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New York, NY - The American Kennel Club announced today the winners of its fourth annual Awards for Canine Excellence. These awards recognize five dogs who have performed exemplary acts that have significantly benefited the community or an individual.

This year's five recipients will be honored individually at local ceremonies and collectively at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, CA, on December 3, 2003. The event is televised nationally on Animal Planet on January 31, 2004 at 8pm EST.

The honorees will be presented with a cash award of $1000 and an engraved sterling-silver medallion at the event.

One award is given annually in each of the following five categories: Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Therapy, Service, and Exemplary Companion Dog.

H Law Enforcement - "Ordi": O'Fallon, MO Ordi, a 7-year-old male German Shepherd Dog, and partner Sgt. Tom Otten have worked as a team for the O'Fallon, Missouri, Police Department for over six years. Ordi, who is cross-trained in patrol work and narcotics detection, has assisted the local drug task force and FBI by helping to seize over $100,000 worth of assets.

Ordi has twice received regional awards from the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) and consistently scored so well in USPCA competitions that he was named Top Dog for two consecutive years. Sadly, Ordi is losing his vision from progressive retina atrophy.

Though Ordi must retire at the end of the year, he has taken up a new vocation -- visiting the children at the Missouri School for the Blind with Sgt. Otten. To raise money for the school, Ordi and Sgt. Otten entered an Iron Dog Race. Despite the odds, they placed fourth out of 57 canine teams. As his Law Enforcement career comes to a close, Ordi continues to serve his community by demonstrating to students what can be accomplished through perseverance in the face of adversity. Ordi will be honored in Daytona Beach, FL at the German Shepherd Dog Club of America National Specialty show on October 9, 2003.

Search and Rescue - "Pepper": Croydon, PA
Pepper, a 13-year-old male German Shepherd Dog, served as a highly successful search and rescue dog for 12 years until a heart condition forced him to retire from West Jersey Search and Rescue. Pepper and his owner/handler, Richard Goodwin, worked with local police and fire departments and with New Jersey and Pennsylvania State Police in many high-profile searches for young children, Alzheimer patients and drowning victims. With numerous "finds" to his credit, Pepper has been the subject of many newspaper articles. While Pepper is retired from search and rescue, he continues to work as a therapy dog and is a 10-year veteran of Comfort Caring Canines. Pepper and his owners, Richard and Myrna Goodwin, were instrumental in starting a therapy program at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia. Pepper's wonderful personality and ability to make people feel relaxed and comfortable has not just served him well as a therapy dog, but was also especially prized in the stressful situations that exist for all those who are involved in search and rescue work. Pepper will be honored in Ludwigs Corner, PA at the Devon Dog Show Assocation show on October 4, 2003.

Therapy - "Josie": Willoughby Hills, OH
For the past five years, Josie, a 6-year-old female Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and her owners, Betty Jean and Dale Greig, have made more than 500 visits to the Ronald McDonald House and hospitals in the Cleveland area. Josie possesses an uncommon ability to bond with critically ill and handicapped children. Her fans range from a 4-year-old girl with an injured spinal cord to a teenage girl who said her pain decreased in Josie's presence and with longer-lasting effect than the morphine she had been given. One of the many reasons for Josie's success may be that an infection at birth necessitated the amputation of a front leg.

When she was 9-months-old the chief hand and arm surgeon from the Cleveland Clinic met Josie and realized that she could inspire children to overcome their own handicaps. Not only has Josie shown such patients that they can lead active lives, but she has also elicited miraculous responses from extremely ill children. Josie's photo appears on the cover of MetroHealth Medical Center's Pediatrics Guide-a strong testament to her extraordinary effect on young patients.
Josie will be honored in Cleveland at the Richland County Kennel Club show on December 13, 2003.

Service - "Brock": New York City, NY
Brock, a 6-year-old male Golden Retriever is the ultimate friend and partner to owner Marc Jeffrey Grobman. Marc is an actor with cerebral palsy. Prior to acquiring Brock, he depended entirely on crutches to get him to auditions, rehearsals and shoots, while carrying his own costumes and props. The many cuts and bruises he received from falling in inclement weather or on subway stairs convinced Marc that he needed a service dog. Brock, who was acquired through East Coast Assistance Dogs, now accompanies and assists Marc in all of his endeavors. Brock's many duties include carrying Marc's gear in a knapsack as he steadies his owner. Marc leans on Brock while negotiating stairs and crossing icy or slippery pavements. Marc confesses that Brock has taught him the meaning of trust and friendship while providing him with the independence necessary to pursue his career. Marc loves promoting the important roles that service dogs play in their owners' lives. When Brock is called upon to "act" alongside his partner, Marc is thrilled to have the opportunity to demonstrate the critical role of the service dog. Brock will be honored in Flushing, NY at the Queensboro Kennel Club show on October 25, 2003.

Companion - "Sadie": Katy, TX
Sadie, an 8-year-old Vizsla, was abandoned and tied to the door of antique store in Texas, along with a note providing her name, age, and the medication she was taking for erlichiosis, a severe and debilitating bacterial disease. She was rescued by the Texas Gulf Coast Vizsla Club. Despite the difficulty of finding a home for an animal that was so weak that she could hardly stand or wag her tail, Sadie was placed with Cindy Wall, her physically and mentally handicapped brother, Mike, and their mother, Joan. The Wall family provided Sadie with a loving and secure environment, in which she could begin the slow process of recuperation.

Sadie instantly bonded with Mike, and the two became inseparable, perhaps because of their conditions. Mike suffers from a vascular disease that requires him to walk for improved circulation. Before Sadie came into Mike's life, Mike was reluctant to take walks despite the encouragement of his family. Now, Mike loves to take long walks with Sadie. His circulatory condition has improved and Sadie has found a home where she is well cared for as she gains in strength daily. Their special relationship exemplifies the canine-human bond at its best. Sadie will be honored in Katy, TX at the Fort Bend Kennel Club show on November 15, 2003.

For complete coverage of the 2003 American Kennel Club Awards for Canine Excellence and to learn more about our winners and honorable mention recipients, please visit Photos of each winning dog can be obtained by emailing