Black Collar

The guests of honor wore black ties, arrived in limousines and walked the yellow carpet – on all fours.

In a “black collar” ceremony in New York City, professionally trained service dogs were honored for their contributions to the community through the Pedigree Paws to Recognize program, an annual tribute to canine heroes.

Jacko, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, took home top honors as the 2005 Canine of the Year for his work to protect America’s borders. In his career with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he has detected more than 32,000 pounds of marijuana, 800 pounds of cocaine and 9 pounds of heroin. Using his detection skills, Jacko alerted authorities of a scheme to smuggle 49 people inside wooden boxes on two flatbed trailers into the United States.

Other notable nominees included Jenner, a golden retriever that works as a guide dog for the blind and as a hospital volunteer in San Francisco; Keyotae, a volunteer search-and-rescue bloodhound who is on call 24 hours a day; Shug, a golden retriever that comforts patients through her work as a therapy dog at various hospitals; and Boris, a Belgian Malinois and military dog who served in Bosnia, Kosovo and most recently Iraq, where he was a morale booster for lonely and homesick soldiers.

More than 50,000 people cast their votes online for the dog they felt most deserved the title of Canine of the Year. All nominees received medals of honor and each dog’s paw print was placed in cement. The prints were then added to the Hollywood-style “Pedigree Paws of Fame” in Los Angeles.

This year, Pedigree created two additional awards in a new “Everyday Heroes” category honoring non-service dogs and people who exemplify a love for dogs through their work.

The winners were Pepper, a 3-year-old pointer/healer mix from San Antonio who, despite a fear of water, saved his family’s two children who were caught in a riptide; and Dave Breen of Sierra Vista, Ariz., who has rescued more than 250 greyhounds through his self-started, not-for-profit organization.