Amy Sherwood of Naples holds a microphone out to her service dog Dolly Pawton in December 2020 during an ability expo in Boston. Sherwood and Dolly were there to do a service dog demonstration and talk about Sherwood’s newest children’s book. Submitted photo

LEWISTON — Dolly Pawton and Aura didn’t end up winning the big awards.

Earlier this year, the two Maine service dogs won their categories as part of the 2020 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.

Aura, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever/golden retriever mix from Brunswick, serves as a hearing dog for Gretchen Evans, an Army veteran who lost her hearing after being struck by a rocket blast in Afghanistan more than a decade ago. After winning more online votes than her competitors, Aura was named 2020 Guide/Hearing Dog of the Year.

Dolly, a 3-year-old Lab from Naples, is trained to alert when owner Amy Sherwood is having cardiac problems and retrieve objects for her. Dolly was named 2020 Service Dog of the Year.

Both dogs then appeared on the Hallmark Channel this fall to compete for the grand title of “American Hero Dog.”

That title ultimately went to MacKenzie, a little dog who was born with a cleft palate and who now is a spokes-dog for animals with disabilities.

But the two Maine dogs are still winners.

“It was a huge honor to have Dolly win the Service Dog of the Year,” Sherwood said.

Gretchen Evans of Brunswick and her service dog Aura enjoy a hiking trip. Submitted photo

Sherwood contracted COVID-19 this year and is still recuperating. Dolly has been there for her every moment.

“Dolly was amazing the whole time. She truly is my best friend,” Sherwood said. “I do not know what I would do without Dolly.”

Evans and Aura have another honor to look forward to: On March 8, Evans will be inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Hall of Fame for her military service and for her work helping other injured veterans, including her involvement with service dog nonprofit America’s VetDogs.

“Aura has a lot to do with that honor,” Evans said. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for her.”

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