They conduct search and rescue. They serve in the military. They lead the blind and alert the hard-of-hearing. They comfort people in crisis, visit the hospitalized and those in hospice care; they even provide a soothing balm for us, their guardians. They survive abuse and neglect to become someone’s beloved pets. They are animal heroes!
Images of the dogs searching for the trapped and injured on 9/11 and during last week’s earthquake in Mexico resonate in our hearts and souls. From fires in homes and cresting ocean waves to hospital rooms and school bullying problems, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs and other animals provide rescue, comfort, security, and therapy to many humans, their own as well as strangers. From the military veteran suffering from PTSD or physical disability to the child lost in the woods or the trapped earthquake victim, animals respond to the needs of people as they fulfill their roles of service, comfort or search and rescue. They are K-9 officers protecting communities and military service dogs sniffing out bombs and bad guys.
Every fall, the American Humane Association partners with the Hallmark Channel to present The Hero Dog Awards. From a service dog named Roselle who guided her blind owner and others out of a building during 911 to an abused pit bull named Hooch, canines have been celebrated for their heroic story for more than five years – and their stories tug at the heartstrings!
This year’s Hero Dog Award winner’s story is no different. American Humane recently announced the 2017 winner: a one-eared pit bull named Abigail. A dog-fighting survivor who was rescued after nearly being euthanized, Abigail is a “spokesdog” for dog-fighting rescues and for forgiveness and second chances. She’s also a fashionista, thanks to her human-mom who dresses her in scarves and headbands to help cover some of her scars. Many nominated Hero Dogs have overcome the odds of abuse or neglect.
Cats are also known to be heroes. Last year the BBC reported on several cat heroes, including one that detected cancer in her special human and another who came to the rescue of the young boys he lives with.
Hero animals – whether they do incredible feats of bravery or are simply the companions of the household, they all deserve to be called the Heroes of Our Hearts!
Mothers have their special day in May; fathers have their special day in June. Grandparents have their special day in September, and dogs have their special day this month! August is known for the Dog Days of Summer – often hot, and many times muggy – but it’s not just weather which brings out a special recognition. Dogs around the country have their own special day in August. Each August 26 since 2004 organizations and individuals around the country have celebrated National Dog Day.
Started by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige, National Dog Day was first developed to honor the search and rescue dogs of September 11th. Ms. Paige then turned her attention to the millions of dogs in need of loving, forever homes, and expanded her mission to include encouragement of pet adoption. (see the National Dog Day website: http://www.nationaldogday.com/).
We, too, can celebrate dogs in both a community way and a personal way. Volunteering at the local shelter is a great way to honor National Dog Day, as a family, group, or individual: walking dogs, playing with cats, helping to clean up the area around the shelter, even taking a group of Scouts or other people for a “handyman project” at the facility. In a personal way, do something extra special for and/or with your beloved pet: take a pet-friendly vacation; buy a pet first aid kit; hire a pet photographer to capture a “family portrait;” microchip your dog for its safe return should it become lost. There are numerous ways to celebrate the special dog in your life!
Today, two new Chicken Soup for the Soul books about pets are released: one about dogs, the other about cats. These books particularly advocate the adoption of pets, with a portion of sale proceeds going to the American Humane Association. I have a story in the dog book The Dog Really Did That? about a dog I helped transport for a Colorado-based rescue group. One way I celebrate dogs is to write about them (see my website for the various inspirational pet books for children and adults); this Chicken Soup story, “Jazmine’s Journey,” is my seventh published work for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’m honored to have several of my stories about pets, mostly rescue/shelter animals, in this internationally-recognized book collection!
Another way I celebrate dogs is to help my local and regional rescue groups through events and transportation needs. I transport for several groups, including Big Dogs Huge Paws and Mid-America Boston Terrier Rescue. And, I donate a percentage of my book sales to area pet rescue organizations.
Another way I celebrate dogs is to take care of my own pets in a variety of ways, and when the time comes to add another furry friend to the household, I adopt through a shelter or rescue. I’m seriously looking now for a new furry friend; my sweet cocker spaniel Cody has been gone for nearly 18 months. Several days a week I spend time searching for that “special someone” and when the opportunity arises for just the right dog (we are a multi-pet household), I will adopt a new four-footed friend.
There are many ways to celebrate the dogs in our lives and to help local, regional, and national animal rescue groups. Whether you donate needed supplies to your local shelter, assist in transporting animals for a regional rescue, or contribute money to a national group (even through purchasing the newly released Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That? or The Cat Really Did That?) or adopt from a shelter or rescue, you are helping dogs in need. And, you can celebrate your special dog every day simply by just being your pup’s best friend!
As the Dog Days of Summer engage, celebrate the incredible loyalty, friendship, and courage dogs give in your own special way.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.