OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma City pooch that was rescued from the rubble of the devastating EF5 tornado in Moore in 2013 is now the United States’ top search and rescue dog and an American Humane Hero Dog Awards finalist.
American Humane, the nation’s first national humane organization, announced Thursday that Little Man has been named “Search and Rescue Dog of the Year” and is one of seven canine finalists in the 2021 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.
Little Man received the honor after millions of votes were cast by people across the nation and a celebrity panel of dog lovers and experts, according to an American Humane spokesperson.
The public selected Little Man and the other finalists from an initial field of more than 400 nominees. Animal lovers can help choose the winner by voting for their favorites once a day through September 7 at www.herodogawards.org.
“We congratulate Little Man and all of this year’s fabulous finalists for their outstanding courage and compassion,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO. “Now, the public and our blue-ribbon panel of animal experts and celebrity animal lovers have an extraordinarily tough task ahead of them in deciding who the nation’s top dog will be. We wish all of these heroic hounds the best of luck.”
Little Man was a tiny pit bull puppy when he was found buried beneath rubble in Moore, days after an EF5 tornado devastated the city.
Molly Gibb, a professional Search and Rescue volunteer, felt that Little Man had something special inside him. The pup went unclaimed, so she adopted him.
Little Man is intelligent, driven, curious, athletic and upbeat – the perfect combination of qualities for search and rescue work.
“Little Man’s trainability, determination and affinity for people epitomizes just what can make many pit bulls great working dogs,” Gibb said.
Little Man’s search and rescue work can be the difference between life and death.
He found a missing traumatized assault victim alive in 2020.
“He has grown from tornado survivor to hero and has fully blossomed in public service, eagerly paying it forward by helping families and communities in crisis and graciously welcoming their love in return,” Gibb said.
The 2021 American Humane Hero Dog Awards schedule is as follows:
- Final Round of Voting: July 29 – Sept. 7
- Hero Dog Awards Broadcast: Fall 2021, exact date/time to be announced
- Hero Dog Awards Gala in Palm Beach Nov. 12
The awards – sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and now in their 11th year – will be broadcast nationally on television this fall as a two-hour special on Hallmark Drama.
Below is the full list of finalists, as provided by American Humane and each dog’s handler:
2021 Shelter Dog of the Year (sponsored by Lulu’s Fund)
Deputy Chance (Cape Coral, Florida) – Chance was a victim of animal abuse in Lee County, Florida. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office investigated the animal cruelty case and used forensics evidence to identify a suspect and subsequently get a conviction. Chance was adopted by Lieutenant Castellon and deputized by Sheriff Carmine Marceno. Deputy Chance is the spokesdog for the public affairs unit at the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Chance was also named a Good Will Ambassador by the county commissioners. He regularly visits schools, hospitals, and community events. He promotes good will, has become an advocate against animal cruelty and helps promote adoption of shelter pets. Deputy Chance is the face of the Deputy Dogs Person Patrol program in Lee County, Florida.
2021 Military Dog of the Year
SSG Summer (Mt. Airy, Maryland) – My retired canine partner’s name is Staff Sergeant Summer, a 10-year-old female Labrador. Summer retired from the Marines Corps in 2013 as a Military Working Dog and proud war dog. She most recently retired as a Police Explosive Detection Dog after serving proudly for seven years. While deployed, she conducted a substantial number of routine patrols, searching for and positively identifying countless weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, swept and cleared routes for the troops and was involved in numerous fire fights with insurgents. Summer put her life on the line to protect, defend and save the lives of countless troops. As a result of these exposures in war zone environments and other traumatic events that Summer experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, she was diagnosed with canine PTSD in December 2015. She copes with this condition daily. For her heroic, extraordinary valor and service to our country, Staff Sergeant Summer received the PDSA Commendation Award in July 2017 and the Lois Pope K9 Medal of Courage on Capitol Hill the following year. In retirement, SSG Summer continues to serve her country and fellow veterans by visiting them at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, located in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The veterans who reside at that location truly admire her story of service and enjoy the love and pats as she walks through their rooms.
2021 Therapy Dog of the Year
Boone (Hookstown, Pennsylvania) – Boone survived heartbreaking cruelty as a puppy, which resulted in the loss of his back legs. His life changed when he was adopted by a family with a soft spot for special needs pets. His family had him fitted with a wheelchair to improve his mobility, and he has been a dog on a mission ever since – a mission to spread his joy to others with his infectious smile and story of resilience. Despite his challenges, his sweet nature and enthusiasm for life make him a perfect fit for his new profession as a therapy dog. They say that when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, and that is the truth for Boone. Children light up when he enters the room. Boone is an ambassador for the nonprofit Joey’s P.A.W. (Prosthetics and Wheels). So far, the charity has provided mobility devices to over 700 dogs in need in Pittsburgh, across the country, and even internationally. Boone and Joey’s P.A.W. hope to improve both the outcome for dogs with mobility issues in shelters and rescues across the country, as well as perceptions about their adoptability. Boone deserves the title of American Hero Dog because he inspires those around him every day to overcome the obstacles that life throws at them. When he is not spreading joy as a therapy dog, he is working to make life better for dogs with mobility issues in shelters. Just look at his smile. He is going to change the world!
