FORT JACKSON, S.C. (July 12, 2012) -- Fort Jackson's Gabe will represent all armed forces dogs at the annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards banquet in Los Angeles later this year.
The retired military dog spent several years sniffing out insurgent bombs, guns and ammunition in Iraq with his handler, Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Shuck, now a drill sergeant leader at Fort Jackson's Drill Sergeant School. Since April, Gabe has been in the running for 2012 American Humane Association Hero Dog in the military category. When the voting ended July 1, Gabe had received the most online votes.
There were eight categories in this round of voting, which included dogs from backgrounds such as search and rescue, law enforcement and guide work. The winners of these categories received $5,000 for their charities and are now competing against each other for American Humane Association Hero Dog of the Year.
"He's in good company right now," Shuck said. "All of those dogs are deserving of the title. But, if we win the overall title, we add an extra $10,000 to that charity."
Gabe is representing the United States War Dog Association, a nonprofit organization of former and current U.S. Military Dog handlers and supporting members committed to promoting the long history of military service dogs.
The money donated to this organization will primarily be used to buy care packages for dogs and their handlers currently deployed, said Ron Aiello, president of United States War Dogs Association. These packages can contain goggles and boots for the dog; ear muffs to protect their ears from loud sounds during helicopter flights, ear wash, eye wash, cooling vests and toys.
"Our mission is to support dog teams that are deployed, primarily in Afghanistan," Aiello said. "We've been doing it now for 10 years."
Shuck said voting for the final phase of the Hero Dog awards ends Oct. 5, and that he's going to continue his tenacious online campaign for Gabe.
"He's representing all dogs in the armed forces now," Shuck said.
Online votes for the 2012 Hero Dog title represent 49 percent of the final tally, with the remaining 51 percent coming from the American Humane Association's panel of celebrity judges, which includes Whoopi Goldberg, Kristin Chenoweth, Michelle Forbes and Prince Lorenzo Borghese.
"You could win the public vote, but still not win the overall Hero Dog award," Shuck said.
Gabe will receive his award for winning the military category of this year's awards during an Oct. 6 ceremony in Los Angeles, an event hosted by Betty White. The winner of the 2012 Hero Dog award will also be announced during that event.