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Tag: awards

Susie named 2014′s “American Hero Dog”

susie

Susie, the abused North Carolina dog who inspired a law, a movie, and a nonprofit organization, has been named the American Humane Association’s 2014 American Hero Dog.

Susie, found with burns over most of her body in 2009, received a standing ovation at the AHA‘s black-tie awards gala Saturday night in Beverly Hills, where she was one of eight finalists competing for the prize.

“I’m just blown away,” Donna Lawrence told TODAY.com after learning her dog had won. “There were so many amazing dogs with great stories. When they called Susie, I just wanted to cry.”

In 2009, Susie was found with severe second and third-degree burns over most of her body in Greenfield Park in south Greensboro. Her ears were burned off and she had a broken jaw and teeth. She was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and eventually nursed back to health.

She was adopted by Donna and Roy Lawrence — just 10 months after Donna was attacked while trying to help a neglected pit bull that had spent much of its life tied to a tree in her neighbor’s yard in High Point, North Carolina.

When the man who was convicted of setting Susie on fire was sentenced to probation, outraged dog lovers launched a campaign for tougher penalties for animal cruelty and abuse.

“Susie’s Law,” which made animal cruelty a felony in North Carolina, went into effect in 2010, signed by then-governor Bev Perdue.

Donna Lawrence went on to establish Susie’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that fosters awareness of animal abuse. In 2013, the story was made into a movie, also called “Susie’s Hope.”

Susie is now a certified therapy dog and visits schools, hospitals and churches to bring messages of kindness, respect and responsibility to children and adults.

Other finalists in the Hero Dog Awards, included:

Bretagne, one of the last known surviving search dogs who worked at Ground Zero in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Kai, an arson dog who has worked more than 200 fire investigations in San Antonio

JJ, a little dog with a powerful nose that can detect when his human, ther  a girl named KK Krawczyk, is about to have a life-threatening reaction due to a rare illness

Kota, a law-enforcement K9 who sustained multiple fractures while responding to a burglary in progress but who kept trying to help his police officer partner apprehend a suspect

Xena the Warrior Puppy, a dog rescued from extreme abuse who went on to help a little boy with autism in profound ways

Chaney, a military dog who served multiple tours sniffing out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan

Xxon, a guide dog who helped an Air Force sergeant continue to serve active duty and regain independence after being blinded by explosives in Afghanistan.

The Hallmark Channel will air the awards show on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time).

(Photo: American Humane Association)

Has the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest run its course?

peanut2

It seems like every year I’ve teetered a little closer to disliking the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.

A cute concept at first — and one that helped remind us what a superficial thing beauty can be —  it seems to have grown into a pageant that, despite its focus on “ugliness,” inches ever closer to reflecting many of the same negative traits of purebred dog shows and beauty contests.

As the quirky little contest at the Sonoma County Fair in Petaluma has grown huge, and the title more sought after, there has been a concurrent increase in cut-throat competition, campaigning and hype.

But it’s the choice of this year’s winner that may have finally pushed me into being a fan no more. The title of World’s Ugliest Dog was won by a dog whose unusual appearance is the result of being abused.

And that troubles me.

This year’s winning dog, Peanut, a two-year-old mixed breed, is from Greenville, N.C. He was adopted from a shelter after being found abandoned and severely abused. It is suspected he was set on fire. While he’s healthy now, his eyelids, lips and patches of hair on his body were burned off, which accounts for much of his unusual appearance.

His owner, Holly Chandler, held fundraising campaigns to travel to California and enter Peanut in the contest — all, she said, to help raise awareness about animal abuse.

Given that’s a large part of this website’s mission, too, I have no problem with that cause.

I’m all for celebrating dogs who look different. I’m all for celebrating dogs who have overcome harsh odds. I’m all for abused dogs recovering and becoming rich and famous while their abusers rot in prison.

Where my discomfort comes in, I think, is placing abused animals in a “contest” context and, within that party atmosphere, picking a winner whose looks are the result of being horribly mistreated at the hands of man.

Abuse, it seems to me, should not be connected to pageantry and cash prizes, no matter how circuitous that link is.

Yesterday, I watched a local TV report about Peanut winning the contest. The anchor people, while noting Peanut had an inner beauty, laughed and joked about his appearance, as I’m sure the crowd did at the contest.

Peanut beat 24 other dogs to win the contest Friday, receiving more than double the votes the second-place dog received.

