Some were heartwarming, some were sad, and some were evil — but they all made an impact. Here’s our list of the most memorable dog stories of 2012.
1. Most outrageous: Lennox is dead
When the Belfast City Council went ahead and killed Lennox the dog under the UK’s Dangerous Dog Act, we were shocked. As we wrote in July, “Nobody could save him. Not the Save Lennox Campaign, not social media, not Twitter, not Facebook, not political pressure by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson, not the efforts of celebrity dog lovers like Victoria Stilwell, not an online army, not physical protestors swarming Belfast and British and Irish Consulates in New York, not worldwide vigils, and not your thoughts and prayers.”
Apparently, all the city council needs is its own “expert” to proclaim your Pit Bull-style dog (even if it is a Bulldog Lab mix, like Lennox) dangerous, and authorities can kill the dog. Has anything changed since then? Not in Belfast. In fact, the city council delayed sending the ashes back to the owner, and it still has not returned Lennox’s collar. However, the Lennox Campaign is up and running, calling for an end to breed-specific legislation and protesting around the country. For its part, the Belfast city councuil recently drew up “proposals for new dog control orders that would ban dogs from playing fields, playgrounds and cemeteries and prevent anyone from walking more than four dogs at a time in public,” according to the Belfast Telegraph.
2. Most inspiring: Kabang, the hero dog without a snout
When we last caught up with Kabang, the hero dog who lost her snout when she jumped in front of a motorcycle and saved two little girls in the Philippines, she had just arrived at UC Davis for expert medical care to close her wounds. Nearly a year had passed between her accident and the trip to the university’s veterinary clinic, and Kabang had gone from gentle family dog to fearless protector to folk legend to worldwide cause célèbre. It took a lot of hard work by a lot of people — and a lot of donations — to bring the dog to the U.S. to get the care she so desperately needed.
But it hasn’t been easy going. Right after she arrived, doctors discovered a vaginal tumor and heartworm. Five weeks of chemo later, the cancer was gone — but then they had to address the heartworm, whose treatments are expected to end a few weeks from now. After that time, if all goes well, doctors can finally address Kabang’s wounds and see what surgeries will benefit her. However, there are no plans for her to receive a prosthetic snout. Follow the story at UC Davis.
3. Most despicable: Michael Vick owns a dog
In early October, the world discovered that Michael Vick was once again a dog owner via the Internet — or rather, via an absentminded tweet and a very sharp observer. In early October, we wrote about Michael Vick’s dumb Twitter experience, in which he posted a picture that contained a box of Milk Bone dog biscuits, which he later deleted, replacing it with the the same image without the dog biscuits. Someone, however, made a screenshot (someone always does). The Internet erupted, and Vick was forced to speak on the issue, and he did so in a cowardly way, through a statement released by his publicist. He said he owned a “pet” (he must be scared of the word “dog”) which was “well cared for and loved as a member of our family.”
There’s been silence since. Presumably noting outrageous is going on — certainly there’s been no more Twitter photos. Let’s hope the dog has burrowed into Vick’s damaged soul and started changing it.
4. Most viral: Owner uses water therapy to relieve dog’s arthritis
The photo of John Unger cradling his dog Schoep in Lake Superior touched everyone, sending the moment across the web and making Schoep a hot commodity on the interview circuit. How did it come to be? As Dogster assistant editor Liz Acosta wrote in August, “When John learned that his canine companion had developed severe arthritis and might not have much longer to live, John turned to water therapy to help his friend. The warm summer temperatures of Lake Superior and the weightlessness of the water were the perfect combination to help Schoep relax. Knowing that Schoep’s end might be near, John asked his photographer friend, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson of Stonehouse Photography, to snap a few photos.”
The rest, as they say, is history. But while the media fervor has died down, Schoep’s condition has improved, thanks to all the donations from well-wishers, which has allowed Unger to give the dog the very best care. He is 19 years old and doing fine — in fact, he “recently he climbed the climbed the steps to Unger’s cottage on his own for the first time in recent memory,” according to Duluth News Tribune. Follow his progress on Schoep and John’s Facebook.
5. Most baffling: In France, locals abandon their dogs when they go on vacation
From our July 18 story: “Before they head off on summer vacations, many French people dump their dogs at shelters before they leave. It’s a despicable practice, but before you get outraged, think a moment: How many abandoned dogs do you think there are? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?”
“How about more than 100,000? Every summer. Now you can get outraged.”
Sadly, we learned that dumping dogs in shelters prior to vacations is a cultural thing, so ingrained in the day-to-day that the French SPCA launches a huge campaign at the beginning of every summer, with giant posters in the Paris metro screaming messages like, “Animals can’t cry, they just suffer in silence. Don’t leave your pet this year.”
Has it been working? Not really. Anne-Claire Chauvancy, of Foundation for the Assistance of Animals, sadly observes, “This campaign has become almost banal and just seems to mark the beginning of summer.” We’ll know come July, in any case.
6. Most inspiring: Dog left on 14,000-foot mountain is saved by volunteers
After Anthony Joseph Ortolani abandoned his German Shepherd near the top of 14,000-foot Mount Bierstadt, near Denver, due to weather conditions — and then did next to nothing to rescue her, except calling the sheriff’s office — a group of Internet strangers swung into action. Prompted by Missy’s photo, another hiker (not Ortolani) posted on a climbing site, they rallied to save her. And they did, heroically, braving extreme weather and carrying the dog down in an improvised backpack to do so.
When we left this story, the dog’s fate was mired in the court system, with the rescuers and Ortolani laying claim to the dog. Then Ortolani was hit with an animal cruelty charge, death threats, and perhaps a bit of guilt? He surrendered the dog to one of Missy’s rescuers, a condition that was not technically part of a plea bargain (he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge), but was indeed a part of the discussion over it, according to the Denver Post.
7. Most amazing: German Shepherd stands watch over his owner’s grave — for six years
At first, it didn’t seem real: A dog had been living in a cemetery in the Cordoba province of Argentina for six years, sleeping on his former owner’s grave every night. Then the story got really weird: Apparently, nobody brought Capitan to the cemetery in the first place. Nobody showed him where it was. He had simply turned up there one day and refused to leave. Somehow, the dog had figured out where his owner had been laid to rest.
“We had never taken him to the cemetery, so it is a mystery how he managed to find the place,” said the owner’s wife, Veronica Guzman.
“I’ve tried to bring Capitan home several times, but he always comes straight back to the cemetery,” said Damian, Guzman’s 13-year-old son. “I think he’s going to be there until he dies, too. He’s looking after my dad.”
And the cemetery staff is looking after Capitan, we learned after the story came out. Hector Baccega, the cemetery’s director, says that the staff and been feeding the dog and taking care of him. Good work, everyone.