There were many deserving entries in our Hero Pet contest! It is obvious that our pets play a very important part of our lives. There were so many great entries this year that we expanded the
pool to the top FIVE stories!It was a tough decision, but our committee came up with these finalists. Please read each story and vote for your winner for Hero Pet.
Only one entry will be allowed per email address. A confirmation email will be sent out after your vote is cast. Any emails that get kicked back as undeliverable will not be counted.
At first glance, Angel is just like every other dog, but it doesn’t take long to realize she isn’t.
This special member of the staff of St. Joseph’s Carmelite Home began her life as a stray on the streets of Crown Point. An American Bulldog mix, the dog had signs of abuse when first taken in by the Lake County Animal Control staff in the fall of 2013. As it became stronger and healthy, staff gave the dog her name, “Angel”, because the dog had a very kind, gentle disposition that staff felt made her seem almost angelic. Little did they know what was in store for her in the future.
About the same time, St. Joseph’s Carmelite in East Chicago began discussing the prospect of getting a dog to provide companionship to the more than 80 children who call the facility home, and as a loyal companion of the seven Carmelite nuns who manage and staff the home. The Home’s Administrator, Sr. Maria Giuseppe, was somewhat reluctant to the idea, but held open the idea for the right dog.
On any given day, Angel can be seen making her rounds, providing support for children staying at the home, with the sisters convinced that Angel was born to console. She calms nervous children, is extremely gentle and is always ready to play, and bring children out of their shells. Over the past few years, she has coaxed frightened children who are unaccustomed to the Home from underneath beds by showering those children with kisses and attention; caring for a blind and autistic child by helping that young girl calm down during stress attacks. The dog is known to make her rounds each evening, saying goodnight to that girl, and every other child before they turn in for bed.
As a longtime dog owner and lover, and as a member of the Home’s Board of Directors, I have seen firsthand how Angel also comforts the seven sisters who, after very long days of providing loving care to the children, could use some empathy, understanding and love themselves. Angel instinctively demonstrates a tender love to each sister, so much so, that I frequently joke that there are really eight members of the order!
Angel even knows her boundaries: without any training, she sits at the entrance of the Chapel each day when the sisters attend Mass or are in prayer, guarding the entrance with her nose resting just inside the doorway. Interestingly, she was not trained to do so.
I know of no other dog that makes a bigger positive difference on a daily basis in more lives than Angel, and earns her name every day!
My Buddy, My Best friend, My Hero, BROOKS!
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes on December 11, 2001 at age 10. The struggle to gain control of this disease since then has been… well… hard to say the least. Finally over two years later, I started to gain control of this out-of-control disease. Fast forwarding to July 18th, 2012, I was in a bad accident that shattered my pelvis, broke my back, and I was diagnosed with CRPS (chronic regional pain syndrome) in my left leg. Dues to this, I was unable to feel when my blood sugar was low. After I was more mobile and began the healing process, I bought a 3 month old lab named Brooks, after my favorite country singer. From almost day one, I began his training.
One night while I was sleeping, Brooks was only a few months old when he began licking me, grabbing my arm, barking, and not leaving me alone. I thought he was just being a puppy and wanted to play so I shoved him away. He repeatedly came back doing the same thing, so finally, I got up to get his toy to play, and I collapsed. I could barely move my legs; they were extremely weak. Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in my head to check my blood sugar which turned out to be only 12! I was literally a few minutes from slipping into a coma or dying and Brooks saved my life. Now Brooks is nearly two years old and he tells me every time my sugar is low. There have been several occasions in which he saved my life or stopped me from slipping into a coma.
Because of all the surgeries I have gone through and all the surgeries I knew I had yet to endure, I was becoming extremely lonely. I knew that I needed something to help with the depression that was starting to set in, so that is when I decided to buy Brooks. Had I not done that, I would probably not be here nominating my hero, Brooks. Brooks is a very social and smart dog, who loves attention and loves playing catch with sticks of anything else that will fit in his mouth. I do not know what I would do without him.
Brooks and I have been doing a lot of training together; for instance, scent training, general obedience training, and we are currently working on his public lead training which he has been doing very well with. Brook also has been registered as a service dog. He will always be my buddy, my best friend, my HERO!
