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)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2013 hero dogs, aide, american humane association, animals, assistance, awards, carlos, cassidy, ceremony, disability, dog, dogs, elle, guide, hallmark, helps, hero dog awards, image, leah brewer, lola, macon, maligned, misconceptions, north carolina, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, reading, rescue, roanoke rapids, robin ganzert, special, stereotypes, students, tail wagging tales, therapy, therapy dog, working dogs
While I feel pretty attuned to my dog – though nowhere near as attuned as he is to me – there have been times, lots of times, during our seven months of traveling that I’ve wondered what he really thinks of it all.
We’ve been on the go since the end of May, not staying anywhere, until our most recent stop, for longer than two or three days. More often, it has been a new Motel 6, or similarly priced lodgings, every night, followed by four, five or six hours of drive time, then landing in a new place, with new smells, which must be sniffed out and, of course, peed on.
By the time we’re done, in another week, we will have traveled over 22,000 miles, he will have peed on 31 states (and Canada) and we will have crossed the country twice in our red Jeep Liberty.
And he will have, hundreds of times, looked up at me with those big brown eyes, which are so highly expressive.
If only I knew what they were expressing.
The back of my Jeep, which once meant he was heading on an outing, has become — other than me, and dinner — one of the few constants in his life of late. It, more than any place, is home, and he still jumps in it excitedly.
During our four weeks of sitting still in Arizona, he still waits to jump in the car. Is it conditioning, or is he truly eager to go; and, if the latter, is it because he has come to love the road, or that he wants to finally get the hell home?
Is he enjoying the adventure, or, irony of ironies, does he find the Liberty confining?
While Ace seems to have adapted wonderfully to the new routine – or lack of one – and shows no visible signs of being unhappy, I still wonder if not being rooted, not having one place to call home, is bothering him.
Does he find being a vagabond liberating, as I – most of the time – do, or is he longing for a place of his own, an end to the travels, a return to the daily routine? Dogs do seem to love their routines.
His tail has remained curled most of the time, and that has always been the most obvious barometer of his mood.
But there are times I look at him, when he’s lying with his head on his paws that I wonder: Is he sad, is he depressed, or is he just lying with his head on his paws?
It’s important for me to know, because this trip, in more ways than one, is about him.
In addition to having nothing better to do, thinking it might be fun to travel across America, documenting our daily exploits and seeking out dog stories — to put together a “Travels With Charley” for modern times, only a more dog-centric version — this journey was also sparked by a feeling I was left with after writing my first book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
After researching the often incredible lengths bereaved pet owners go to when their dogs get sick and die, including that most high tech length of all – cloning – it struck me, in what is likely neither a deep nor original thought, that we humans could, and should, do a better job of savoring our loved ones (of all species) while they’re still around. Maybe then, rather than prolonged and paralyzing grief, we could, knowing we had fully celebrated their lives, better accept their deaths.
I don’t really know if that would lessen the pain of a loved one’s departure. It could, for all I know, only make it worse. But that’s not the point. The point is we humans, as the song goes, “don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” that we take things for granted – not just unpaved paradises, but our parents, our planet, our friends and our dogs.
And while I’m as guilty as anybody on the parents and friends part, I resolved – after writing about how people go so far as to “stuff,” mummify and freeze dry their deceased pets, or pay $100,000 to produce a genetic replica through cloning – that Ace would be appreciated. In life.
That doesn’t mean spoiled and pampered — that’s entirely different. But I made a promise to myself to fully enjoy my dog — to, if it’s not too precious a word, treasure him (not that I didn’t already) — in our relatively brief time together. (Ace, who came into my life when he was 6 months old, is going on 7 years now, and being a big dog, will be lucky to reach the teens.)
I saw the trip, rightly or wrongly, as a way to do that – to take the time we shared beyond the routine of coming home from work, walking to the park, eating dinner and snuggling in front of the TV — though, again, for all I know, perhaps that was the life that Ace really preferred.
If, as I suspect, our dogs reflect our moods, then doing what makes me happiest, I reasoned, would make him happiest – especially given the fact that we’d be doing it together — and probably nothing makes me happier, other than Ace laying his head on my belly, than traveling, writing, seeing new things, and meeting new people.
So, even though finances didn’t really permit it, with an assist from my 401K and unemployment benefits, we set off on this journey, not being sure where it would lead, how long it might last, or what, other than some stories to share, it might result in.
At first, I planned for three months on the road. When that was done, we kept going, heading to the former home of John Steinbeck on Long Island and, on the same day he left 50 years earlier, starting again, roughly following the same route the author took in “Travels With Charley.” That took another three months.
