Therapy dogs Dodger, Patch up for national Hero Dog Award

Dodger and Patch help kids learn to read, ease frightened and forgetful minds, comfort the lonely and soothe the confused.


The husky mixes serve as therapy dogs for children and for the elderly, and Dodger and Patch have both been nominated for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™.

Even as they serve as therapy dogs, 11-year-old Dodger and 10-year-old Patch serve as favorite pets to their owner and Coon Rapids resident Melissa Madsen.

Years ago, Madsen  struggled with anxiety and depression and was so introverted she rarely went out.

She saw a newspaper ad for an eight-week-old puppy for sale and thought maybe it was just what she needed.

Turns out, she was right.

“Dodger was therapy for me. He comforted me, got me to relax. And then he got me out of the house. I’d take him for walks and pretty soon I got to know everyone in the neighborhood,” she said.

A couple of years later, Madsen added two and half year old Patch to her family.

“Patch was the challenge I needed,” Madsen said.

Patch, with his quiet demeanor, provides comfort and memory care for elderly people.


Dodger has worked with children at the Ronald McDonald House and at Alexandra House shelter for survivors of domestic abuse.

He’s been a reading helper at local schools and as well as in the Anoka County library system.

Dodger mingles well with everyone, Madsen said.

“Even on walks down the road, he like to mingle with the kids he sees,” she said.

Dodger and Patch both also work with children with behavior issues who must attend summer school.

The public is invited to vote online for Dodger and Patch to win the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™.

Just go to, select the “therapy dog” category and place your vote.

Other categories in the Hero Dog Award competition include law enforcement/arson dogs, service dogs, hearing dogs, emerging hero dogs, military dogs, guide dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

Votes can be cast everyday through July 30, Madsen said.

Should Dodger and/or Patch win the award, Madsen would travel with them to California to receive recognition. The award ceremony will be broadcast on the Hallmark television channel.

“It’s a national award and Dodger and Patch are the only ones nominated from Minnesota,” said Madsen.

“I’m pretty proud of them,” she said, patting their backs and offering them treats.

About the Awards
The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ were created in 2010 to celebrate the remarkable bond between dogs and people.

This annual national competition searches out and recognizes “America’s Hero Dogs, who unconditionally avail themselves to us in so many important ways, whether it’s saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, providing therapeutic support to children suffering from cancer, or just greeting us with a wagging tail at the end of a hard day.”

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]