While his owner seemed sincere in her purpose, and probably did raise awareness about animal abuse, I can’t help but wonder whether we should all be chuckling — even while feeling sympathy and love for Peanut — at his appearance, at his prominent teeth, or his eyes that never close, given it was all the result of a cruel criminal act.

On the other hand, the world should know Peanut’s story — and the contest was a way to make that happen.

Maybe, though, there are better, more dignified ways, such as writing a book, or taking him to schools, or sharing his story with the news media — ways that might avoid the appearance of exploitation and have a little less of the circus atmosphere that seems, in my mind at least, to clash with serious nature of animal abuse.

I doubt there is any danger of people disfiguring their dogs in hopes of winning the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, but — given the world can be pretty ugly — stranger things have happened.

I think it would be wise, and in good taste, for contest officials to impose and enforce a ban on dogs whose “ugliness” or unusual looks are a result of actions taken by humans — whether those actions are heinous criminal acts or cosmetic steps, like dyeing, taken for amusement purposes.

While the contest’s web page states that “all the dogs must provide a veterinarian’s paperwork asserting that they are healthy and are ‘naturally ugly,’ Peanut’s victory casts some doubt on how strongly that’s being enforced.

All that said, I don’t find any fault with Chandler entering Peanut in the contest. She was on a mission. She made her point.

Maybe the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, after 25 years, has made its point too. A cute and well-intentioned gimmick with a sweet message, it might be growing into a bit of a monster. Maybe it should fade way before it becomes too Westminstery.

I have problems with contests that award people, or dogs, for good looks and conformity. Maybe I have issues with awarding them for “bad” looks and non-conformity, too.

Definitely I don’t like the idea of people laughing and finding amusement in a dog’s misery, which, in a very distant, removed and indirect way, is what’s going on.

That’s the best I can do at explaining the ill-at-ease feeling Peanut’s victory gives me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(Photo: From Holly Chandler’s Gofundme page)

Pit bull wins national “hero dog” award

elle

Elle, a 5-year-old pit bull who helps children become more confident about reading, has been named the 2103 Hero Dog by the American Humane Association.

But it wasn’t just her listening skills that won her the honor. She also helps teach children about dog safety, and overcoming prejudice and stereotypes – “something a pit bull knows too much about,” the association noted in announcing the award.

The therapy dog and her owner started a reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales”  that helps students at two North Carolina schools — Vaughan Elementary in Macon and Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids — become stronger readers. Students take turns reading out loud to Elle for 20 minutes.

“She provides confidence for students and a comforting ear,” Leah Brewer, 42, told TODAY.com.

Elle and the other finalists for the American Humane Association award attended a ceremony Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It will air as a 90-minute special on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.

After a six-month natonwide search, 141 dogs from across the country were nominated. More than one million Americans cast votes for the eight finalists online. Those results, along with the choices of a panel of celebrity judges and animals activists, were combined to determine the winner.

Among other nominees were Carlos, an explosive detector dog who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan; John D, a rescue dog who uses his scenting capabilities to detect cancer in patients; Cassidy, a three-legged dog who visits rehabilitation centers to comfort children with disabilities; and Lola, a rescued guide dog who connects her deaf owner to the surrounding world.

“Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Elle as the top American Hero Dog for 2013,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association.

“As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned. We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”

(Photo: American Humane Association)

“Last Minutes wih Oden”

The short documentary above — and, be warned, it will make you cry — chronicles the last minutes of a dog named Oden.

One of more than 6,500 submissions from thousands of artists and filmmakers, “Last Minutes with Oden” won top honors in a video contest sponsored by Vimeo, the online video sharing website.

The video focuses on Jason Wood and his dog Oden, who got cancer and had a leg amputated last year. But the cancer spread, leading Wood to make the anguishing decision to put down the dog who taught him how to love.

The video by Eliot Rausch documents the last day of Oden’s life. Vimeo’s panel of judges named it the best documentary, and the best video, and Vimeo presented the owners with a grant of $25,000. The awards were presented last month in New York City.

Jeremy Boxer, Co-Director of the Vimeo Festival + Awards called the video “one of those rare, intimate shorts that leads with its heart and soul.”

Pets on Parade at the Visionary Museum

“The best dog-gone parade” in Baltimore is coming up this weekend.

That’s how the American Visionary Art Museum is billing its annual “Pets on Parade” event at 10 a.m. this 4th of July Sunday (with registration starting at 9:30 a.m.).

