Alaqua Animal Refuge is proud to announce that four Alaqua alumni dogs have been nominated for the national American Humane Hero Dog Awards, which celebrates the incredible relationship between dogs and people, and also recognizes the extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs.
Dogs are the very best of our friends, and these awards highlight their stories and remind us all of the value of our pets, and what they mean to us every single day.
Each of the four Alaqua dogs nominated found their second chance at Alaqua, and are now living in loving homes where they continue to prosper and touch our lives, as well as the lives of others. Congratulations to the following sweet dogs—Elsa, Rufus, Saylor and Sunni.
Elsa, a therapy dog living in Niceville, is a 10-year old Great Pyrenees that is trained as a registered therapy dog. She works with her owner four days a week at the Niceville Children’s Advocacy Center, The Manor in Bluewater Bay, Rocky Bayou Elementary School, and the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. She has become a hero to thousands of children and adults with her over 230 (and counting) therapy dog visits. Elsa is also the biggest hero to her own family since her owner’s son was diagnosed with cancer. Through his chemotherapy treatments and fight for his life, Elsa has provided love, support and hope for the entire family.
Rufus, a senior bloodhound, came to Alaqua after neighbors living nearby in Panama City discovered he was living on his own. Sadly, his family had evacuated during Hurricane Michael without him. Seven weeks after the horrific storm had passed, Rufus had returned to the only home he had known, where neighbors found him trying to survive however he could. He was emaciated, and his eyes oozed with fungus. At Alaqua, Rufus found shelter, safety, and a second chance, including the dire medical attention he so terribly needed.
This past February, Rufus joined a loving hospice family and home where he will live the remainder of his years in comfort, and most importantly, being loved. His hospice foster mom writes: “He is our hero. Rufus represents the tenacity, spirit and strength of a community. His valor, fortitude and bravery personify the effort of heroic citizens, each helping one another.”
Saylor lives in Panama City with her incredible forever mom, who just so happens to be one of Alaqua’s amazing and giving volunteers. Sadly, Saylor’s human mom lost her home during Hurricane Michael, causing her to surrender her pets to Alaqua in an effort to give them a better life while she tried to rebuild her life and relocate. Saylor had sustained internal damage to her little body, and tests showed her diaphragm was impaired and her intestines were not situated in her chest properly, making it hard for her breathe. She also had a broken pelvic bone and tail.
Determined to give this little girl the best possible second chance, Alaqua provided medical care to fix her internal issues. During a critical time of aftercare, Saylor was initially fostered but soon fit right in with the family’s “pack of pets” and was adopted quickly into their home. Despite the odds, Saylor is doing magnificent and is very active playing and running with her new human and dog family.
Sunni, a tiny Yorkshire terrier, was found living outside in a rough neighborhood after she was abandoned by her owners. With no use of her rear legs, she was dragging herself around outside with no home and no care. Alaqua heard about Sunni and arranged transportation for her to be brought to the Refuge from two states away. Sunni underwent medical care for skin disease and a urinary infection, and tests showed Sunni had an atrophied spinal cord and her rear paralysis could not be corrected. Alaqua volunteers banded together and procured a wheelchair, especially made for Sunni, and she took off as fast as she could once initially strapped in!
Alaqua veterinarian Dr. Amy Williams took Sunni under her protective and loving arms and fostered her for five months before Sunni found her forever home. Sunni changed our beliefs on dogs with disabilities, and is the epitome of what positive attitude and a zest for life can do—no matter what circumstances stood in her way. Never meeting a stranger, Sunni is a complete ray of happiness and sunshine—actually, she could be the whole sun! We miss her at the Refuge, but know she’s sharing happy smiles wherever she roams with her new mom.
The American Humane Hero Dog competition is divided into seven categories — Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and Shelter Dogs. There are three voting time periods including semi-finalist, category winner, and 2019 American Hero Dog winner.
As a result of each of their touching, individual stories, all four of these incredible animals are nominated in the semi-finalist round for their specific categories—Elsa for Therapy Dog, and Rufus, Saylor and Sunni for Shelter Dog.
Please consider voting for these special dogs, and help us get all four dogs to the next round of voting, The first round of semi-finalist voting ends at noon (PST) May 2. To cast your vote, visit herodogawards.org.
Three dogs will be named as semi-finalists in each of seven categories. From there, voting will again be announced and will narrow the field to one dog in each category. Please vote so you can help us send one or more of these amazing dogs to Hollywood for a star-studded awards gala, which will be broadcast nationwide on Hallmark Channel this fall. Seven canines will be featured on the show, and one will be awarded the 2019 American Hero Dog title.