As the year comes to a close, we thought we’d take a look back at the stories that moved us, inspired us, warmed our hearts, and cheered our souls in 2013.
Willow was found all alone and near death on a freezing Chicago street. After being taken in by Chicago Animal Care & Control, she was rescued by Felines & Canines. Within a month this starved and scared girl was healthy, happy, and in her forever home. Her story towards recovery speaks to us all as a message of hope, awareness, and the power of animals to heal and be healed.
Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott first met Koshka the cat when he was stationed overseas in Afghanistan. The stray was badly injured, so Knott––going against military regulation––took it upon himself to nurse him back to health. Some time later, Knott’s world seemed to crumble when several of his platoon members were killed in a bomb attack. Heartbroken, he made plans to commit suicide; it was Koshka that pulled him from the edge and saved his life.
With help from the Afghan Stray Animal League and Nowzad, Knott was able to bring Koshka back home with him to Oregon at the end of his tour. In November of this year, Koshka was awarded the ASPCA’s Cat of the Year award.
Hector was rescued in 2007 from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring. Despite the horror he had experienced, he remained sweet and non-violent. After finding his forever home, he even became a therapy dog. Wallace was about to be euthanized due to his overly high energy levels when he was adopted in 2004. His new family channeled his energy into sports, and he became an award-winning flying disc competitor.
Both of these dogs were recognized for their amazing nature, and became ambassadors for the highly misunderstood breed. Though Wallace passed away earlier this year, his legacy––along with Hector’s––continues to show people that Pit Bulls are a special, loving breed.
Jon Byler Dann of Washington, Illinois thought that the tornado that ravaged his town and his home in November also claimed the life of his beloved 11 year old dog, Maggie. The skittish dog had refused to leave her crate when the storm came through, and Byler Dann was unable to get her into the safe room with him and his four small children.
30 hours after the destruction, family friends helping search the rubble of Byler Dann’s home found Maggie wrapped in a piece of carpeting. She was scared, shivering, and in pain, but she was alive.
Donations for Maggie’s veterinary bills poured in from throughout the country. In fact, Teegarden Veterinary Clinic received so many donations that they were able to get Maggie healthy and put funds towards the care of other in-need animals.
Rescue workers in South Carolina were concerned when they heard reports of a dog whimpering and barking in the bottom of a ravine. After climbing down to investigate, they found something they never expected: A perfectly healthy Shih Tzu nursing a kitten.
The pair were taken to a local shelter––Anderson County PAWS––where they were put in a pen together. It appeared that the Shih Tzu had experienced a phantom pregnancy, which is why she was able to produce milk. The happy and healthy pair were sent to a foster home, and today Goldie the dog and Kate the cat live happily together.
Okay, so he only climbed to the base camp, but the tale of a stray dog who made it to the tallest mountain in the world is still one for the record books. Rupee was rescued from a dump in Ladakh, Northern India as an 8 month old pup, starving and on the brink of death, by world traveler Joanne Lefson. Lefson had previously planned to take her dog Oscar to Everest, but he died before they could make the trip.
Rupee and Lefson climbed all the way to Everest’s base camp, located 17,000 feet above sea level (don’t worry, Lefson brought along a porter to carry Rupee whenever he got tired). It was a big day for Rupee, who not only became the first dog to climb to the base camp, but got to play in snow for the first time too!
After Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in 2012, the ASPCA’s emergency shelter was filled with over 300 animals in need of care and homes. One of them was a six month old grey and white kitten that shelter workers named Joy.
Over a year later, all the animals had either been reunited with their families or adopted into new homes––except for Joy, who remained at the ASPCA’s boarding facility waiting for her chance. That chance came this past November, when Joy was adopted by a Brooklyn College assistant professor (and fellow storm survivor). Finally, all the animals rescued by the ASPCA after Hurricane Sandy were home.
Four-and-a-half year old Ben and one year old Jade were strays who stuck together on the streets of Terre Haute, Indiana. They were brought together to the Terre Haute Humane Society where they remained by each others’ side until Ben was adopted by a local family.
