- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Internet voters next month will chose America’s top dog.Paws to Recognize, an international program that honors the contributions of professionally trained dogs, will present 11 of the world’s most heroic dogs with the Canine World Hero award.”What we are looking for [in nominees] is the most compelling story,” said Alice Nathanson, spokeswoman for the Pedigree brand dog food, which sponsors the award.One of those compelling stories involves a black Labrador retriever from Utah named Jake. One of six U.S. dogs nominated for the international award, Jake served with rescue workers at ground zero in New York City after the September 11 attacks. Working tirelessly over 12-hour shifts, he pawed through twisted rubble, concrete chunks and smoldering steel.Jake and his owner, Mary Flood, work for one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 27 search-and-rescue units and as volunteers for Utah’s Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs. The dogs are on call 24 hours a day, all days of the year, to respond to disasters, including building collapses, earthquakes and floods.Mrs. Flood was surprised to learn that Jake had been nominated for the award but said he is an excellent example of a search-and-rescue dog.Jake is a survivor. Abandoned as a pup, he had a broken leg and a dislocated hip when Mrs. Flood adopted him from the dog pound about six years ago. He’s now a muscular 82-pound animal.The victorious dogs will come to Washington in August to place their paw prints in cement at a Hollywood-style canine Walk of Fame.”We are looking to help increase people’s awareness to the important roles that dogs play and how they enhance our lives,” Mrs. Nathanson said. “We hope people will choose to add pets to their families.”Organizers and sponsors of the event, including Wal-Mart, hope Paws to Recognize will become an annual award.Among the U.S. nominees are Remington, a Capitol Hill explosives-sniffing Labrador, whose nose inspects packages delivered to the Pentagon and other high security locations in Washington; Roselle, a Labrador from Novato, Calif., who guided her blind master to safety from the 78th floor of a World Trade Center tower on September 11; Crazy Joe, a Labrador working as a drug detector in New York; and Peekaboo, a Papillon from Tucson, Ariz., who assists a woman with terminal vascular disease.Voting begins online in two weeks. Individuals can cast their votes at www.pedigree.com. Competition is tight. Dogs will compete from Puerto Rico and nine foreign countries — Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

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