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With the holiday season upon us and the year winding down, we’re casting a look back at the most notable, newsworthy, and lovable dogs we wrote about on Dogster in 2014. It’s a little tribute we like to call the 12 Dogs of Christmas — and today we celebrate a dog-fighting survivor turned canine therapy expert.

11. Jonny Justice

Is there anything Jonny Justice cannot do?

Since being rescued in 2007, after being found as part of Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels dog-fighting travesty, this Pit Bull has become a celebrity canine ambassador for good causes. Most wonderfully, 2014 turned out to be a banner year for the sweet-natured black-and-white pooch as he scooped the ASPCA’s official Dog of the Year title.

Now safely residing in San Francisco, Jonny Justice’s busy schedule and caring nature was noticed by the ASPCA. In particular, his work as a therapy dog was lauded as one of the reasons for honoring him with the award: He helps terminally ill children undergoing medical treatment by offering comfort, support, and a soothing presence during his regular hospital visits.

Jonny also has a burgeoning sideline that involves improving child literacy by having kids read their favorite books to him. (Rumors suggest Jonny is a staunch advocate of never allowing the pigeon to drive the bus.)

On the eve of Jonny’s ASPCA award ceremony, Dogster checked in with one of his owners, Cris Cohen. We asked how Jonny’s journey from a rescue to a celebrated therapy dog came about. Cohen told us that after four months of adopting Jonny, he noticed his calm temperament coming through. “He still has a lot of training to do to, but his personality is solid,” he told us. “He just loves people.”

We have no doubt this is one happy ending that’s going to continue to run strong throughout 2015.

Enjoy the other 12 Dogs of Christmas:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.