Cole, a deaf dog from Millville has made the national semifinals for the 2022 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.

Cole is one of 21 dogs from across the country who have advanced from an original field of nearly 400 candidates competing for the award.

The second round of voting is now establishing the seven finalists who will participate in this year’s competition at HeroDogAwards.org. You may vote once a day between now and July 22 in each of the seven Hero Dog categories.

The top winner in each category will be honored at the American Humane Hero Dog Awards gala in Palm Beach in November with one special dog being honored as this year’s American Hero Dog.

The 2022 Hero Dog Awards categories include Law Enforcement and Detection Dogs; Service Dogs; Therapy Dogs; Military Dogs; Search and Rescue Dogs; Guide/Hearing Dogs; and Shelter Dogs.

Cole is in the Therapy Dog category.

The story of Cole is intertwined with the story of his owner.

In 2017, Chris Hannah, an elementary music school teacher at Dr. William Mennies School in Vineland, went to the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and was drawn to Cole, a deaf pitbull puppy.

According to dogsavethepeople.com, Chris immediately thought of his 9-year-old nephew Kevin, who is also deaf. Chris says that other families had come to visit Cole before, but they deemed him too “broken” to be adopted.

Chris didn't see Cole that way. He helped him become a certified therapy dog, even starting his own non-profit organization, the Cole the Deaf Dog & Friends Foundation, to perform free school and community assembly programs to inspire others to change the way the world thinks of those with disabilities.

Chris hopes that he can continue to share these lessons of kindness full time now that he recently adopted a sidekick for Cole, another deaf puppy, Cece.

Chris says the Team Cole Project "proves just how important dogs are in teaching empathy, as they don’t just open humans’ minds, they open humans’ hearts through their unconditional love."

Join me in voting for Cole the deaf dog from South Jersey as this year's winner in the American Humane Hero Dog Awards.

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