As Harley the Chihuahua proves daily, it is possible to tell a story that saves hundreds of lives and inspires countless others to take action without even having the ability to speak. The courageous pup recently earned the distinction of "American Hero Dog" at the American Humane Association's (AHA) annual American Hero Dog Awards® program.
The AHA's American Hero Dog Awards program recognizes extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs while concurrently celebrating the powerful relationship between humans and their canine companions. Inspired by the AHA's efforts to protect children and animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect, the awards ceremony selected winners in eight core categories from 170 dogs before turning to a consumer vote and input from a panel of celebrity judges to name the ultimate Hero Dog. More than one million people cast a vote for this year's program. The Merial-sponsored "Emerging Hero Dog" preliminary category is the only one that does not honor a trained service dog, instead recognizing an "everyday" dog that makes a difference.
A 14-year old Chihuahua based in Berthoud, Colo., Harley inspired and currently leads "Harley to the Rescue," a campaign which raises funds to save and provide medical care for mill dogs in partnership with the National Dog Mill Rescue. Harley himself survived a decade of residence in a puppy mill, enduring physical deformities – including the loss of his left eye – and emotional trauma as a result of cage confinement and overall poor conditions. Upon his 2011 rescue, doctors did not expect Harley to survive more than four months.
Four years later, Harley is the spokesdog for efforts to stop commercial dog breeding. In addition to attending fundraisers and awareness events, Harley takes part in rescue missions and serves as a source of comfort for nervous and downtrodden mill dogs. To date, "Harley to the Rescue" has raised more than $500,000 and assisted more than 500 mill dogs since its 2013 launch.
Despite living for more than 10 years in deplorable conditions, Harley now lives a great life with his owners in addition to his work advocating to end puppy mills. Merial, the maker of NexGard, sponsored the AHA's American Hero Dog Awards and Harley's originating category, the "Emerging Hero Dog" to highlight how the nominated dogs help make life easier and better for all dogs.