Hello my name is Marybeth Dutcher I have the best hero story here I think on january 31 2016 we had a very bad house fire burned to the ground buddy my hero went from room to room from the basement to main floor to upstairs waking everyone in the house to get out .without him we wouldn't be here I am so blessed to have my family still here and the way I see it is I rescued him and he shortly rescued us .
Our dog Stu, will forever be our hero. After attending a family holiday party in early January 2010, my husband, Matt, and I decided to stay the night at my parents' house in Michigan City, rather than returning home to Valparaiso. We had our 3 month old daughter, Nora, and our French Bulldog, Stu, with us. We stayed in a second floor bedroom with Nora, while Stu was tucked in to a crate in my parents' room on the first floor. The baby was up every hour screaming as soon as she woke up, and Matt and I had headaches, but we got through the night. However, in my parents' room, early the next morning, Stu was whining. He is not a dog that whines. He is also not a dog that rises early in the morning. He's usually the last one out of bed! So, for some reason, he was whining and got my father up to let him out. That's when my mom and dad realized how sick they both felt, and my dad went and sat in the living room. And sitting there, he started to think about what could be the reason for their illness. He decided to yell up to us to ask how we felt. And so when he did, I got up out of bed and started walking towards the bedroom door, telling him about my horrible headache, and I completely blacked out. The moments that followed were filled with panic to get out of the house and call 911. It was carbon monoxide poisoning from a broken furnace. We are all okay thanks to Stu. I hate to think about if we decided not to stay the night that night, if my parents would still be here. If Stu hadn't whined so early in the morning, would we have woken up? This haunts me still, but it makes me grateful for every day. We stress to everyone we meet the importance of having a working carbon monoxide detector. They do expire, make sure your's works! We are so thankful for our Stu, our hero.
What makes Tabitha a Hero??
I can’t remember what her name was? I just wanted to grab her and run. She sat there confused and scared, shivering in the January cold temps. She was wet, a quick bath attempt to clean her up had failed and her family was so anxious to give her up that they had not taken time to try and dry her or wrap her in a towel. Exposed and shaking in the crate at the back of the unheated van she stared at me and awaited her fate.
She did not know it then, but she had just made it to safety and help was standing inches away, waiting for her family to sign the legal paperwork that would transfer her ownership to Great Lakes Westie Rescue, Inc. The owner gave a third explanation of why she did not walk, not a clear story, and confusing details with each telling of the story. “ ……….she ran into the wall.” “………..she jumped against some boxes” “…….she ran and fell because she was scared.” It all did not make sense. But one thing was sure, the little Westie girl sitting in the crate shivering could not walk, her hind legs were stick thin and rigid, she had to drag her hindquarters while she pulled herself along with her front legs. The owner’s story was that she had been injured and then “ ….. just never walked again.”
The injury was two months ago, and no veterinary care had been sought, the owner just waited for her to get better, letting her drag herself through the urine and excrement. Painfully thin and spinal bones showing, the owner related that the other dog in the house maybe got most of the food. A very serious injury and then starving as well, she looked to be out of options. The owner called the county animal warden and asked to turn her in to the shelter. The warden said their only option would be to euthanize her, but, said “Here, call this lady, she might be able to help her.” And so it is to the animal warden that Tabitha owes her gratitude for a life line.
The owner placed the call, and so here I stand, watching this poor little Westie girl shiver, and I cannot wait for these people who claim to love her to sign the legal release of ownership and let me get her wrapped in the blanket I have and into my warm car. Papers signed and I pick her up and feel just how stiff her hindquarters and legs are, as well as how thin she is. As I quickly pull away and start the hour drive home, I vacillate between anger and tears, who does this to a family pet?? Who injures and neglects the care of a living being that you claim to love?
Somewhere on the ride home, her name became Tabitha. A new start in life deserved a new name, and this was a new start to a better life than the one she was leaving behind. Medical evaluation, veterinary specialists, rehabilitation and hours of therapy stretched down the long road before Tabitha.
