Hero Dog Awards

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.

Hero Dog Awards: Vote for Cadence Before June 6!

Since 2012, the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Awards program has recognized the animals that help humans in ways ranging from the everyday to the extraordinary. One of this year's 24 semi-finalists is Cadence, a 9-year-old black and white Catahoula whose charity partner is Paws & Effect, Des Moines, Iowa.

Cadence is nominated in the Therapy dog category of the Hero Dog Awards contest. Other categories are:

  • Arson dogs
  • Guide and hearing dogs
  • Law-enforcement dogs
  • Military dogs 
  • Search and rescue dogs
  • Service dogs

Cadence began her mission as a therapy dog through the Delta Society's Pet Partners program in 2006. With love, patience, and strength, she has helped kids overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Friends describe Cadence as even-tempered, but exuberant.

"She's attracted to children and activity," says handler Nicole Shumate, who is also executive director of Paws & Effect. "She occasionally screams around the agility course—she has a career tally of exactly zero points in agility competitions—but absolutely loves being with kids."

In 2007, Cadence helped to start the Abilities Through Agility program at ChildServe, a non-profit provider of specialized health care to Central Iowa children. There, she helps special needs children reach their rehabilitation and developmental goals through agility activities. Since then, the program has expanded to a number of therapy dogs who touch the hearts of ChildServe children on a weekly basis. Cadence has also broken barriers in the court system, recently helping a special little girl though an extremely difficult trial.

The girl was housed at Youth Emergency Services & Shelter ("YESS"), and was a witness for the prosecution in an emotional case. Cadence helped the victim through the intense, agonizing court processes. Cadence—sensing the girl's vulnerability and unimaginable pain—dutifully curled near her feet each and every day, despite the stress and long hours. The assistant county attorney said, "I requested assistance from Cadence in facilitating communications with a child victim that was having a hard time ... Cadence provided companionship and distraction for the child, allowing the child to move past her negative feelings and work with me to proceed with the case."

Vote for Cadence at this page. Each day until the June 6, 2014 deadline, voters may vote for one dog in each category. Those receiving the most votes will advance to finalist.

According to the Hero Dog Awards website, "every finalist will be presented with a Hero Dog award for their feats of loyalty, bravery, and love, and win $1,500 for a selected charity partner. In addition, one finalist will walk away with top honors as the winning American Hero Dog for 2014, securing an additional $5,000 for their charity partner."