Honoring America’s Top Dog

Anyone who loves dogs knows how much they enrich our lives. Some exceptional dogs not only touch our lives, but also help protect us by selflessly performing acts of heroism as service dogs.

For instance, Quanto is a hard-working search and rescue dog. He specializes in two distinct areas: detecting explosives and assisting in human search and rescue missions. His finely tuned skills have helped him clear buildings after explosives were detected-but his loving nature has helped him comfort those he’s rescued.

Quanto and four of his four-legged contemporaries are being honored through the PEDIGREE Paws to Recognize program. Because of their love of dogs, PEDIGREE created this national initiative that acknowledges the exceptional contributions professionally trained service dogs make in their communities. The Delta Society, Guide Dogs for the Blind, National Association for Search and Rescue, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. War Dogs Association worked with PEDIGREE Food for Dogs and Wal-Mart to identify and nominate five astonishing canines for this year’s top honor.

People can log on to www.pedi gree.com/vote to view photos and biographies of each of the dogs and then vote on which one they think is most deserving of the top dog honor. The winner will be celebrated at a special ceremony in September. If 100,000 votes are cast by July 14, 2006, $25,000 will be donated to the American Humane Association. Here’s a look at the other four nominees:

• Hero-This Labrador Retriever makes regular visits to patients at hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and other health facilities. He’s the inspiration for “Project Hero,” a program that provides young people living in a youth detention center with canine companions.

• Rocky-This chocolate Lab serves as an explosive detector dog at the Port of Los Angeles, where he’s an “employee” of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. On an average day, Rocky screens between 5,000 and 7,000 international passengers, 15,000 pieces of luggage and thousands of pieces of cargo.

• Xena-This former shelter dog completed a rigorous training program and now serves as a guide dog. She provides her human partner with safe mobility, companionship and improved quality of life.

• Polo-This German Shepherd recently returned from a tour of duty in Kuwait, where he served as an Explosive Detection/Patrol Dog, searching vehicles, buildings, aircraft, barracks and open areas for dangerous and harmful explosive materials.