2021 Service Dog of the Year
Sobee (Holt’s Summit, Missouri) – Once living hopelessly and suffering from human neglect with only two days left on the euthanasia list in an overcrowded shelter in Georgia, Sobee is now living a purposeful life with her combat veteran in Missouri. Sobee was rescued in 2016 by K9s on the Front Line and began her training as a service dog for a veteran seeking rescue to complete the daily tasks that each of us commonly engage. Jason Howe, a disabled combat veteran in Missouri, was secretly fighting the internal demons of PTSD and addiction after returning from two deployments in the U.S. Navy. While Jason spiraled into a dark place, he found himself in Maine, talking with a high school friend who introduced him to Dr. Hagen of K9s on the Front Line, a non-profit organization that rescues/trains service dogs for combat veterans. Sobee and Jason were paired together in 2016 and an instant bond was built between them. Jason began to feel the weight lift off his chest and he now had a sense of responsibility with Sobee by his side. Jason would put two feet on the ground each day instead of covering up in bed and self-medicating. Sobee is trained to assist Jason with panic attacks and watch over Jason when he is in public places. Sobee has also been the reason Jason found himself assisting and training service dogs for K9s on the Front Line’s Missouri chapter. The bonded pair are paying it forward by successfully training service dogs for veterans.
2021 Guide/Hearing Dog of the Year
Henna (Albuquerque, New Mexico) – I am deaf and legally blind. Henna, my amazing guide dog, has given me the freedom of travel and saves my life on a daily basis. She is an extension of my body, becoming my eyes and ears. Last year, while simply crossing a familiar intersection, I was nearly crushed by the trailer of an 18-wheeler. It was a sunny warm spring day and I was waiting with Henna to cross the road. After a few moments, Henna’s ear flick indicated it was our turn. I gave the forward command and we started crossing towards the opposite corner. We had reached the midway point when Henna suddenly backed up. She reversed so fast I knew instantly something was wrong. Her movement was strong, sure and deliberate, while ensuring I was not going to trip or fall. When Henna slowed enough for me to take in my surroundings, I could see a large truck was now completing a left turn in front of us. No more than five feet away, the trailer wheels rumbled where Henna and I were only moments ago. After the trailer passed, she guided me safely across to the opposite curb without me prompting her. Despite me being in shock from almost being hit, Henna continued to perform her job perfectly. To this day, I can still see the trailer’s reflective strips in front of me and know that this was only one of many times she saved my life, while allowing me freedom. She continues to confidently guide me and acts as if it had never happened. I can almost see in her face and hear in her voice, “I got you, mom! Just follow me.”
2021 Law Enforcement and Detection Dog of the Year
K-9 Hansel (Millville, New Jersey) – K-9 Hansel was only 7 weeks old when he was seized from an alleged dog-fighting ring in Ontario, Canada. He never fought. He along with 20 other pit bulls were slated for euthanasia. After a 2-year-long battle with the Ontario courts, Hansel was then transferred to the Dogs Playing for Life shelter down in Florida. Throw Away Dogs project was then notified of a potential working dog candidate for their program. Hansel was accepted into the program for more training. The Millville Fire Department was looking for an accelerant detection K-9 and Hansel was a perfect fit. Hansel and I went through 16 weeks of scent training and we were later certified as an arson detection team. I believe that Hansel is the first pit bull certified in accelerant detection in the United States. Hansel can recognize 14 different ignitable liquid odors. He really is the best partner and a rock star. He was also honored as one of the dogs of the year featured on the CW network. If you Google K-9 Hansel you can see all the obstacles he has overcome and learn about his story in more detail. Thank you for reading and considering Hansel.
2021 Search and Rescue Dog of the Year
Little Man (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) – All dogs are heroes, but Little Man takes it to a new level. NASAR-certified, he ranges off-leash for a specific human scent, articles or human remains. His joyous spirit and amazing work ethic have won him friends with law enforcement and SAR personnel in multiple states. But his story did not begin well. In 2013, a monster tornado ground the city of Moore, Oklahoma into rubble. The carnage was terrible. Molly Gibb, a professional SAR volunteer, worked with animal control and the American Humane Rescue team to meet the animal response needs. Five days after the storm, a tiny pit bull puppy was found buried. It was a miracle that he survived. He came to be known as Little Man. When he went unclaimed, Molly adopted him as she thought he had something special. His intelligence, drive, curiosity, athleticism and upbeat nature made him a great candidate for search and rescue work. Little Man’s trainability, determination and affinity for people epitomizes just what can make many pit bulls great working dogs. He balances SAR training and deploying with participating in youth programs and serving as a neutral helper dog for shelter and adjudicated dogs in need. For him, searching is a great game, but in reality it can mean life or death. In 2020, he found a missing traumatized assault victim alive, bringing his life full circle. He has grown from tornado survivor to hero and has fully blossomed in public service, eagerly paying it forward by helping families and communities in crisis and graciously welcoming their love in return.