerously low potassium levels.
Owner: Chris Sorenson; Lucerne, Calif.
Buster's owner, Chris Sorenson, suffers from glaucoma, blindness in one eye, and a heart condition. Buster's primary role as a service animal is to help reduce Chris's blood pressure, eye pressure, and anxiety. Early Thanksgiving morning though, Buster, a 9-year-old golden retriever, transformed from Chris's service dog to the savior of Chris's entire family and their house. As they slept, Buster jumped on Chris's back with both paws and barked. Chris immediately woke to find that an electrical wall outlet had blown up and was shooting flames and sparks into the air. After evacuating his wife, three children, and Buster he was able to shut off the electricity to the house so the fire did not spread. Chris, a former firefighter, knew that every second counts in an electrical fire. Buster's quick recognition of danger and action to alert his owner prevented what could have become a tragic holiday memory.