The ASPCA just announced their Humane Heroes of 2007. Big barks for all these heroes! Congratulations to each and every one of these outstanding individuals! And thanks to the ASPCA for drawing attention to the good dogs, cats and people around us.
Wouldn’t it be such fun to attend the luncheon with all these heroes!
Back in June we asked animal lovers all over the country to nominate their heroes, both human and furry, and now our judges have selected this years award winners. People devoted to protecting animals and remarkable pets whove saved human lives will be honored at a luncheon ceremony on November 1 at New York Citys historic Rainbow Room.
And the winners are:
ASPCA Cat of the Year
New Castle, Indiana
While the Keesling family and their 14-year-old domestic shorthair, Winnie, were sleeping on the night of March 24, 2007, poisonous carbon monoxide fumes from a gasoline-powered water pump in the basement began to fill the familys home. Winnie jumped onto Cathy and Eric Keeslings bed, nudged Cathys ear and meowed wildly. When Cathy sat up, she felt nauseous and dizzy and, unable to wake her husband, called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they discovered the couples 14-year-old son, Michael, unconscious on the floor of his bedroom. All three family members were escorted from their home wearing oxygen masks and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Thanks to Winnies heroic efforts, they recovered quickly.
Cathy Keesling originally found Winnie when she was just days old, motherless and abandoned on a neighboring farm. During Winnies first days with the family, Cathy and Eric nursed her with milk from an eyedropper. They saved her life and, years later, she saved theirs.
ASPCA Dog of the Year
North East, Maryland
Debbie Parkhurst was enjoying an apple in the company of her two-year-old golden retriever, Toby, when a piece of the fruit became lodged in her throat. Parkhurst began to beat on her own chest in an effort to dislodge it. Toby quickly pushed her to the ground and jumped up and down on her chest until the apple came up.
In 2005, Parkhurst rescued the golden retriever from a grim fate in a dumpster. Today, Toby has settled happily into family life and is inseparable from his sidekick, a basset hound named Fred.
ASPCA Kid of the Year
Southampton, New York
Sixth grader Rachel Distefano spends all of her free time working by her mothers side at the Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue. Before and after school and from 6:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. on summer weekdays, she helps to rescue and find homes for horses destined for slaughter. Since the farms inception in June 2005, 51 horses and ponies have been saveddue in large part to Distefanos dedication. Her chores include feeding, brushing and bathing the horses, feeding the chickens and answering to the overall demands of a working farm. At 12 years old, she is not only committed to rescuing equines, but to educating other kids about horses and ponies.
Distefano is a student at Stella Maris Regional Catholic School and an avid swimmer. Inspired by her own love for animals, she hopes one day to become a caretaker and spokesperson for cheetahs.
ASPCA Firefighter of the Year
William H. Smith III
New York, New York
On June 24, 2007, New York City firefighter William H. Smith III emerged from a burning apartment at 230 East 196th Street with a small, frightened mix-breed dog in one arm and a soot-covered cat in the other. This moment perfectly illustrates his commitment to protecting the people and pets of New York City. In June 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented Smith with the Edith B. Goldman Medal for his bravery during a house fire in the Bronx. This was only one of ten occasions on which the senior firefighter has been recognized for heroism since he joined Ladder 58 in 1982.
Smith lives in the Bronx with his youngest son, William IV. His eldest son, Lamar, is a Sergeant in the Marine Corps currently stationed in Japan. Affable and well respected, the senior firefighter is considered by his colleagues to be a true gentleman and genuine hero.
ASPCA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
Deputy Dwight Sloan
Jefferson County, Alabama
Deputy Dwight Sloan, the only animal cruelty investigator in Jefferson County, Alabama, waited no less than a day to launch a full-scale investigation after five-year old palomino, Champ, was shot while grazing in his pasture. Deputy Sloan wasted no time organizing an evidence team, veterinarians and county workers to investigate the crime, and helped to raise a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Champs killer. His tireless efforts led to the confession and arrest of the teenager who shot the fatal bullets.
Recently, with the cooperation of the Jefferson County Commission, the Sheriffs office and the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Sloan spearheaded the construction of a rescue and rehabilitation barn for hoof, stock and equine. This is the first shelter of its kind in Alabama and the first time a state government agency has collaborated with a private nonprofit to realize such a facility. Despite these firsts Sloan remains humble in his work of making the world a better place for animals in need.
ASPCA Henry Bergh Award
Tony La Russa
In 1991, while manager of the Oakland Athletics, Tony La Russa saved an orphaned kitten who darted out onto the baseball field during a particularly competitive game between the Athletics and the New York Yankees. Inspired by the incident, La Russa and his wife, Elaine, cofounded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). Today, through its many outreach programs in Northern California, ARF strives to educate the public about the human-animal bond, pet overpopulation and homelessness.
La Russa, now manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, received his Juris Doctor from Florida State University in 1978 and is currently a member of the Florida State Bar. Before taking over as manager of the Cardinals in 1996, he spent 17 years managing the Oakland As and the Chicago White Sox. During the off-season he lives in Alamo, California, with his wife, their two daughters, Bianca and Devon, and many rescued animals.
ASPCA Lifetime Achievement Award
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Bill Smith is no stranger to animal welfare. Two years ago, he watched helplessly as a young dogbred in one of Lancaster County’s most notorious puppy millsdied from a congenital disease caused by inbreeding. The incident inspired Smith to start a billboard campaign to help educate the public about puppy mills and to push the Pennsylvania state government to enforce kennel laws. Using creative images such as a beagle sitting in a dishwasher, this visual campaign has forced public officials to address this urgent issue.
In 1997, Smith founded Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR), a private, nonprofit organization in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. Since its inception, MLAR has rescued and re-homed thousands of animals in shelters who faced euthanasia and has placed as many strays, special needs, elderly and surrendered animals. Boasting one of the country’s highest placement rates, Smith’s organization finds homes for 99 percent of all of the homeless pets it accepts.
Unfailingly humble, Smith credits much of his own success to three remarkable women: ASPCA Board member Marsha Perelman, whom he admires greatly for her tireless efforts to help the dogs of Pennsylvania’s puppy mills; philanthropist Betsy Legnini, who has worked to help to make Smith’s dream of a “safe place for our animals” a reality by sponsoring and designing much of Main Line’s new state-of-the-art shelter; and his mother, Helen Smith, who helped found MLAR and who continues to play an integral part in the placement of their rescued pets.
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