The American Humane Association's 2015 American Hero Awards named their heroes in a beautiful star studded black-tie gala Saturday night in Beverly Hills. And the winner of the prestigious Top Hero award went to a 6-pound, one-eyed, deformed legged, toothless, rickety puppy mill survivor named Harley. Harley is a true hero, a true survivor and an inspiration to all.
Amidst the roar of the standing ovation when his owners, Rudi and Dan Taylor brought the diminutive winner on stage to accept his award, Rudi said "We never would have ever thought he would live this long and make such a difference for so many puppies."
After spending his first 10 years living in his cage at a commercial dog-breeding facility, National Mill Dog Rescue took the sickly little Harley in and provided the veterinary care he needed. He had a broken tail, gnarled toes from living 10 years with a cage floor, heart disease and infected teeth. By the time the Taylors adopted him in 2011, they didn't know if he would make it two or three months, let alone four years!
Harley gives back as the inspiration and mascot for the "Harley to the Rescue" campaign, raising funds to enable National Mill Dog Rescue to rescue over 500 dogs, just like Harley, to date.
"Harley survived in hell for 10 years and there's only one thing that allows the spirit to do that, and that's to be indomitable," said Dan Taylor during their acceptance speech, according to Today, as Rudi held Harley, crying by his side. "That spirit is allowing him now to be the voice for dogs who cannot speak for themselves... and give everybody hope that tomorrow's going to be a better day."
Harley wasn't the only winner Saturday night. Here is the run-down of the winners:
Glory the bloodhound. Hero for Search and Rescue Award. Glory is a certified search and rescue dog who is adept at find both people and animals. Her biggest rescue to date? Glory found a cat 60 miles away, even crossing the freeway on the path to find him.
Chara. Hero for Guide/Hearing Award. A trained signal service dog for her hearing-impaired handler, Chara also senses and notifies her handler of upcoming neurological attacks. Chara is so in tune with her family, she even notified her handler when her newborn son stopped breathing in his crib.
Dax. Hero for Law Enforcement Award. Dax's handler, police officer Chris Alberini says the canine saved his life in July 2013. While searching a home for a suspect, Dax found the suspect hiding in the attic with a loaded shotgun and stopped him before he shot Alberini. "If Dax hadn't been there, I'd be dead," Alberini said.
Glory. Hero for Arson Dog Award. Certified accelerant detection canine, Glory's sense of smell is so astute she can detect and confirm within minutes an act of arson. Besides shaving time for challenging fire investigations, Glory does double duty as a therapy dog, sensing when firefighters and paramedics need some "Glory Time."
Hudson. Hero for Therapy Dog Award. Hudson was a sad abused puppy rescued near railroad tracks with a paw that needed amputation. Fitted with a prosthetic paw, Hudson visits schools, hospitals, adult daycare facilities and hospices, giving back to his community and brightening their days.
Rambo. Hero for Military Dog Award. U.S. Marine in 2011/2012 before being medically retired, Rambo had his front leg amputated but continues to give his service. As a mascot and inspiration for Gizmo's Gift, Rambo helps with medical expenses and other needs for retired working dogs.
Axel. Hero for Service Dog Award. After Captain Jason Haag returned from tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with PTSD and traumatic brain surgery, he struggled with alcohol and was taking over 30 medications to get by. Thanks to the wonderful people at K9s for Warriors for bringing Axel into Haag's life, the hero German Shepherd has saved Haag and kept his family together.
The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our best friends," explained Robin Ganzert, AHA president and chief executive officer, according to the Examiner. "These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people."
"We hope that Harley's story will inspire people to shut down puppy mills once and for all," Ganzart added.
Lois Pope LIFE Foundation has presented the awards for the last four years to honor and celebrate the working dogs of America, according to Monsters and Critics. The 2-hour gala will air Oct. 30.