Now, we’re preparing to head back east – we’re still not sure where home is, but Baltimore will do for now. We’ll be sticking to interstate highways to make better time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that schedules and itineraries – and particularly interstate highways — make traveling, at once, more stressful and boring. They snuff out any opportunities for spontaneity. You miss out on the character, and characters, America has to offer.
But as we “make good time,” I’ll be a little less stressed about whether Ace is enjoying the ride.
Despite all the time I pondered the questions; despite my long looks into his soulful brown eyes attempting to gauge his emotions; despite some one-sided conversations where I’ve attempted to explain things, with his only response being giving me his paw; despite priding myself on having some dog empathy, I’d been unable to figure out the answer to that question: Is Ace having fun?
So, last week, before I left Cave Creek, I sought a second opinion.
It was Ace’s second visit with an animal communicator – the first having come when I was researching a series I wrote for the Baltimore Sun about trying to uncover the past of my mysterious new dog, adopted from what used to be the city pound.
What was he, and where did he come from? For the answers then I turned to DNA testing (which showed him to be a Rottweiler-Chow-Akita), to legwork (walking the streets of the neighborhood where records showed he’d been picked up as a stray) and, finally, to an animal communicator. Perhaps the answers, I figured, could come straight from the source: Ace.
I’m neither a big believer, or for that matter a big disbeliever, in those that claim animals talk to them, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to listen – to them, or, if possible, to Ace.
Not long after parking myself in Cave Creek, Arizona, I visited For Goodness Sake, a thrift store that donates part of its profits to animal rescue organizations. At a weekend fund-raising event there, I entered a raffle for a session with a local animal communicator, and I won.
Last week, Ace and I sat down with Debbie Johnstone of Listen 2 Animals.
And according to her, Ace had lots to say.
(Tomorrow: Ace talks)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animal communicators, animals, arizona, behavior, cave creek, communicate, country, debbie johnstone, dog, dogs, dogs on the road, empathy, happiness, john steinbeck, liberating, liberty, listen 2 animals, miles, moods, pets, reading, road trip, routine, steinbeck, travel, traveling, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, trip, vagabond
Ace, after a bit of a hiatus, got back in the saddle as a Karma Dog yesterday at the Baltimore County Public Library’s Woodland branch.
Everyone agreed — as the wooden blocks attest — he was a sizeable canine.
Yesterday was the last of the season at the Woodland Library for HEARTS (Helping Encouraging All Readers to Succeed) — one of several Karma Dogs programs.
In it, children read to dogs, who because they don’t judge, criticize and correct, help students grow more confident in their reading skills.
A new round of summer reading programs start in June at the libraries in Towson and Pikesville, and in July in Whiteford
(Photo by Mary E. Isaacs)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, baltimore county public library, dogs, hearts, karma dogs, libraries, library, ohmidog!, pets, pikesville, reading, reading to dogs, students, therapy dogs, towson, woodland
We’re happy to announce a new feature on ohmidog! — an entire section devoted to dog books.
“Good Dog Reads” — you can find a tab for it on our rightside rail — is a collection of dog book news and reviews from our archives, one that will be updated as new releases come our way.
We’ve also made it easy, should you be inclined to buy one of those we’ve featured, to click on the title or cover, which will take you to our Amazon Affiliate store for easy ordering. To go straight to the store, basically a compilation of some our favorite dogs books, old and new, you can click on “Books on Dogs” link – the photo of the bespectacled dog — on our rightside rail.
If you, like me, plan to curl up with a good dog and a good dog book (or five, or ten) this winter, we’ve got some suggestions for you. Please feel free to send us your’s. And remember the words of Groucho Marx — from whose famous quote the title of the book we’re featuring today was drawn:
”Outside of a book, a dog is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark too read.”
Posted by John Woestendiek November 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: affiliate, amazon, authors, books, books about dogs, books on dogs, dog, dog books, dogs, feature, fiction, good dog reads, inside of a dog, literature, new, news, non-fiction, ohmidog!, publishers, publishing, reading, recommendations, recommended, reviews, writers
Fidos for Freedom, a non-profit organization that trains and provides service and hearing dogs is having its annual fund-raising walk on Saturday.
The Fall Stroll ‘n Roll starts Saturday at 9 a.m., and runs until noon, at Centennial Park in Ellicott City.
The event includes vendors, games, prizes, a bake sale, demonstrations, dog contests and the walk around the lake.
Fidos for Freedom, in addition to working with service and therapy dogs, also operates the DEAR (Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers) program.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: assistance, dogs, ellicott city, events, fall stroll 'n roll, fidos for freedom, fundraiser, hearing, lake, non-profit, organization, program, reading, service, therapy, walk
Since we brought you the dog who can read yesterday, we thought we’d continue today with the dog who can do math.
