Meet Maverick, the Winner of the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog Award

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
belu gheorghe/Shutterstock

A six-year-old European Blue Great Dane was singled out from hundreds of other dogs and crowned the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog. Maverick’s job as a therapy dog is to support military members and their families from across the country.

Maverick has an extraordinary ability to provide comfort to those who need it with a simple touch of his paw. 

A sign of a good therapy dog is a dog that always wants to touch you,” explained Marverick’s owner, Kelly Brownfield, from Saint Robert, Missouri. “He just has a sense of knowing what people need.”

Brownfield, who works as a manager at the Fort Leonard Wood United Service Organization, told Fox News that Maverick was born for a purpose. “Maverick’s superpower is his ability to calm people with a touch of his paw, giving them strength to move forward,” she said.

This gentle giant supports service members after unexpected deaths in their units, escorts children to military funerals of their parents, and helps service men and women cope with trauma. Each week, Maveric spends time with students at school, offering support to children who practice their reading skills.

Tipping the scales at 150 pounds, Maverick can initially seem intimidating, but “he is literally a gentle giant,” said Brownfield. “His whole aura about him is calming.”

“He is the perfect size for everything that we do. He is literally their rock; they can lean on him, and he is there for them,” his owner added. “The one thing about this breed is that they have a heart to match.”

Each year, people around the country nominate hundreds of dogs in five categories - law enforcement and first responder dogs; service and guide or hearing dogs; therapy dogs; military dogs; and emerging hero and shelter dogs - for American Humane’s Hero Dog Award.

Five semi-finalists, in each of the five categories, were chosen from hundreds of dogs. A competitive public vote has cut the list to only five four-legged finalists - one presenting each category. 

Maverick, who was competing against service dog Moxie, Coast Guard K-9 Buda, police dog Poppy, and emerging hero Raina, was crowned by the panel of judges as the winner. 

“We are so excited to name Maverick as the American Humane’s 2023 Hero Dog, a distinction that is well deserved for him and his owner Kelly,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane. “The duo has worked tirelessly to bring comfort and solace to our nation’s military heroes through the United Service Organization (USO), all while they both were facing their internal beatles against cancer. It’s these types of incredible stories about sacrifice, perseverance, and compassion that this award aims to spotlight.”

Maverick has also offered emotional support to his owner Kelly, who has been battling cancer for the past six years. “I truly believe he knew before anyone else knew,” said Brownfield, adding that Maverick was particularly clingy, touchy, and protective in the months leading up to her diagnosis. “To have him there, especially on hard days has been just an amazing support.”

The six-year-old gentle giant also faced a cancer diagnosis last year but is now cancer-free thanks to a successful surgical procedure. 

Although Maverick spends most of his time in Missouri, he and his owner sometimes travel around the country for work. Together, he and Brownfield have completed hundreds of special mission requests over the years.

Having a therapy dog around “can help change lives,” said Brownfield. “He senses the needs of every person.”

Maverick and the four other finalists will be honored at the 13th annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards in Palm Beach, Florida. The award show will air on Thanksgiving Day and November 26 on A&E.

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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