Sign In

Hero Dog Awards

June 8, 2020

Meet Rek, a nine-year-old German Shepherd and former military working dog who is now living the retired life in Sarasota.

Rek is one of 21 semifinalists in the Hero Dog Awards, a competition hosted by the American Humane organization, where military, therapy and rescue dogs are honored for their service. Out of thousands of entries and votes received, Rek has now advanced and has a chance to win the title of “American Hero Dog.”

Founded in 1877, American Humane is the first humane organization in the country, protecting the rights and well-being of animals. This is the 10th annual Hero Dog Awards, where the public has cast votes for dogs in seven different categories, including Military, Therapy, Law Enforcement and more. Nearly half a million votes have been cast so far this year.

Beyond his adorable looks, Rek’s story of heroism and loyalty that have touched the hearts of voters. Rek was deployed as an explosive detection dog in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2011 to 2016, where he lived consecutively for five years. His current owner, Laura Cole, met Rek while deployed at a NATO base, and they formed a strong bond.

“I would feed him and bring him toys whenever I could,” says Cole. “I loved watching him work.”

Rek would sniff vehicles for drugs and explosive weapons before soldiers performed in-depth searches. His “rest days” were few and far between, yet he still enjoyed his toys as rewards and the love from his handlers, when he could.

“He still doesn’t know how to play like a normal dog,” says Cole. “But he has fun trying to play fetch, and enjoying the sunshine.”

Cole and Rek were separated from April to June of 2016, when Rek had retired and Cole was still deployed overseas. A generous U.S. nonprofit called K9 Hero Haven cared for Rek until the pair could reunite. Once Cole retired, she adopted Rek and they moved to Florida.

In 2018, Cole heard about the Hero Dog Awards through Facebook. “I know he’s my hero, so I thought why not enter him?” she recalls. Rek advanced to the semifinals last year, but never made it this far.

Cole and Rek plan to attend the Hero Dog Awards Gala in California if he advances again. The ceremony is broadcast nationwide on the Hallmark Channel.

“I just want to share his story,” says Cole. “It is not easy for these dogs when they return to the United States. It takes time to recover, and time to understand play and love.”

American Humane president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert says the awards are “the best way to bring attention to the life-changing, life-saving power of the human animal bond.”

In other words, they’re a way to honor our best friends.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Service Dog In The Marching Band

    In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall. Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcome New Canine

    After the unexpected passing of longtime Police Service Dog Zeus earlier this week, Kingston Police are welcoming a new member to the Canine Unit. Police Service Dog Bask, also known as K9-8, is a Dutch Shepherd and Belgium Malinois mix, and will be patrolling the streets of Kingston with his handler Constable Jeff Dickson. Bask […]

    Read more

    Dog Park For Travelers

    St. Petersburg is widely recognized as a dog-friendly city, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is making sure its four-legged visitors and their humans feel welcome by rolling out the artificial turf carpet. With the completion of the airport’s parking and roadway project – part of a series of multi-million dollar improvements at the airport over the […]

    Read more