Meet the Winners of 2017 AKC Canine Excellence Winners

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
The names of the 18th annual AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) Winners have been released, and they include a family pet that now detects drugs and a retired show dog that helped children learn how to read!

The AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence winners have been chosen and five hard-working and loyal dogs will be honored at an awards ceremony in Orlando in December.

Related: American Humane Turns Shelter Dogs to Service Dogs For Veterans

The awards are given to dogs who have significantly improved the lives of their owners or their communities and are separated into five categories: Uniformed Service K-9, Service, Therapy, Search and Rescue and Exemplary Companion dog.

AKC Spokesperson Gina DiNardo says the winners have changed the lives of people, and deserve the celebration.

A Doberman Pinscher named Duke was the winner of the Uniformed Service K-9 category. His handler, Detective Sergeant Ed Soares of Menlo Park, California says that Duke was originally bought to be a personal canine companion. Duke showed early on how he was meant to help his papa in narcotics detection, and has since found thousands of dollars in illegal firearms and narcotics. Soares says that mostly, two-year-old Duke is happiest when he’s around children, and acts as an ambassador for his breed. The Doberman Pinscher Club of America named him their club’s honorary mascot in 2016!

In the Service Dog category, a three-year-old Great Pyrenees named Gunner won the honor. He is the service dog for D. Hamilton Kinard of Richmond Hill, GA. Kinard is a retired U.S. Army member and has suffered considerable damage–100% disability due to nerve damage, severe traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Gunner helps him live day-to-day, acting as a brace for him to stand and is trained to pull his wheel chair when Kinard cannot operate it. Gunner inspired Britnee Kinard to launch the SD Gunner Fund, which matches disabled veterans and children to service dogs. Gunner is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and was the first service dog in the Southeast Georgia Coastal Region to be so.

An eleven-year-old Skye Terrier named Dennis passed away earlier this year, but is this year’s recipient of the Therapy Dog award. He was known as CH Seamist Big Man In Town when bred and owned by Stephen Hersey, but as a certified therapy dog, spent the past seven years working in therapy, particularly with autistic children. Notably, he was part of a Therapy Dog International Reading Program called Tail Waggin Tutors, and helped hundreds of children strengthen their literacy skills. His daughter Evie is in training to follow in his footsteps and will accept the award for him in December.

Related: Search and Rescue Dog’s First Find Brings Little Boy Back To His Family

A Catahoula Leopard Dog from Lancaster California is the winner of the Search and Rescue Dog Category. Six-year-old Piglet is certified to find human remains both in water and on land, and she and her handler Lori Wells work all over California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah helping to bring closure to families and for law enforcement agencies to find answers. She is a hard worker, but also known for being a friendly and outgoing dog at all the community events and fundraisers she attends.

Sonja Benavidez of Geneseo, Illinois survived encephalitis in the early 1960s, but it left her paralyzed below the waist and suffering from many painful situations. Still, she showed Cardigan Welsh Corgies until 2013 when she was bound to a wheelchair. She then met a sweet pup named Amber, and at just two-years-old, is already a Grand Champion in the ring. Amber has earned a Canine Good Citizen Advanced Title and is a certified therapy dog. Together, they act as a dog handler with her wheelchair-dog in the ring and wow crowds everywhere with their inspiring work. For this, Amber won the Exemplary Companion Dog award.

All winners will have $1000 donated to a pet-related charity of their choosing, as well as be recipients of a year-long pet insurance policy from AKC Pet insurance, and of course, will receive a sterling silver medallion at the AKC National Championship in Orlando, Florida in December.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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