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Five Heroic Dogs Honored with 2022 AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence

The five winners were chosen from a pool of over 600 impressive nominations.





(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK – The AKC Humane Fund announces the winners of the 23rd annual AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE). These awards celebrate five loyal, hard-working dogs that have significantly improved the lives of their owners and communities. The five winners were carefully chosen from a pool of over 600 impressive nominations. The winners in each category were featured in a special broadcast titled AKC HEROES: 2022 AWARDS FOR CANINE EXCELLENCE which aired Sunday December 11th on ESPN2.

An award is presented in each of the following five categories: Exemplary Companion, Search and Rescue, Service Dog, Therapy Dog, and Uniformed Service K-9. This year’s winners range from a Boykin Spaniel who helps children and families alleviate the stress that comes with court proceedings to a Flat-Coated Retriever who was able to locate a missing elderly woman in less than fifteen minutes.

“The stories of the ACE Award winners capture the meaning and fulfillment that our canine companions bring to our lives,” said Doug Ljungren, president of the AKC Humane Fund. “We are grateful to everyone who shared their story by nominating a dog for an ACE award this year. We are pleased to share these five inspiring stories.”

The 2022 AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence are proudly sponsored by YuMOVE, the official joint supplement of the AKC, and Eukanuba. Each ACE recipient is awarded a donation in their name to a pet-related charity of their choice.

“We are proud to support the ACE Awards and help showcase these remarkable dogs who have made such a life-changing difference to those around them”, said Andy Smith, Global Marketing Director, YuMOVE. “Their daily heroics are truly humbling.”

Eukanuba adds, “Being a part of the ACE Awards supports our vision that every dog is capable of exceptional performance, so it is an honor to celebrate these canine heroes,” said Brad Wadler, Vice President of Marketing, Eukanuba. “We’re proud to highlight extraordinary dogs that better the world around them.”


This year’s ACE winners are:

Exemplary Companion Dog: “Scout,” a Boykin Spaniel owned by Judge Joseph Wyant of Newnan, GA

Scout has been serving on Coweta County Georgia’s Juvenile Court with Judge Joseph Wyant since 2013. She has supported hundreds of children, families and court staff, helping to alleviate the tremendous stress and often overwhelming emotions that children face when involved with court proceedings. Scout acts as a calming presence for children having to testify in court as well as help children caught in the frightening experience of being in custody of the Department of Child and Family Services.

Search and Rescue Dog: “Lincoln,” a Flat-Coated Retriever owned by Jon Izant of Seattle, WA

Lincoln and his handler are part of King County Search Dogs in Washington State. He responds to over 40 search missions and trains hundreds of hours per year. As a Search & Rescue team, Lincoln and his handler must be on call 24/7 and while as volunteers they are not required to respond to every call, they respond to about 80% of them. He has earned certifications in wilderness, air scent, and human remains detection. Lincoln has been deployed on urban, water, forest and alpine searches from the shores of Puget Sound to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. He has even assisted on a few helicopter air lifts. He has found two missing at-risk persons, both in their late 80’s. One search was completed at 2:30am and he was able to locate the missing person in less than 15 minutes. The other had been missing overnight and despite the obstacles of a dense forest, was able to locate the person.

Service Dog: “Lotus,” a German Shepherd Dog owned by Asia Duhamel of Fallbrook, CA


Lotus is an Assistance Dogs International-accredited psychiatric/mobility Service Dog for her owner, Asia Duhamel. Duhamel is a former active-duty Marine who was struggling with PTSD when she thought a service dog might help her get through daily life. Though retired from mobility except for retrievals, Lotus assists her owner in many ways, including disrupting repetitive and anxious behavior, responding to increased breathing, and crowd control. With Duhamel, that means putting her body on her lap, moving her hands out of the way, and licking her on her back until she recovers. Since receiving Lotus, Duhamel has started her training apprenticeship with Next Step Service Dogs after being ADI-accredited through the organization. She is now the lead trainer at a non-profit organization called Canine Support Teams training service dogs. Lotus also participates in a wide variety of AKC sports including Dock Diving, Barn Hunt, Hydro Dash, Canine Good Citizen, Trick Dog, Farm Dog, Scent Work, Rally, and more.

Therapy Dog: “Axel,” a Rottweiler owned by John Hunt of Blackwood, NJ

Axel is an extraordinary Crisis Response Certified Canine and has visited countless hospitals, schools, first responder and military organizations. In the past two years, they have volunteered over 2,500 hours and interacted with over 50,000 people. Axel was instrumental during the pandemic when he would sit with dying patients when their family members weren’t able to visit. Axel would console nurses and doctors who’ve witness countless COVID-19 deaths to help process grief. In addition, he accompanies his handler to conduct Critical Incident Stress Management sessions with Police, Fire and EMS, helping first responders process grief following a death, suicide, or traumatic event in the line of duty. Axel was also deployed to the scene of the Surfside condo collapse in Florida as well as the shootings in Virginia and Uvalde, TX.

Uniformed Service K-9: “Hummer,” a Belgian Malinois handled by William Sessa of Suwanee, GA

Hummer is a retired tracking and narcotics detection dog, along with his handler William Sessa through the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department and was certified by Custom Canine Unlimited and the National Narcotics Detection Dog Association during his time on the force. They worked together for seven years before retiring in 2021. Hummer’s tasks ranged from tracking lost individuals like elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and children and young adults with Autism to pursuing criminals. Hummer most notably sniffed out a 22-year-old murder suspect hiding in a dumpster after a long pursuit. They worked together to get massive amounts of illicit drugs off the street and protect the SWAT team.

Click here to learn more about the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE).

About The AKC Humane Fund

The AKC Humane Fund, Inc. unites animal lovers in promoting the joy and value of responsible pet ownership through education, outreach and grant-making. The Fund provides financial grants to domestic violence shelters and Breed Rescue organizations and awards scholarships to students pursuing professions that strengthen the human-animal bond. The AKC Humane Fund’s Awards for Canine Excellence are given each year to promote the important role dogs play in our lives. Contributions to the AKC Humane Fund are fully tax deductible as allowed by law under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. For more information, visit

About The American Kennel Club

Founded in 1884, the American Kennel Club is a not-for-profit organization which maintains the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world and oversees the sport of purebred dogs in the United States. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function.  Along with its more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. More than 22,000 competitions for AKC-registered purebred and mixed breed dogs are held under AKC rules and regulations each year including conformation, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, herding, lure coursing, coonhound events, hunt tests, field and earthdog tests. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Reunite and the AKC Museum of the Dog.  For more information, visit

AKC, American Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club seal and design, and all associated marks and logos are trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks of The American Kennel Club, Inc.

Become a fan of the American Kennel Club on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @AKCDogLovers.



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