Award shows are going to the dogs, literally: the American Humane Association's first annual Hero Dog Awards — honoring man's (and woman's) best friends for their courage, heroism and inspiration — had the star-studded audience that included Betty White and Peter Fonda laughing at host Carson Kressley's jokes while marveling at the abilities of the eight category-winning canines chosen from 400,000 ballots cast online and voted on by a panel of celebrity judges.

Taped for broadcast on Hallmark Channel on Nov. 11, the event had many highlights, including White presenting the Guide Dog award posthumously to Roselle, who led her blind owner Michael Hingson down from the 78th floor of Two World Trade Center just before it collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. She was also named the American Hero Dog of the year. "Roselle saved my life every day," said Hingson, who wrote about his experience and their relationship in his novel "Thunder Dog."

Fonda talked about his love for dogs while introducing a video about the first responder dogs that aided in search and rescue efforts on 9/11. One of them, K-9 Sage — a FEMA dog that worked on site at the Pentagon, in Iraq and in rescues after Hurricanes Katrina and Irene — is now 13 and one of the few canine rescuers still alive. James Symington's dog Trakr has passed on, but he wanted to attend to honor his furry friend. "I'm really grateful to the AHA for recognizing the dogs that worked at Ground Zero," he said on the red carpet.

Michelle Forbes ("True Blood") presented the Military Dog award to Bino Charlie 152, who also served in Iraq searching out explosives, worked as narcotics patrol dog, and is now a post-traumatic stress demo dog, showing other service dogs how to help soldiers deal with PTSD and brain injuries. Pauley Perrette ("NCIS"), presenting the Therapy Dog award, said she loved animal events "because we can all show up proud to be covered in animal hair." An "animal fanatic and lifelong animal rescuer," she rescued two "special needs" dogs named Little Joe and Cece that "keep me alive every day with the unconditional love I get from them even though they're a handful."

Faith Ford, who presented the Service Dog award to Zurich, a canine aide for a disabled woman, declared herself a "big time dog person." Ford, who has two American dingoes at home, goes green by buying local and organic produce when she's not growing her own, with the aid of green waste from her compost bin. "I use banana peels on my roses," she said, noting that she learned how to garden from her mother. Ford next stars in the Nov. 26 Hallmark Channel movie "Trading Christmas" opposite Tom Cavanagh and Gil Bellows as a widow caught up in Christmas preparations. She recently produced the movie "Escapee," starring Dominic Purcell, and while she'd taken time off during her father's terminal illness, she's getting back to work now and is hoping to do another series.

For "Footloose" star Julianne Hough, who has two dogs at home, three-year-old Lexi and puppy Harley, the evening's highlight was getting to meet fellow dog lover Betty White. Her former "Dancing with the Stars" co-star Anna Trebunskaya was on hand to support her partner Kressley, even though she's not what you'd call a dog person. "I'm allergic," she explained, but she was all for "giving these dogs and the people who train them recognition" and giving Kressley a break from rehearsal.

Also on hand were celeb dog trainer Victoria Stilwell ("It's Me or the Dog") and Travis Brorsen, whose boxer Presley won the "Greatest American Dog" competition in 2008. He and Presley "have been all over the country visiting schools and teaching kids that our relationship is so good because of loyalty, friendship and respect. I teamed up with a technology institute to develop a curriculum that teaches life skills and character development," he said. "We've signed up over 100 schools in the last few months."

As for Kressley, he had a blast hosting the show, and may have discovered a new niche. "This year Hero Dog," he declared, "next year the Golden Globes!"

Photos courtesy Hallmark Channel

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