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A guide dog named Roselle won the top honor at the inaugural American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards on October 1st. Roselle, whose owner Michael Hingson is blind, guided him down 78 flights of stairs, away from the building and through the city to the house of a friend after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center tower he worked at on September 11, 2001. Though Roselle passed away this summer, Hingson and his new guide dog, Africa, accepted the award in her honor.

A six-month search was held nationwide for hero dog finalists. Hundreds of dogs from all 50 states were nominated and over 400,000 votes were cast. The American Humane Association (AHA) narrowed it down to eight exceptional finalists. Each of the finalists’ touching and heroic stories are available online at

The event is an effort to showcase extraordinary acts of heroism performed by otherwise ordinary dogs, as well as to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people.

"Every day, across America, dogs protect, comfort, and give their unconditional friendship and affection to the ill, the infirm, the wounded veteran, and the frightened child," said Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of AHA. "It was time to recognize the contributions of man's best friends and celebrate the heroic feats they have performed for us every day. Every dog nominated is a bona fide hero, and all eight finalists were winners in their categories. Now, after hundreds of thousands of votes by the American public and consideration by a panel of VIP judges, we are proud to announce Roselle as the top American Hero Dog for 2011."

Gifts were flowing both ways at the awards ceremony. Each of the finalists received $5,000 to be donated to one of the AHA’s charity partners. For her win, Roselle received an additional $10,000 to be donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind. On top of that, philanthropist Lois Pope announced a surprise $1 million gift given by her to the AHA.

"Working with the American Humane Association is one of the two great causes in my life," said Pope. "Every one of you who supports this wonderful organization is a hero in my book."

The event will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on Veteran’s Day, November 11th.

Image from ohmidog!

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