The 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards airs Thurs., Oct. 30, on the Hallmark Channel, but the event took place last month, and we’ve got your big winner right here: Susie. She’s a Pit Bull mix from High Point, North Carolina, and she landed the 2014 American Hero Dog award at the event, which took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and was hosted by film star James Denton and model and animal advocate Beth Stern.
Yes, it was a full gala, but let’s hear about Susie first. The Pit mix was just a puppy when she underwent an unimaginable experience. Her owner beat her, then set her on fire, leaving her in a park in North Carolina. Her crime? Licking the face of her owner’s child.
She was rescued by a local animal shelter, but it was nearly too late: Her ears were burned off and 60 percent of her body was covered in third-degree burns, which were infested with maggots. But Susie did recover, and after being adopted by Donna Lawrence, a dog-attack survivor, Susie broke out of her shell and soon became known for her “constant love, sweet spirit, and boundless forgiveness,” according to the Hero Dog Award website.
Together the two helped pass “Susie’s Law” in North Carolina, which calls for harsher penalties for convicted animal abusers, and they visit hospitals, schools, and nursing homes, spreading the message that people should never give up. Susie has become an expert spokesdog for animal welfare; she’s also been the star of three books and a movie.
“Susie greets everyone with a wag and a smile,” the Hero Dog Award website says, “living in the moment to give kisses and cuddles to those who need to know that forgiveness and grace are the greatest gifts.”
Susie beat out 135 dogs nominated from around the country, along with seven other finalists, to win the award. Votes were cast by the public — more than half a million came in — and by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges, including Victoria Stilwell, Naomi Judd, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Alison Eastwood, and Joanna Krupa.
The show, which airs Oct. 30 on the Hallmark Channel, features performances by Wilson Phillips and Shara Strand and appearances by animal advocates and celebrities. Check out the Hero Dog Awards’ website and Facebook.
Read more about award shows:
Learn more about dogs with Dogster: