Top 2014 'Hero Dog' Susie Wins $5K for Paws & Effect

PHOTO: American Human Association

A pit-bull mix named Susie won the top "Hero Dog" award at this year's American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. As Suzie's designated charity partner, Paws & Effect will receive a $5,000 award based on her win and participation.

Established in 2006, the Des Moines, Iowa-based organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that raises, trains, and places service dogs with military veterans and children diagnosed with medical needs. Paws & Effect also hosts Pet Partner training courses and evaluations, supporting therapy teams throughout the state of Iowa. Paws & Effect is widely known for its dog agility programs, where children may complete their physical, occupational, and speech therapy while taking a therapy dog through an agility course.

Susie, who lives in High Point, N.C. was the finalist in the Therapy Dog category. The ceremony will be broadcast nationally on the Hallmark Channel, Oct. 30, 7 p.m. Central Time. More than 130 dogs were nominated in this year's contest, and 1.5 million on-line votes were cast by the public. Suzie was selected from a pool of eight finalists. Other categories include arson, law enforcement, and guide and hearing dogs.

Susie's life story is a dramatic one, involving animal abuse, rescue, adoption, healing, and more. A short summary on the American Humane Association website reads:

Susie was only a puppy when her owner beat her savagely and set her on fire, leaving her for dead in a local park in Greensboro, North Carolina. After being rescued by a local animal shelter and nursed back to health, she was adopted by Donna Lawrence, who had been the victim of a terrible dog attack that nearly killed her and left her without the ability to have children. 

Together, they helped each other heal from their physical and emotional wounds, triumphing over pain and fear to become voices for abused animals and helping pass "Susie’s Law" in North Carolina, which calls for harsher penalties for convicted animal abusers. Susie became the subject of the movie, "Susie’s Hope," and working side by side, Donna and Susie continue to make the world a better place for others by visiting hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to inspire people never to give up.

In another Iowa connection, Chaney, an 8-year-old Labrador and retired Military Working Dog now living in Waverly, Iowa, was the finalist in the Military Dog category. Along with his handler, Chaney often volunteers with Retrieving Freedom, Inc. By participating in the Hero Dogs program and becoming a finalist, Chaney won $1,500 for the America's VetDogs of Smithtown, N.Y.