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Courageous Dogs from Iowa Up for National Award

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Two dogs from central Iowa are getting some national attention for their heroic acts.

Capone, a chihuahua mix from Des Moines, and Emma, a chocolate lab mix from Grimes, have been nominated for the American Humane Hero Dog Award.

Owners all across the country nominated their dogs for the award in seven different categories: law enforcement/ arson, emerging hero, guide/ hearing, military, search and rescue, service and therapy.

Capone’s owner, Angela Fullmer, said it was someone else’s idea to enter Capone, but that he deserves recognition for everything he’s done for their family.

“My dog started barking and normally he doesn’t usually bark at night and I wondered what was going on. I called him and he will usually come to me, but he wouldn’t so he ran into the kitchen and I looked and that’s when I saw the microwave area was on fire, and I knew then that we needed to get everyone out,” Fullmer said.

The fire happened on March 15 at 1:30 a.m. when Fullmer, her husband and nine kids were all sleeping.

Fullmer said without Capone they would not be here today.

“He means a lot to us because he saved our lives. He barked probably a couple minutes before the smoke alarms even went off and the whole downstairs was gone within five minutes and four of us were sleeping downstairs. So it would have been a lot more detrimental if it hadn’t been for Capone,” Fullmer said.

Fullmer added her family has been through a lot since the fire from losing their home, then living in a hotel, then having to separate their family between two apartments and now signing on a new home.

“We’re very happy. We’re finally all going to be together and we get a bigger space. There is a back yard so the kids and capone can run around and it’s fully fenced in. I think he will be a lot happier too,” Fullmer said.

Fullmer said the award is also for a good cause.

“Basically the prize money, if he wins, goes to a charity and the one that makes service dogs for veterans is the one we picked,” Fullmer said.

Award judges will give $2,500 to the eight finalists’ charity partners American Hero Dog will win an additional $5,000 for their charity partner.

Capone’s charity partner is Pets for Patriots, but Paws and Effect is a similar charity that helped train Emma.

Emma’s owner Frank Wennerholt, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army, said he has Emma to help him with PTSD and severe depression.

“So what she does is she comforts me, she constantly walks beside me. She will keep me balanced, she is making sure that I stay upright and everything like that and I stand up straight. She knows when I am getting sort of nervous and whatnot, so she starts to nudge me and she will want me to walk away. She wakes me up when I have nightmares at night,” Wennerholt said.

Ashley Anderson, a lead trainer with paws and effect said some of those behaviors she learned through training, but others came naturally.

“Emma is one of those dogs naturally offered those behaviors with her handler. When emma came to us it was more of making sure she was safe in public, that she’s not startled by things, she has manners, all of those things,” Anderson said

Wennerholt said without Emma’s unconditional love he would not be here today.

“I was constantly thinking about bad, bad, bad. All these bad things that have happened to me and it gets to the point where you’re so depressed you’re borderline suicidal...I’m sorry. So that’s why it’s so important I feel that people with these issues, depression and veterans and what not have an animal,” Wennerholt said.

Wennerholt said he thinks more veterans should have service or therapy dogs and hopes this award will bring more attention to veterans issues.

“Whether it’s not a service dog, but a therapy dog or just an animal there. Petting the animal and being with that animal most of the time is enough to keep us alive. There’s so many of my friends that have committed suicide, so many veterans that there not here anymore,” Wennerholt said.

The first round of voting ends on May 3 and there is still time to vote for both of these Iowa dogs on the American Humane Hero Dog Award website.

To vote for Emma go here and to vote for Capone go here.