2020 ACE Awards winners revealed: Which dogs were honored?

Photo: AKC National Championship.. Image Courtesy Nick King
Photo: AKC National Championship.. Image Courtesy Nick King /

The 2020 ACE Awards winners have been revealed.

The 2020 ACE Awards winners have now been revealed, though it looked a little different this year due to the pandemic as the recipients of this year’s Awards for Canine Excellence were revealed via a series of specials on AKC.tv, instead of during the AKC National Championship at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

As always, the 2020 ACE Awards were given out by the AKC Humane Fund, and there were five categories awarded. Award sponsor Eukanuba will give out a $1,000 for a pet-related charity of the winner’s choice in addition to a year’s supply of Eukanuba dog food, and each winner also gets a sterling silver medallion.

The 2020 ACE Awards winners are…

Exemplary Companion Dog of the Year

  • Tara the Flat-Coated Retriever from Flint Hill, Virginia

Tara is a four-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever from Flint Hill, Virginia, who belongs to Mary Pat Corrigan. Tara’s mother was a champion show dog, taking Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the AKC National Championship and the Flat-Coated Retriever National Specialty.

But Tara was unable to follow in her mom’s pawsteps in the show ring due to birth defects: one leg was shorter than the others, and she only had three paws.

So she turned to dock diving, where she shines as a top-five competitor in her breed in Air Retrieve and No. 6 for her breed in Distance jumping. She also qualified for the NADD National Championship this year, finishing in a six-way tie for 125th in the Senior Division (out of 317 dogs) with an average jump of 17 feet one inch. In Air Retrieve, she tied for 20th in the Senior Division out of 72 dogs.

When not competing in the water, Tara is a playful and happy dog known for her good nature, and in her spare time she also raises funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Search and Rescue Dog of the Year

  • Shiraz the Belgian Malinois from Havana, Florida

Shiraz (registered name CH Bord du Lac Shiraz CDH ROM1) is a 12-year-old Belgian Malinois from Havana, Florida (a Tallahassee suburb),  owned by Susan Goodhope. who works as a Human Remains Detection Dog, taking part in forensic, historical and archaeological searches for the past decade.

She has also been instrumental in finding unmarked or forgotten graves throughout the southeastern US, and in 2013 she found a burial mound with remains dating from the early part of the Middle Ages (670 AD), and she has been featured in various newspapers including the New York Times.

Service Dog of the Year

Luke is a six-year-old Labrador Retriever who works with Ryan Garrison in Beavercreek, Ohio (a Dayton suburb). Garrison enlisted into the Air Force following September 11, and was wounded while serving in Iraq in 2006. He was paired with Luke in 2016 thanks to Warrior Canine Connection, where Luke helps with everyday mobility, and to a lesser extent eases anxiety and depression.

Luke helped Garrison and his son through a severe anxiety attack following a car accident earlier this year, and will continue to provide inspiration and comfort as Ryan and his wife launch a nonprofit called Valor Therapeutics, which will assist Dayton-area veterans and first responders in getting through traumatic life experiences.

Therapy Dog of the Year

Monson, a nine-year-old Dalmatian whose registered name is CH Yankee Sebago & Patch MT Miles To Go Monsoon CGCU BN RA TDIAOV THDX TKP OAP OJP NFP CC, belongs to Melissa MacWilliams, and he is an accomplished canine athlete, competing in agility, conformation, rally and obedience.

But more importantly, Monson works at at homeless shelter specializing in teens, in addition to an adult-homeless-transition program, a nearby nursing home weekly and local schools, ranging from middle schools to colleges.

Since the pandemic began, Monson and MacWilliams have been continuing their therapy dog work via video, which is pretty amazing. He is also included in the high school yearbook as a member of the staff.

Uniformed Service K-9 of the Year

  • Stella the Bloodhound from Tallahassee, Florida

Stella is a three-year-old Bloodhound who works with her handler Paul Coley in the Tallahassee Police Department’s Special Victims Unit as a Scent Evidence K-9, which primarily consists of finding missing persons throughout the Florida Pandhandle, including several cases where missing people with Alzheimer’s or dementia were found.

Stella and Coley also travel throughout the state raising awareness for various Alzheimer’s-related charities as well.

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Congratulations to all of the 2020 ACE Awards winners!