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Time to Pick America's Hero Dog, the Real Superhero of Unconditional Love

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Every dog has his day...

If only each could claim the winner's purse as America's Hero Dog... that is my wish for the exceptional eight nominees, real-life superheroes competing in the final round of the American Humane Association's (AHA) 2014 Hero Dog Awards. As a member of the board of the AHA, I can tell you this is one of the most rewarding events of the year for me.

These magnificent animals truly define courage, loyalty and caring as man's enduring best friend -- all being recognized for exemplifying the limitless unconditional love canines have been gifting humans for centuries. Already, more than 1 million votes have been cast by the public and a celebrity panel of dog lovers and experts, narrowing the field from the original 135 contenders at the beginning of the year to the final round of eight -- a very difficult elimination process. Voting on that final round remains open to the public through September 15 here.

The 2014 American Hero Dog winner will be named during the fourth annual Hero Dog Awards, broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on September 27 from The Beverly Hilton hotel. No one goes home empty handed as each of the eight finalists is given $1,500 for their chosen charity selected from the contest's list of 15 charity partners. The winner's purse is an additional $5,000 given to the charity partner.

The awards are presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and carried to more than 1 billion people around the world by the media, seeking to honor dogs who are the exception to the rule -- dogs who save lives, lend sight and hearing to those in need, not to mention the joy of having them love us each and every day.

The contenders include Kai a 6-year-old shelter rescue black Lab that works at the San Antonio Fire Department helping to keep others safe by investigating arson cases and educating children on fire safety. Xena, a pit bull found barely surviving and brought to a Georgia shelter that made a recovery and has changed the life of a young boy with autism. And XXon, a German Shepherd who is the eyes and constant companion of an Air Force Sergeant blinded in an explosion in Afghanistan that took the lives of his fellow servicemen. Now living with his family in Connecticut the two are inseparable.

There is Kota, the German Shepherd law enforcement dog injured in an eight-foot fall aiding Virginia police responding to a burglary in progress. Even a fractured limb didn't detour the call of duty to protect Kota's fellow officers. Another contender is 8-year-old Black lab Chaney, who retired from the Marines in 2013 after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an IED detection dog. Chaney now works with his Iowa handler for a service dog organization that helps disabled veterans and children with autism.

There is the remarkable Golden Retriever Bretagne, who made enormous contributions as a search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center site after 9/11, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and Hurricane Rita in 2005. Today she helps first graders in Texas learn to read. JJ Krawczyk is a Lhasa Apso mix shelter dog that is the lifeline for a young girl in North Carolina suffering from a rare condition called Mastocytosis. This service dog can detect when the child's life threatening reactions are about to occur and alerts her parents. And last but not least, Susie, the pit bull mix therapy dog that was horrifically abused and then rescued and paired with a North Carolina woman who suffered a brutal dog attack. Together they changed the state's animal cruelty laws and now visit hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to inspire people to never give up.

So please, pause for paws and cast your vote for the one you believe deserves the greatest applause. It is hard to choose I know, but the truth is -- no matter whom you choose you have picked a winner!