Participants are invited to dress their pet and compete for trophies that will include Best Costume, Most Patriotic Pet and Most Visionary Pet. Honors will also be given for best pet tricks and owner and pet look-alikes.

Pets of all kinds (on leashes) are welcome and the event is free.

The museum promises plenty of shade and water.

With temperatures in the mid-90s predicted, lightweight costumes — such as this Elvis outfit Frankie wore a few years back – might be a good idea. And, cute as your dog might be in his get-up, removing the costume after the competition and allowing him a dip in the baby pools might also advisable.

Dogs recognized for their acts of valor

dogs_of_valor_finalist_kenaiThe Humane Society of the United States has announced the Valor Dog of the Year” – Kenai, a Bernese mountain dog mix from Erie, Colo.,who awakened her owner to alert him to a carbon monoxide leak in the vacation home where he, six other adults, two children, and three dogs were sleeping.

The awards celebrate the human-animal bond by honoring dogs who have exhibited an extraordinary sense of courage or resolve by heroically helping a person in need.

“Dogs are our friends, but they can also be our saviors,” said HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, “and the list of 100 nominees provides plenty of support for that proposition.”

The Valor Dog of the Year was chosen by a panel of celebrities including: film and television actor Kristin Bell, from the TV show “Heroes;” Sally Pressman, whose character on Lifetime’s “Army Wives” adopted a stray dog who saved a soldier’s life in Iraq; and Jay Kopelman, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who brought a puppy back from Iraq and wrote “From Bagdad With Love” recalling the experience.

First runner up and winner of the “People’s Hero” award, chosen by online voting, went to Calamity Jane, a golden retriever mix from Aledo, Texas who scared away intruders by barking and growling outside a home where a family and their guests had been held at gunpoint for nearly an hour.

Benson, a golden retriever from Binghamton, N.Y. was named Second Runner Up for barking and alerting his owners to a fire across the street, giving them time to run to their neighbor’s and awaken the family before the house was consumed by flames.

The winners will receive prizes from Bella Tocca Tags, Custom Glass Etching, and The HSUS’ online store, Humane Domain.

To read the complete stories of this year’s Dogs of Valor, visit: humanesociety.org/dogsofvalor.

More than a hundred protest Vick’s award

As 100 to 150 sign-carrying protesters stood outside, convicted dogfighter Michael Vick received the Ed Block Courage Award at a Baltimore banquet hall tonight.

Vick, who served a 21-month prison sentence for dogfighting before getting signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, has said he feels he deserves the award. He was the unanimous choice of his teammates.

“I think everybody has a right to their own opinion. I feel like I’ve done everything I said I  would do,” Vick said in an interview with WBAL during the ceremony. “My peers felt like I was doing the right thing … that I displayed courage and sportsmanship and leadership.”

Protesters began gathering at Martin’s West in Woodlawn before 4 p.m., carrying signs that said, among other things,  ”No awards for dog killers” and “Cowards abuse animals.” 

“I am here to protest that the Eagles have given Michael Vick a Courage Award and everyone else has gone along with it,” said Darlene Sanders Harris, an organizer of the protest. “I don’t think he exudes courage or any of the qualities they are looking for in an Ed Block recipient.”

Animal advocates have voiced their dismay at Vick being named to receive the honor since last December when his teammates chose him for the award.

When Vick confirmed he would be attending, the foundation had to boost security for the event and scrap the long-standing tradition of having the athletes mingle with fans to sign autographs.

Every year 32 NFL players receive the honor, which is named after a longtime Baltimore Colts trainer who also worked as a physical therapist at a hospital for disabled children. The award honors players who are “role models” and “exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”

Maryland SPCA’s Executive Director Aileen Gabbey released the following statement about the decision to give the award to Vick:

“The Maryland SPCA remains shocked and disappointed that Michael Vick will, indeed, receive an award for courage from the Ed Block Foundation after being nominated by his team. Mr. Vick does not deserve this honor. He has been convicted of horrific crimes against living creatures; he has served jail time; he has somehow been re-employed. His attempts to speak on behalf of animals have been half-hearted and disingenuous. None of this warrants a special award.

“No truly courageous or honorable person would say ‘Yes, I deserve an award.’ Yet, this is precisely what Mr. Vick has done, defending his nomination and claiming that he has suffered hardships. He has never suffered the hardships, or torture, that his poor dogs did at his hands. The honorable thing for Mr. Vick to do would be to not accept this award. This would actually show some courage and that he is serious about being on the road to atonement for his terrible actions against innocent lives.”