American Humane named a United Service Organization (USO) therapy dog as the winner of the 13th annual Hero Dog Award. Out of hundreds of nominees, five finalists were named. Of these five extraordinary canines, a 6-year-old, 150-pound Great Dane therapy dog named Maverick was chosen as the winner.
‘Hero Dog Award’ given to 150-pound Great Dane
Every year, a national competition called the American Humane Hero Dog Awards® seeks out and honors the nation’s canine heroes. Only one nominee receives the coveted American Hero Dog title out of hundreds who compete. President and CEO of American Humane, Robin Ganzert, announced the winner on Good Morning America.
“American Humane’s Hero Dog Awards celebrates the healing power of the human-animal bond and his story is all about that,” Ganzert said on the morning show. “This incredible dog actually attends funerals of fallen service members. Their kiddos need that [comfort].” She continued, “He also sits on suicide watch for members of our nation’s military who are suffering from grief and trauma.”
The pup’s owner, Kelly Brownfield, says Maverick possesses what might be considered a sixth sense. While all animals offer so much to humans, she feels Maverick is an extraordinary dog with a special kind of intuition. Brownfield even stated Maverick may have sensed her illness before it was diagnosed.
“I think he knew before anyone else,” Brownfield said. She explained that the Great Dane was especially protective and touchy in the time before her B-cell Lymphoma diagnosis. While also giving so much to other people he serves, this faithful companion has remained by Brownfield’s side as she fights cancer.
“What an incredible therapy dog and what an incredible story of the healing power of the bond,” Ganzert said.
Since 2017, Maverick has been a therapy dog at the Fort Leonard Wood United Service Organizations Club in Missouri.
‘The heart to match’
“A sign of a good therapy dog is a dog that always wants to touch you,” Brownfield told the Washington Post. “He just has a sense of knowing what people need.”
Aside from serving members of the military, the Great Dane therapy dog also visits children in school. In particular, he spends time with students who are struggling in classes.
“Maverick is not going to be there to judge [them]. It lets the barrier down and allows them to thrive,” Brownfield said. “[He] is the perfect size for everything that we do. He is literally their rock; they can lean on him and he is there for them.”
While Maverick may be intimidating at first glance, Brownfield says his size is proportionate to the love he gives. “The one thing about this breed is that they have the heart to match [their size],” Brownfield added.
Brownfield and Maverick have traveled across the country, completing hundreds of mission requests over the years. Earlier in October, the two spent time in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the importance of therapy dogs. While near the nation’s capital, Maverick visited the Fort Meade military base in Maryland. He also escorted families to the gravesites of service members buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
To honor Maverick’s achievement as the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog, he — along with the other four finalists — will be heading to Palm Beach, Florida, for a special awards show. The event will be broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, as well as on Nov. 26, on A&E.
Enthusiastically, Brownfield added, “This is just an amazing way to showcase the good that animals can do.”