Hero Pet Award

Hero Pet Award


The public has picked our winner from the top five stories and they appear below! We want to thank all that participated in this year's contest.

We congratulate all of our nominees for making a difference in the lives of their owners and those who care for them.

"You think those dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you they will be there long before us!" - Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy Gilmore

Happy Gilmore - FIRST PLACE WINNER!!

Happy Gilmore Saves the Day

JNS Happy Gilmore, aka Happy arrived at American Greyhound in the spring of 2010 after completion of his racing career. He was a great big bouncy, brindle boy who brought joy wherever he went. In June of that year he was adopted by Sarah Gasienica, beginning what was to become a new path in her life (she has since adopted two more dogs, began volunteering with American Greyhound, fostered dozens of dogs in her home, and is currently on the board of Directors and serves as Vice President of the organization). To say Happy has had an impact on her life would be something of an understatement.

Fast forward to April 14, 2017, when by some stroke of good luck, Sarah decided to take some vacation time and get an early start on Easter weekend. She had decided to mow the lawn before it got to dark and was in the middle of trying to start her mower when her phone rang. It was one of the local animal hospitals. There was an emergency, a seriously injured dog had been brought in and they needed a blood donor ASAP! They had been calling anyone and everyone trying to locate a donor and Happy, it seemed was their last best hope (American Greyhound maintains a list of people who are willing to bring dogs in to use as donors during just such emergencies. About 70% of racing greyhounds qualify as universal donors and they are very stoic and tolerate blood donation very well).

Sarah told them that she didn’t have a young foster dog, but would bring in Happy, her youngest eligible dog, who at almost 9 years of age was somewhat beyond the typical age for donating blood.

Upon arrival, Happy was whisked into the back to begin drawing his blood. Of course, there is always a nerve wracking wait-did we get here soon enough?, was Happy’s blood enough to make the difference?, will the injured dog make it?

When Happy was ready to go home, the owner of the injured dog came out to thank Sarah profusely. And, we later learned that the injured dog did in fact make it. And, that, is what being on the list of donors is all about!

Orion - Second place winner!

My Hero Pet is a black Labrador named Orion. When he was born, he was picked from my own litter. There were 3 males that had little to no fear and were very playful. At the end of play time , #4, soon to be known as K9 Orion, would crawl in my lap and fall asleep. He picked me, and I picked a life of service for him. The name "Orion" was specifically selected for his new life,he would be a "Great Hunter".

A hunter of people, K9 Orion quickly advanced through Search and Rescue disaster training with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security when he was 4-6 months old. After running into a couple of soon-to-be teammates at Camp Atterbury, our ultimate goal of training with the federal Urban Search and Rescue team was realized. K9 Orion quickly proved to myself and others that he was born for saving lives. One week after turning two years young, he defied the odds and certified with FEMA's Indiana Task Force; one of the youngest of 230 certified dogs in the nation.

Indiana Task Force One is one of 28 elite FEMA disaster response teams, setting out to find missing persons after disaster strikes. Intense training includes flying in helicopters, ziplining from structure to structure, searching flood waters via boat, rubble piles (collapsed structures), wide areas (wilderness SAR), and extensive agility courses that involve high planks and ladders among other things. The K9's are an integral resource for the team, able to search a large area in a more efficient manner. Every 3 years, the K9 teams have to recertify to prove that they still have the skills needed when deployed. Training remains consistent and daily, thousands of miles and dollars are volunteered by the handler to ensure the team is ready for any situation.

June 3, 2017, K9 Orion became one of the very few federal US&R K9's under the age of 5 to hold certification and recertification within the national system - 12 days before his birthday. He spends thousands of hours a year, and travels all over the nation, to train to save people on the worst day of their lives. All of the time and money dedicated to the preparation of these federal working dogs are voluntary. K9 Orion is no exception. He trains daily in obedience and agility, and trains in Indianapolis every other Saturday. We have also invested in a trip to Ohio and Missouri to train on new disaster sites. A small price to pay in the wake of a tornado, hurricane, or collapsed structure. When time is of the essence, K9 Orion will be ready to locate and reunite family with missing loved ones. On the worst day of their lives, the public can rely on the floppy ears and soft fur of this four-legged Hero.

K9 Orion has been involved in several real life searches. His most recent was for a missing 5 yr old boy in Indianapolis on 9/9/17, where he and another K9 successfully located the boy. Unfortunately, it was too late to save him, but Orion was an integral part of bringing closure to the family. Because of this hero, we brought the boy home.

Deanna Lazowski
K9 Orion Lazowski
Canine Search Specialist
FEMA Indiana Task Force One
Indiana District One Task Force, Special Operations


Harley - Second place winner!

In November 2010, Harley was adopted from a pet rescue located in Warsaw, Indiana. He was seven months old. Harley immediately started his training to become a good “K9 citizen.” His owner/handler, Deputy Chief Jay Craig of the Porter Volunteer Fire Department, noticed Harley had the drive to work and learned very fast. His training in “live find search and rescue” began shortly thereafter. In March 2012, after months of hard work, Harley became the Town of Porter Volunteer Fire Department's first Search and Rescue Dog. Harley was also the first search dog (founding member) for Porter County Search and Rescue Team along with Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 1 Ground Search Team.

Harley's Career Highlights:

-September 2013 Harley tracked and located a woman that was threatening suicide.

-August 2014 Harley tracked a male subject that had gone missing. Harley's track ended at the waters edge of a small lake in Portage. Divers located the missing man a short time later.

-March 2015 Harley tracked a missing male subject that had went on a hiking trip and had subsequently not been heard from. The subject was located safe and taken to a warm place to recover.

-July 2015 Harley participated in the search for Missing woman and her Two year old nephew. Harley spent three consecutive days searching abandoned houses in the city of Gary. He also returned two other times to take part in follow up searches.

-August 2016 Harley tracked and located a missing male subject from Chesterton who had health problems, left without his medications and hadn't dressed for the weather.

-Harley participated in an estimated thirty lost person searches in is career.

-From 2012 to 2016 Harley assisted with several fire prevention presentations for Yost Elementary School.

During his Career, Harley has participated in many community programs and assisted in several fundraisers. On May 1, 2017 Harley retired from service due to medical issues. Harley has been diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). Harley will live out retirement with his family in his home.


Contact us

Porter County Wildlife Management Advisory Board
709 Plaza Drive
Suite 2-115
Chesterton, IN 46304
Phone: 219-246-2407
Fax: 219-395-8086
Email: eventcoordinator@celebratewildlife.org

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