Axel- The top U.S. therapy dog

Axel is one of five 2022 AKC Awards for Canine Excellence recipients, winning the Therapy Dog category. This category recognizes certified therapy dogs working in hospitals, schools, disaster sites, war zones, and wherever else the affection of a good dog can provide comfort.

Hunt- Axel ‘owner began to see therapy dog potential in Axel at 6 months old during neighborhood walks, and the pair have been off and running since then. Intelligence, obedience, gentleness, friendliness, calmness, and adaptability to varied environments make him the template for a therapy dog. 

Their travels have taken them to hospitals, schools, and military organizations nationwide.In the past two years, Axel and Hunt have volunteered over 2,500 hours and interacted with over 50,000 people. During the height of COVID-19 pandemic, Axel was called upon to sit with dying patients when their family members weren’t able or permitted to visit. The dog also has consoled many nurses and doctors as they tried to deal with many pandemic-related deaths.

Axel’s exploits aren’t limited to hallways and schoolyards. He’s also an AKC Conformation champion and competes in Obedience with Hunt. The owner turned to his friend and handler, Sarah Janner, to guide Axel through the Conformation corridor, the majority of which was on the East Coast. 

Hunt and Axel are well known for their efforts in a wide mix of environments. When critical incidents occur, they are called to respond and provide Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).

When incidents occur in areas in which they do not have a pre-established relationship, they work with the local incident command to ascertain their deployment role.

The pair went to Uvalde, Texas after the elementary school shooting. They were in communication with the local incident command and medical centers before heading out. Travel and accommodations were quickly arranged, and they flew to San Antonio and then drove to Uvalde. 

They were immediately put to work with assignments with First Responders, which was followed by multiple Animal Assisted Crisis Response/Critical Stress Management sessions.

The Uvalde mission elicited a storm of passion from many locals. While visiting a church where several members were directly affected by the shootings, Hunt and Axel were asked to meet with a child who was in the classroom where the shooting took place.

“We were told the child had been non-verbal since the incident,” Hunt recalls. “The youngster approached us and started to gently pet Axel. He then leaned in close to Axel and began to speak softly to him. As Axel quietly sat, the boy turned to me and began to share what had happened on that tragic day. It was then the boy began to talk with the therapist who had been assigned to us. Axel remained with the boy during the entire encounter.”

That may be why Hunt has heard everything from “Axel is an angel sent to help us heal” to “Axel is truly the ringing endorsement for Rottweilers” regarding the award-winning therapy dog.


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