American Hero Dog of 2016: Hooch

For the past six years, the American Humane Association has selected the American Hero Dog of the year. The American Hero Dog of 2016 is Hooch.

Hooch is an orange French mastiff. He was badly mistreated by his former owners, probably to be trained as a bait dog for illegal dog fighting. His tongue was cut out, making it difficult for him to eat or drink, resulting in him being malnourished and dehydrated. Every rib was clearly visible. His tail was broken. His ears were cut off.

Yet with loving care, he has recovered much of his health and his gentle, patient spirit. He has been trained as a therapy dog. Hooch works with special needs children, especially abused children and children with autism.


Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, a California dog rescue non-profit organization, saved Hooch from an animal shelter. Hooch has to be hand-fed; he cannot chew his food. He regained his strength and joined the Miracle Mutts division of Marley’s Mutts. In addition to working with children at schools, libraries, and hospitals, he has become the mascot of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue.

His handler, Zach Skow, the director/founder of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, calls Hooch “resilience personified.” Hooch was the finalist in the Emerging Hero category, which honors ordinary dogs that do extraordinary things, and then won the American Hero Dog of 2016 Award.

“He is a hero,” said vet tech Andrea Bertolucci of San Joaquin Veterinary Hospital.  “He very much shows you that something horrible that has happened in the past doesn’t define who you are in the present.”

For information on how to nominate the American Hero Dog of 2017, contact the American Humane Association


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