Four-pound dog who gives away tons of love wins nation’s top title at the 2020 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®: 10th Anniversary Celebration

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It’s been said that MacKenzie could mother anything from an ant to an elephant, nurturing countless puppies, kittens, a goat, a turkey, a squirrel, birds, a mouse, and despite her tiny size, even a Great Dane.
The smallest dog won the biggest prize at this year’s American Humane Hero Dog Awards as MacKenzie walked off with the title of 2020’s American Hero Dog.
A Chihuahua who weighs only four pounds but gives away tons of love has been named the country’s most heroic canine and captured the top title at the American Humane Hero Dog Awards®: 10th Anniversary Celebration, which was broadcast nationwide recently on the Hallmark Channel.
The pint-sized pup, MacKenzie’s win was based on more than a million votes by the American public and the deliberations of a panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts.

“The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the world’s most extraordinary heroes,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. “These heroic canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill and aged, and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people.”

Ganzert added that all seven category winners exemplify what it means to be a hero.

“We hope that their stories, including MacKenzie’s, will inspire people to value our animal friends and recognize how much they do for us every day,” Ganzert said.

Born with a cleft palate and contracting aspiration pneumonia which nearly took her life, this rescue dog epitomizes what it means to be a hero, by overcoming her birth defect and going on to help hundreds of other rescue animals and provide children with world-changing lessons in empathy.

Her job is to provide love and care for baby rescue animals born with birth defects.

Most of the rescued animals are babies who cannot stay with their mothers because of their medical problems. MacKenzie takes an interest in each baby from day one, no matter the species or size. She plays nurse and cleans, comforts, and cuddles them. She acts as their mother and teaches them how to socialize, play, and have good manners.

It’s been said that MacKenzie could mother anything from an ant to an elephant, nurturing countless puppies, kittens, a goat, a turkey, a squirrel, birds, a mouse, and despite her tiny size, even a Great Dane.

MacKenzie’s other important role is to interact with children at schools, so they learn to be open-minded toward animals and people with physical differences. They learn kindness, patience, and that you can make a difference in the world no matter how small you are.

MacKenzie may have lost her ability to bark, but she still makes herself heard and speaks for other animals born with defects and she is an example of how rescuing animals often helps save more than just one life.

For her extraordinary good works, MacKenzie, who comes from Hilton, New York, first won the top title in her individual category, becoming the country’s Hero Shelter Dog of the Year, and then in the last round winning the American Humane Hero Dog Awards’ top title of 2020’s American Hero Dog.

The star-studded, nationally broadcast awards were hosted by television personality, actor and designer Carson Kressley, accompanied by a galaxy of celebrity stars and presenters.

The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The program was aired as part of Hallmark Channel’s cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.

During American Humane’s annual “Adopt-a-Dog Month” this October, the organization teamed up with Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” campaign to help get more of the millions of beautiful animals left in shelters each year into forever homes.

All Finalists Are Winners

MacKenzie was the one chosen as 2020 American Hero Dog, but all seven finalists were the nation’s top winners in their categories:

2020 Therapy Dog of the Year (category sponsored by World Pet Association)


Olive (Jefferson City, Missouri) – From hopeless and homeless to living her purpose, Olive was rescued from the streets of Los Angeles by Brandon McMillan, host and animal trainer of the Emmy Award-winning CBS show, “Lucky Dog.”

Lisa Groves Bax, a child advocate volunteer for abused/neglected children in the judicial system in Missouri, saw the need for a resource to assist the scores of children facing the daunting task of appearing or testifying in court. After extensive training with Brandon McMillan, Olive was united with her forever family in Missouri, and ready to live her purpose as a certified therapy dog.

Olive has served more than 300 children since beginning in the court system in 2016, and continues to assist children with extremely difficult criminal trials in order to get a conviction against the abusers.

2020 Service Dog of the Year (category sponsored by Lulu’s Fund)

Dolly Pawton
Dolly Pawton

Dolly Pawton (Naples, Maine) – Dolly Pawton is a cardiac alert dog, trained to alert if her human’s blood pressure drops or heart rate rises to an unsafe level.

Dolly gave her human the self-confidence and inspiration to write and illustrate a children’s book called “Pawsibly the Best Medicine.” It is a biography of Dolly told with a bit of humorous fiction. The pair bring her book to schools to educate children about service dogs.

