The Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) commemorate loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities in one of the following five categories: Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Therapy, Service and Exemplary Companion Dog. Winners receive $1,000 and an engraved sterling-silver collar medallion at the nationally televised AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, California on December 12, 2009. In addition they will be honored individually at local dog shows this fall.
The winner of the Exemplary Companion Dog was an 8-year-old Standard Poodle called "Electra", owner by Mandy Willis of Valrico, Florida. Electra was a show champion before her owners gave her to Mandy, who was diagnosed with cancer in early 2008. They have been inseparable ever since. A 10-year-old Border Collie called "Sage" – a K-9 officer for the New Mexico Corrections Department – won the Search and Rescue Dog. Sage served at the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and has since spent six months searching for missing soldiers in Iraq. A six-year-old Golden Retriever called "Robin", who works for the Salamanca Police Department with his owner, won the Law Enforcement Dog award. In 2009 alone, Robin has been responsible for getting about half a million dollars worth of dangerous narcotics off the streets.
The winner of the Therapy Dog award was a 7-year-old Border Terrier called "Elliot", owned by Miriam Couto of Woodland, Washington. Elliot works with the Delta Society, and has logged more than 1,000 hours with patients, most of them children. The Service Dog award was won by "Benton", a six-year-old Labrador Retriever, who was trained by Canine Companions for Independence as an assistance dog for his owner Margo Dietrich. Some of the daily tasks Benton assists Dietrich with include retrieving dropped items, dressing, and transferring her to and from a wheelchair.
"The heartwarming stories of each nominee made it a difficult task to choose just one winner in each category," said Ronald N. Rella, AKC Director of Project Administration and member of the judging panel. "Each dog’s devotion to improving the lives of others and the impact they make in their community is an inspiration to dog lovers everywhere."