In the first few days an initial vet visit confirmed what we knew, Tabitha’s back had been broken and she had no feeling in her hindquarters. Referral to a canine orthopedic specialist gave us no hope. X-rays confirmed a shattered T-!! vertebrate with the spinal cord shredded and most likely close to severed. The injury was such a sever trauma, the surgeon said it looked like she had been hit by a car. I was angry to hear the surgeon say he could have helped her if he would have had her right after the injury, but now, with two months of healed scar tissue surgery was not an option open to Tabitha.
While we worked our way through the veterinarian appointments, x-rays and evaluations we took it upon ourselves to start Tabitha’s therapy at home. Massage, joint articulation, and repetitive motion exercise were done multiple times daily with Tabitha, just in the simplest attempt to stimulate muscles and nerve endings as they healed and began regeneration. With our home directed program in place, our orthopedic surgeon suggested we see another colleague, we were referred again.
Who knew there were canine rehabilitation veterinarian specialists?? We were introduced to the wonderful Dr. Jill Kitson and her assistant, Vet Tech Jess Miller for an evaluation of Tabitha’s remaining abilities. After reviewing the x-rays Dr. Kitson agreed that this was a severe inflicted trauma. She said for the injury to crush the T-11 vertebrae like it was would require the weight of a fully loaded full sized dresser to fall on Tabitha’s back. Veterinarians confirmed what we had suspicioned, Tabitha’s injuries were inflicted by her owner. However, it was in Dr. Kitson’s therapy room that we found our first shred of hope for Tabitha to be the best that she could be.
Things tumbled quickly in to place. Tabitha was fitted for a wheelchair. Mobility that made her feel free again and she wasted no time in starting to chase tennis balls again, at great speed!! A specific set of exercises were assigned, and YAY!!!, we were on the right path with our home program. Tabitha’s people were taught to habituate her elimination to specific times of the day, so that she was no longer dragging herself around eliminating just anywhere. Tabitha was no longer in diapers or unclean. A TENS unit was added to the therapy program to help with muscle building. And the final therapy added was Tabitha’s favorite, hydro-therapy!!! Tabitha loves to swim and the water treadmill is her very favorite exercise of all. The buoyancy of the water lets her again experience the movement of her hind legs in a somewhat similar fashion as what would be normal.
Putting Tabitha’s therapy program into place took almost two months, and a team of people that care and love dogs, and most particularly this little Westie girl. Over the past year she has not disappointed any of her support team, working very hard to do her exercises and carry on showing all of the Westietude she possesses!
Dr. Jill Kitson has a goal of teaching Tabitha to do what is called “Spinal Walking”. Due to the peripheral nervous system that causes dogs to have reflexive movement, rehab veterinarians can use this reflexive movement to simulate walking, although it looks more like a staggering sort of gait. Many times her veterinarians and techs have commented on what perseverance and a happy outlook Tabitha has in life, and particularly on swim day each week!!
At this time Tabitha has been in therapy with Dr. Kitson for one year and seven months. We continue to see development of coordination and improvement in her muscling and body tone and use. She at times will be able to stand for a few seconds and can sometimes get in a “hop” before losing her balance and going down again. Her legs are no longer rigid and she can articulate each joint in both hind legs. She is able to “stand” on her hind knees and run on them. Tabitha is actually VERY fast!! Our plan for Tabitha is to continue in therapy for as long as she is making progress and gains. We at GLWR are thrilled that we continue to see her work so hard and improve. We are told that many dogs with such severe injuries become depressed and lethargic. But Tabitha is a happy little girl, and shows true Westie spirit! Many times Dr. Kitson has said “She does so well because of her wonderful attitude and work ethic!”
Why is Tabitha a hero? Because she had no choice about being a victim of someone who meant to harm her, she had no choice in her neglect and suffering, and when given the opportunity to be better, she chose to dive right in and has worked very hard right from the beginning. She chooses to be happy, to make the best of her lot in life, to talk and smile at people, and most of all to trust that humans really can be good.
Is Tabitha a hero? I don’t know, but I can tell you this little Westie girl has taught me important lessons about life that I never would have learned outside of our work with her. Tabitha’s hard work and persistent spirit against adversity is what makes her an inspiration to us at GLWR.
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