Local Canine Hero in Competition

Your votes could put 7-year-old “Piglet” from the Antelope Valley on TV. A Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog living in Lancaster and working as a search-and-rescue dog is also a semi-finalist in the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.

Chosen from a field of 266 candidates with more than half a million votes, Piglet is one of 21 contestants, seven of which will become finalists when voting is completed in mid-July. The public is invited to visit www.HeroDogAwards.org and vote – up to once a day – between now and July 11 for their favorite in one of the seven Hero Dog categories. The seven finalists will be flown to Los Angeles to take part in the star-studded eighth annual Hero Dog Awards gala on September 29 at the Beverly Hilton, where one will be chosen as the 2018 American Hero Dog. This television viewing event will be broadcast in the fall as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel.

Piglet with Lori

Piglet is competing in the Search and Rescue Dogs category; the other six categories are: Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, sponsored by K-9 Courage from Zoetis Petcare (a U.S. business unit of Zoetis); Military Dogs, sponsored by K-9 Courage from Zoetis Petcare; Therapy Dogs, sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food; Service Dogs, sponsored by Modern Dog magazine; Emerging Hero Dogs, a category that pays tribute to ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things; and Guide/Hearing Dogs.

Piglet has been rigorously trained and certified to find answers for families on land and in water. Piglet and handler Lori Wells are volunteers who serve many communities, including Santa Clarita. They were involved in last year’s search in San Francisquito Canyon for Will Cierzan, a local man who was never found.

Called out anywhere from once a week to once a month, Wells and Piglet are volunteers and have to be ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Wells has been active in search-and-rescue, or SAR, for 18 years. She has had a total of five trailing dogs, but Piglet is her first dog capable of human remains detection.

“I originally wanted to get involved with K9 SAR years ago,” Wells said. “I wanted to do something that would give back to the community. Before I found SAR, I trained my dogs to be therapy dogs. We visited convalescent homes, schools for children with disabilities and daycare centers. Once I found SAR, I moved into focusing on that. But, I did still try to do ‘visits’ whenever I (could).”

They’re frequently called upon to assist law enforcement in their search for the missing. Piglet has served law enforcement throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. In one case, Piglet was called to locate a drowning victim. Searchers had spent seven days in the lake with no luck, and on day eight, Piglet deployed and found the subject. Once she deployed in a remote wilderness area to find a missing father and husband. After long hours in the field, Piglet found the subject who was, unfortunately, already deceased.

In both the semifinal and final rounds of the competition, the winners will be determined through a combination of votes by the public and a special celebrity judging panel. New judges for the 2018 Hero Dog Awards campaign represent a variety of celebrity dog lovers including: Miranda Lambert, Kristin Chenoweth, Carson Kressley, Carrie Ann Inaba, Erik Estrada, Jamie Chung, Michelle Beadle, Danielle Fishel, Mark Steines and Carlos and Alexa PenaVega. Returning judges include Lisa Vanderpump, Adrienne Maloof, Bailee Madison, Carolyn Hennesy, Ashlan and Philippe Cousteau, Laura Nativo, Lorenzo Borghese and 2011 Arson Hero Dog winner Jerry Means. Previous hosts, judges, award presenters, and entertainment acts have included Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Pauley Perrette, Katharine McPhee, Alison Sweeney, Bindi Irwin, Derek Hough, Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Denise Richards, Gary Sinise, Chelsea Handler, Martin Short, Jewel, Wilson Phillips, John Ondrasik, Naomi Judd, Lori Loughlin, Eric Stonestreet, Danica McKellar, and many more.

The top dogs in each category will win $2,500 for their designated charity partner and move on to the finals. The winning 2018 American Hero Dog’s charity partner will receive an additional $5,000 for a grand total of $7,500 to their favorite non-profit.

The 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards is sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and Zoetis, and broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel. Over the past seven years, Americans have cast millions of votes for more than a thousand dogs, all seeking the coveted title of American Hero Dog. The program reaches more than one billion people each year and draws the support and participation of top celebrity dog lovers from all over the world.

“For thousands of years, mankind has had a special relationship with dogs, and the American Humane Hero Dog Awards are our way of honoring the best of our best friends,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO. “This unique awards show celebrates the unbreakable human-animal bond, which has been a core part of our organization’s mission since 1877.”

To vote daily for a canine hero, you need to visit www.herodogawards.org on the following schedule (All voting rounds open and close at 12 p.m. Pacific Time):

Second-round voting: May 16 – July 11
Third-round voting: July 25 – September 5
American Humane Hero Dog Awards event in Los Angeles – September 29