Says her human, “She is truly my most crucial medical equipment with a loving, beating heart. I don’t know what I would do without her in my life and she is my hero.”

2020 Military Dog of the Year


Blue ll P491 (Lawrenceville, Georgia) – “Blue served our country valiantly from 2011 to 2018. I served as her first handler on my second deployment to Afghanistan, which was her first deployment as an Improvised Explosive Device Detector Dog. While deployed, Blue and I went on over 300 combat missions. She found many IEDs, saving me, along with many Marines and Sailors during our deployment. Once we parted ways, I vowed to find her and adopt her one day. Six years later, she came up for review on her disposition while she was stationed in Okinawa, Japan where she served as an SSD. After seven years of honorable service, she retired in November 2018 and made her way from Japan to Georgia. She’s been enjoying her retirement with my family and me ever since. Blue is our own personal hero and deserves to be recognized as one in her life.

2020 Guide/Hearing Dog of the Year


Aura (Brunswick, Maine) – Aura is a trained hearing service dog for her human who lost his hearing in a rocket attack in Afghanistan.

Says her human, “I was in despair after my injuries. I needed a helper. What I received was a fur guardian angel. She has restored my independence. I went from being a blown-up deaf person to a person who now feels safe and secure in the world.  She never has a day off and I rely on her to keep me safe. She provides me with the confidence I need to interact in the world. She has allowed me to pursue my passions and purpose in life. I have no regrets about losing my hearing, I would trade my ears for Aura any day.”

2020 Law Enforcement Dog of the Year 


K-9 Cody (Newport News, Virginia) – K-9 Cody started her career in explosives detection in Iraq, working hard to keep U.S. personnel safe at the U.S. Embassy. K-9 Cody was transferred back to the United States, where she continued her explosives detection career working at the Mall of America.

She quickly stood out as a phenomenal K-9, and not just because of her ability to detect explosives, but also because of her calm and loving demeanor. K-9 Cody was transferred to her current position in Virginia, helping to safeguard such places as Busch Gardens and events for the LPGA, NBA, and the Fourth of July parade in Bristol, Rhode Island.

She also helps the local agencies with bomb threats. In her off-time, she can be found doing demonstrations at local schools, churches, and festivals.

2020 Search and Rescue Dog of the Year


Remington (Montgomery, Texas) – K9 Remington is more than just a retired search and rescue K9; he is a cancer fighter and survivor, an advocate for retired K9s and for dogs to be in the fire service.

Remi was nationally certified in human remains detection and worked many cases across the United States with Special K9s SAR. Remi has spent his entire life fighting for those who could not fight by assisting law enforcement in locating remains or evidence. His deployments range from missing people, cold cases, and Hurricane Harvey.

When not on searches, he was at the New Caney Fire Department and later with Navasota Fire Department. He was a constant figure at public relations events, allowing people to learn about search and rescue, as well as fire safety. He brought comfort to firefighters after long shifts and rough calls.

On June 19, 2019, Remi was medically retired after unexplained lameness. He was diagnosed with a puerperal nerve sheath tumor. Due to the financial burden, and his low chances of quality of life, euthanasia was advised. That’s when Jason Johnson, of Project K9 Hero, stepped in.

He stated, “You let me worry about the money. Your job is to give Remi the fight he deserves.”

Doctors with TAMU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital were able to save his life. All vet bills were paid by Project K9 Hero donors. He still has cancer and is now a tripod, but he continues to live his life representing Project K9 Hero at events to raise awareness and funding for other retired K9s. Remi is more than a search dog; he is a HERO!

And Thanks to Sponsors

Finally, American Humane recognized those who support the Hero Dog and Hero Vet Awards and made them possible.

“We thank the many generous sponsors who have helped shine a light on these heroes,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Our deepest thanks to our broadcast partner Hallmark Channel, Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards sponsor Zoetis Petcare, Therapy Hero Dog sponsor World Pet Association, and Service Hero Dog sponsor Lulu’s Fund. Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs.”

Photos: courtesy of American Humane

About American Humane

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit

SOURCE American Humane


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    • I literally cried when putting up this post because of how amazing these stories are! Every dog is so special!

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