The awards commemorate five loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities in each of the following five categories: Exemplary Companion Dog, Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Service and Therapy.
“With their unique abilities, ACE dogs exemplify the vital services canines can provide to their owners or the community at large,” says AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson. “We’re proud to award these five deserving dogs, which have gone above and beyond to touch many lives, with an AKC Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence.”
All the ACE recipients will receive $1,000 and an engraved Sterling silver medallion presented at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Florida on December 15, 2012. In addition, each winner will be honored at local events.
This year’s ACE winners include:
Exemplary Companion Dog:
“Joy,” an Akita owned by Priscilla and Terry Sharpe of Klamath Falls, OR
The Sharpes were head-over-heels in love with their fluffy new Akita puppy, but they had no idea Joy would reveal a mysterious life-saving ability that modern science still can’t fully explain. At 7 months old, Joy began reacting oddly to Terry. Terry visited a doctor and returned home with terrible news: advanced prostate cancer. Shortly after Terry underwent successful radiation treatment, Joy’s behavior returned to normal. Months later Joy again began alerting, this time on Priscilla. Priscilla went straight to the doctor, and yes, Joy had again alerted on otherwise undetected cancer. There were cancerous polyps on Priscilla’s colon, which were successfully removed.
Law Enforcement Dog:
K9 “Kirby,” a German Shepherd Dog handled by Detective Christine Kelliher of the Bensalem Township (Pennsylvania) Police Department
Kirby, the “Narc with a Bark,” has spent the last six years assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s task force in Philadelphia. Kelliher and Kirby are the frontline defense against huge quantities of illegal drugs entering the tri-state area of eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. These world-class drug-busters have rung up an astounding record: Kirby’s nose has led Kelliher to over $70,000,000 in drugs and drug-tainted cash.
Search and Rescue Dog
“Keahi,” a Belgian Tervuren owned and handled by Kristi Smith of Peoria, AZ
Certified in air-scent, avalanche, cadaver, evidence, and human-remains searches, the in-demand Terv has answered the call in nine states and Canada. She and Smith conduct approximately 43 searches a year, logging between 91 and 126 work days—a strenuous pace for any search team. Smith and Keahi have found lost children and wandering seniors, led investigators to the bodies of murder victims and those who have drowned (including one find 170 feet under water), and recovered key evidence in criminal investigations.
“Pilot,” a Kuvasz owned by Ann Scott Arnold of Frankfort, MI
Ann Scott Arnold sustained neck and shoulder injuries that have rendered her incapable of lifting or carrying anything weighing much more than five pounds, and she suffers from chronic pain and dizziness. Pilot, one of the very few known service dogs of his breed, enhances Arnold’s life by performing many tasks as her “mobility assistance dog.” He can carry a 15-pound load in his backpack. He pulls a shopping cart full of groceries and can drag a hundred pounds of gardening supplies on a plastic sled. He even pulls the laundry up the basement stairs in a duffel bag. And Pilot is a steady companion who can be leaned on, literally, when Arnold feels dizzy.
“Benny,” a Rottweiler owned by Kelly Skiptunas of Wrightsville, PA
Skiptunas and Benny make regular therapy visits to hospitals and schools, and the READ-certified Benny is a great favorite of the children who participate in “read to a dog” programs at local libraries. Along the way he’s appeared at community-education events, appeared on public TV as a goodwill ambassador for his breed, and for his tireless service has won several awards. These include being twice honored by the American Rottweiler Club, the breed’s AKC parent club. A remarkable record, to be sure, but even more remarkable considering Benny is five years removed from a debilitating battle with osteosarcoma and must wear a brace on his weakened leg.
To read more about these amazing dogs and the award runner-ups, click here.