Three weeks after being adopted, Ben was clearly sick of missing his beloved companion. He escaped from his new home and trekked 10 miles through the snow, back to the shelter and back to Jade. Shelter staff called his family to let them know what happened, and realizing that this was a bond that could never be broken, they decided to adopt Jade as well. The pair now live together, happily ever after and safe.
Cecil Williams, who is blind, felt faint right before tumbling onto the tracks at a Manhattan subway station. His guide dog Orlando tried to warn Williams, but ended up falling down with him. The pair were struck by an oncoming train, though miraculously they did not sustain any serious injuries.
Orlando continued to stick by Williams’ side as he recovered in the hospital. Williams expressed sadness though at the fact that Orlando was nearing retirement age and his health insurance would not cover expenses for a non-working guide dog, so he was going to have to find him a new home. The story was quickly picked up by national news outlets, and an outpouring of support and donations came in. Guiding Eyes for the Blind––the organization that trained Orlando and set him up with Williams––reported that they received enough money to keep the pair together and cover Orlando’s medical costs for the rest of his life.
Harley and Teddy are a pair of Chihuahuas rescued from puppy mills who––along with National Mill Dog Rescue and other advocates-–traveled the country spreading the word about puppy mills and led to the rescue of over a hundred more animals. Together these two spokesdogs have helped raise awareness about puppy mill horrors and gotten to lead the happy lives they were always meant to live.
Who says superheroes aren’t real? Earlier this year, friends John Buckland (a former fireman and Iraq veteran) and Troy Marcum were dressed as Batman and Captain America for an event at the American Legion in Milton, West Virginia, when they saw smoke and fire coming from a home. The homeowners weren’t there, but luckily the heroes were––after noticing something furry inside, the men went in and grabbed the family’s cat and resuscitated him on the lawn. Thank goodness for real life superheroes!
Rosie was only a cub when her father killed her siblings and abandoned her. She was found by wildlife photographer Richard Bowles and his girlfriend while they were out training their terrier Maddy in the Berwyn mountains in North Wales and taken back to their home and large estate. The friendship between Rosie and Maddy is incredibly sweet and surprising for a pair of animals that would normally be at odds with each other.
Today, Rosie lives happily with Bowles in his home where she is proving to be a smart trainee, already learning “sit” and to go potty outside. Her and Maddy remain best friends, playing often and occasionally getting into a bit of mischief.
It had been almost a full year since Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach had seen Casey, the Labrador that had been by his side throughout over 150 missions in Afghanistan, and he had never given up the fight to get her to come home to him in Wisconsin. In May, Gundlach went before a government committee to try and get Casey back––little did he know that instead of pleading his case he was going to be reunited with her. The Iowa Elks Association raised $5,800 to replace Casey with another service dog, and Gundlach now gets to live civilian life alongside his loyal companion.
Miley was abandoned and left to die in a garbage dump in Los Angeles. She was found by Eldad Hagar, co-founder of Hope for Paws, and from there her story of pain and despair became one of hope. Over the next few weeks, the scared and badly injured dog received the care and love she so desperately needed. She even met her best friend––Frankie, a Chihuahua rescued by Hagar from a sewer tunnel.
For a couple weeks this past summer two little kittens were the talk of the nation after fouling up traffic and shutting down part of the NYC subway. After their rescue, they were taken to Animal Care & Control of NYC, where they were kept for a few months as they got healthier and better socialized. Tons of inquiries came in from animal lovers interested in adopting the pair, and today the two troublemakers reside comfortably with their new family in Brooklyn.
Xena was a puppy brought to rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals on the brink of death. With proper care, Xena quickly recovered, and was adopted by the Hickey family where she quickly formed a deep bond with their eight year old son Johnny who suffers from Autism. Johnny’s new confidant brought out the best him, inspiring increased verbal skills and a smile that never goes away. In the process, their story has brought awareness to the amazing capabilities of animals to help those with Autism, and Xena was even awarded the ASPCA’s Dog of the Year award.