Reading, arithmetic … what does that leave? Oh yeah, writing. What’s that? You don’t think a dog can write?
Willow’s owner claims her dog can read — only three phrases, but still.
What do you think? Is the dog actually reading the words? Or is something else at play?
Posted by John Woestendiek October 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, cards, commands, dog, dogs, learning, nbc, pets, read, reading, reads, skills, today show, tricks, video, willow, words
After a nearly year-long hiatus, Ace went back on duty as a Karma Dog over the weekend, attending the first HEARTS (Help Encourage All Readers to Succeed) session of the season at the Baltimore County Public Libary in Catonsville.
The program runs for the next eight Saturdays, and starts at 11 .a.m.
Nine books (three of them Curious Georges) were read to Ace, who – from the moment I put on his special Karma Dogs harness and bandana — seemed happy to get back in the program.
He was one of three dogs at the library Saturday morning. The program is aimed at helping children grow more confident about their reading skills. Dogs don’t judge or criticize young readers when they make mistakes, which can often unintentionally cause them to become discouraged readers. When a child is more confident, they can learn more easily and are able to increase their vocabulary and become better readers.
The sessions are aimed at children who can read or are learning to read, and are usually in grades 1-5. To get the most out of the program, Karma Dogs recommends that children attend a session weekly.
Karma Dogs is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the lives of others through relationships with therapy dogs. Its various programs are aimed at improving literacy skills among elementary school students and working with children and adults with developmental disabilities to improve communication and socialization skills.
Karma Dogs was also in the news recently for its “Oath of Kindness” program, which was developed in response to the recent violence against animals in Baltimore. Children take an Oath of Kindness with a Karma Dog, where they promise to be kind, tell their friends to be kind and tell an adult if someone isn’t treating an animal properly.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 14th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, baltimore county public library, catonsville, children, dogs, encourage, hearts, help, karma, karma dogs, kindness, literacy, oath, readers, reading, therapy dogs
The creator of the comic strip MUTTS has teamed up with spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle on a book that celebrates dogs, life and ”living in the moment” — the latter being a philosophy best taught by members of the canine species.
Normally motivational speak quickly takes a Tolle on me, but I will admit to liking “Guardians of Being,” both for the point it makes, and the way it makes it – more light-hearted than heavy-handed, thanks in large part to Patrick McDonnell’s deft touch.
McDonnell uses the cast of characters from the MUTTS strip to illustrate Tolle’s lessons on the value of staying in the present moment, appreciating the oneness of life and recognizing the beauty we sometimes forget to notice around us.
McDonnell is the award-winning mind behind MUTTS, which appears in over 700 newspapers. (He’s also on the board of the Humane Society of the United States and a long-time advocate of dogs and the environment.)
Tolle, author of “The Power of Now,” speaks and teaches around the world. He lives in Vancouver, Canada, but spends most of his time on the bestseller list.
After reading “The Power of Now,” McDonnell sought out Tolle to collaborate on “Guardians of Being.”
“He created a passionate, humorous, enlightening meditation on the power and grace that animals can bring into our lives,” McDonnell said of Tolle. “Eckhart has translated what our companion animals have been telling us for ages: Life is good. Live in the now. Enjoy.”
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: book, books, canine, cartoon, comic, dog, dogs, eckhart tolle, guardians of being, guru, living in the moment, mutts, patrick mcdonnell, reading, spiritual, strip, the power of now
Karma Dogs, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates rescued dogs into therapy dogs, has announced the launch of its Oath of Kindness (OK) program — a way for children and teens to pledge to be kind to animals, to tell their friends to be kind as well and to promise to tell an adult if they see animal cruelty.
The program was formed in response to the recent news about Phoenix, the Baltimore pit bull that died after being set on fire. Two 17-year-old boys have been arrested in the case.
“We hope the Oath of Kindness program helps stimulate conversation between children and their parents regarding the treatment of household pets and other animals,” said Kelly Gould, executive director of Karma Dogs. “We work primarily with rescued dogs and it has been our goal at Karma Dogs to teach adults and children that animals have an intrinsic value.”
Participants in the Karma Dogs OK program will be sworn in by Karma Dogs and receive a “pawtographed” certificate by a Karma Dog as well as a ribbon. Karma Dogs will also launch an e-newsletter that includes positive stories about other children being kind to animals. Children are encouraged to submit their own stories via OK@karmadogs.org. Read more »
Posted by John Woestendiek June 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: andrew gould, animals, burned, coloring book, dirk's guide to safety, fire, hearts, karma dogs, kelly gould, kind, kindness, library, nonprofit, oath of kindness, OK program, organization, pets, phoenix, pit bull, reading, towson