By: Patrick MahaneyWe recently devoted an entire month to animal adoption, but canine and feline aficionados must actively address the worldwide animal overpopulation on a year-round basis.
The American Humane Association (AHA) reports that “millions of pets across the country face euthanasia every year because there are not enough people who will adopt them and give them caring homes”.
Fellow BlogPaws member Kristin Dewey and I were honored attend this year's Hero Dog Awards as a guest of PetHub. By fusing technology with one of the basic tenants of responsible pet ownership (proper identification through tagging), PetHub created a novel means of increasing the likelihood your lost canine or feline family member will safely return home.
The dogs recognized for their heroic actions spanned a variety of duties, ages, breeds (and breed mixes), and four-limbed walks of life. Robin R. Ganzert, President and CEO of the AHA, states that 2012's Hero Dog Awards eight finalists have "gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, the aged and the afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it, and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people."
2011's winner, Roselle, was a guide dog for who aided her visually impaired owner, Michael Hingson, down 78 floors in the World Trade Center during 9/11. Roselle has crossed over the rainbow bridge, but Hingson attended the awards with Roselle's successor, Africa, with whom he publicly speaks to promote the human-animal bond.
Here's a rundown of the 2012 Hero Dog Awards Finalists, including their "category", name, and charity partner (in parentheses):
"Military Dog" Gabe (United States War Dog Association)
"Guide Dog" Tabitha (Leader Dogs for the Blind)
"Therapy Dog" Stella (Angel on a Leash)
"Law Enforcement/Arson Dog" Jynx (K9s4Cops)
"Service Dog" Holly (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners)
"Search and Rescue Dog" Soot (Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve)
"Hearing Dog" Tatiana II (Dogs for the Deaf)
"Emerging Heroes Dog" Daniel (Pine Street Foundation)
And the winner was?
"Military Dog" Gabe, a Labrador Retriever (yellow) who began serving our country as a Military Working Dog in 2006. While deployed to Iraq, Gabe completed over 210 combat missions and achieved 26 detections of explosives and weapons. On breaks from his combat missions, Gabe provided emotional support to wounded US soldiers in hospitals and teaches the importance of education to children in elementary schools.
Gabe was the runner up in the "Military Dog" category in 2011. He retired from active duty in 2009, but Gabe continues to represent the U.S. Military Police.
I find it remarkable that some of the finalists were removed from less than desirable circumstances, adopted into loving homes, and then transitioned into a role that benefits society. The tale of Daniel, a Beagle mix having survived gas chamber euthanasia in an Alabama animal shelter, was exceptional.
Eighteen other dogs put into the gas chamber with Daniel died, while he emerged with a wagging tail. How Daniel survived is unknown, yet his ability to overcome death prompted the animal control officer who attempted to end Daniel’s life to offer a second chance.
With the help of Pilots and Paws and Eleventh Hour Rescue, Daniel found a permanent home in New Jersey with the Dwyer family. Daniel currently represents shelters as an adoption advocate and helps raise awareness of efforts to ban the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter pets ("Daniel's Law" in Pennsylvania).
Many celebrities lent their image and passion for animals by appearing at the Hero Dog Awards, including Kristin Chenoweth (the evening's host), Jewel, Naomi Judd, Pauley Perrette, Denise Richards, Candy Spelling, Victoria Stillwell, Lisa Vanderpump (and her pooch Giggy), Michael Vartan, and Betty White.
On an ongoing basis, let’s recognize the positive contributions made by Hero Dogs and our companion pooches. One of the best means of doing so is to be a responsible pet owner and advocate for causes that promote animal welfare, such the American Humane Association.