Meet Maverick, the Winner of the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog Awards · The Wildest

Skip to main content

Meet Maverick: Winner of the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog Award

Maverick is a Great Dane therapy dog with a “superpower” to help military vets deal with trauma.

by Hilary Weaver
November 13, 2023
American Humane Hero Dog Award, Maverick the Great Dane.
Courtesy of Kelly Brownfield/American Humane

On Monday, November 6, American Humane , the U.S.’s first national humane organization, announced that Maverick, a six-year-old, 150-pound European Blue Great Dane, is the winner of the 13th annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards . Maverick, who was chosen by a panel of judges and voted on by the public, was originally listed in the Therapy Dog category, which is sponsored by  The Brady Hunter Foundation. The awards took place on November 10.

“We are so excited to name Maverick as American Humane’s 2023 Hero Dog, a distinction that is well-deserved for him and his handler, Kelly,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “The duo has worked tirelessly to bring comfort and solace to our nation’s military heroes through the United Service Organizations (USO), all while they both were facing their own internal battles against cancer. It’s these types of incredible stories about sacrifice, perseverance, and compassion that this award aims to spotlight.”

All about Maverick

Per PR Newswire, Maverick and his handler, Kelly Brownfield, first met in 2016, when Maverick was only three months old. For the next year, Brownfield trained Maverick as a therapy dog, and he passed his certification test (with flying colors!) in 2017. Since then, the two have donated their time to the USO, particularly helping military families stationed at the Fort Leonard Wood base in St. Robert, Missouri.

In addition to helping families in need with trauma and other health concerns, Maverick was able to sense when Brownfield got sick herself. PR Newswire reports that, before Brownfield was diagnosed with cancer, Maverick was “especially clingy” and was constantly laying his head near his mom’s. Her doctor later said that Maverick could smell that something was wrong. She will complete treatment next spring with Maverick continuing to be an important member of her support team.

“Maverick’s superpower is his ability to calm people with a touch of his paw, giving them the strength to move forward,” Brownfield told Fox News Digital.

The other finalists

The other dogs on the finalist list include : Buda, a four-year-old German Shepherd Shorthaired Pointer (Oceanside, California); Poppy, a five-year-old black Labrador (Columbia, South Carolina); Raina, a 13-year-old Australian Shepherd (Perkasie, Pennsylvania); and Moxie, a five-year-old Mini Goldendoodle (Ballwin, Missouri). All of the dogs on that list are service dogs in their own right; you can read more about their remarkable work and lives here.

In its 13 years, the competition has included more than 1,000 dogs. Past hosts, judges, award presenters, and entertainers at the awards have included Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Lisa Vanderpump (whose reality TV work has involved rescue advocacy ), Kristen Chenoweth, and more. American Philanthropist Lois Pope and the  Lois Pope LIFE Foundation presents the event, which you can catch on A&E on November 26 and on FYI Network on November 23, Thanksgiving Day.

Hilary Weaver

Hilary Weaver is the senior editor at The Wildest. She has previously been an editor at The Spruce Pets, ELLE, and The Cut. She was a staff writer at Vanity Fair from 2016 to 2019, and her work has been featured in Esquire, Refinery 29, BuzzFeed, Parade, and more. She lives with her herding pups, Georgie and Charlie.

Related articles