Staff Sgt. Summer, a yellow Labrador who resides in Mount Airy with her handler, Sgt. Micah Jones, was voted the top military dog in the American Humane Hero Dog Awards this week. She and six other finalists in the other categories are now competing for the top title of American Hero Dog.
“I got home last night and she was waiting there,” Jones said. “I congratulated her and gave her some treats. She took it really well.”
Two other Maryland canines who were finalists in their categories — Sowell, a black Labrador from Marriottsville who is a K9 arson dog, and Colt, a Belgian malinois shelter dog from Severn — did not advance to the final competition.
More than 400 dogs were nominated from across the country in seven categories: therapy; service; military; law enforcement; shelter; search and rescue; and guide/hearing, according to Mark Stubis, spokesperson for American Humane. The field was then narrowed to 21 semifinalists (three in each category), based on more than a half-million votes by the animal-loving public. Now, after more than a million votes, the seven finalists — which also include dogs from Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania — are competing for the top prize.
“We congratulate [Staff Sgt.] Summer and all of this year’s fabulous finalists for their outstanding courage and compassion,” said Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO, in a statement. “Now, the public and our blue-ribbon panel of animal experts and celebrity animal lovers have an extraordinarily tough task ahead of them in deciding who the nation’s top dog will be. We wish all of these heroic hounds the best of luck.”
Summer retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a police explosive detection dog for seven years. Now 10 years old, she visits residents at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary’s County, where Jones shares her stories and adventures, and enjoys swimming in the family’s pool.
“She gets all the kudos,” Jones said. “It’s all about her.”
People can vote daily for Summer until Sept. 7 at herodogawards.org. The winner will be announced during a nationwide broadcast on the Hallmark Drama channel this fall.