An Etowah County dog known for his ability to search for lost people is now asking for votes.
Maxwell, an eight-year-old Australian shepherd who lives in Attalla with owner Len Troman, is one of 24 candidates receiving online votes through June 30 at the American Humane Association website.
He's actually the "top dog" in the search and rescue category.
Troman, who is a captain at the Etowah County Rescue Squad and in charge of its canine division, says Maxwell has been a search dog for seven years.
Maxwell became certified during his days with a Huntsville group. Troman, however, says rising gas prices and travel from Attalla to Huntsville and back made the weekly training cost prohibitive, so the two began looking for assignments closer to home.
In 2012, Maxwell found a woman who had been lost in the woods near New Union. At the time, Maxwell wasn't yet a member of the rescue squad, just recommended by one of the deputies on the scene.
"Once we figured out what we wanted to do, he was done in like ... 10 or 15 minutes," Troman recalled. "I mean, he made it look so easy, after they'd been working an hour and a half in the heat."
But he's quick to say it's not always so easy.
Two months ago, Maxwell was part of a search in the Talladega National Forest. This time he didn't find his missing person--a helicopter pilot found the person in a different part of the forest--but he did rule out a large area, which Troman said was important to searchers.
"He cleared all of that area, and came back, and said, she's not here. So it's as important to know where they are not, as it is to know where they are, because it tells you what to do next," Troman says.
Although Maxwell is trained and certified to find both living and dead people, his specialty is living people, so Maxwell very rarely goes out on drownings or similar missions. Maxwell's son specializes as a cadaver dog.
The last day to vote for Hero Dog of the Year for 2014 is June 30.
A video on the Humane Association website tells the story of last year's winner, Elle, a pit bull therapy dog that works with the elderly, students who have trouble reading and stressed police officers.
Troman says he hopes Maxwell's supporters will remember to vote online every day.
"I really appreciate those who have voted for him in the first round, to date, to get him where he is today, and I just sincerely hope that we can get the dedicated public to continue to vote daily for him," Troman said.
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