Pet Tales -- Heroes in the spotlight: Guide dog honored for leading her human to safety on 9/11



Bursting with pride and happiness, Michael Hingson walked to the podium to accept the top American Hero Dog award won by his yellow Labrador retriever.

More than 400,000 votes had been cast on the Internet, and Mr. Hingson was pleasantly surprised that his dog won because the competition was stiff. The other seven finalists in the American Humane Association competition were truly spectacular.

Ten years ago, Roselle was working with Mr. Hingson on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center when terrorists crashed the first plane into the New York City landmark.

Roselle guided Mr. Hingson, who is blind, down 1,463 stairs to safety. They were standing across the street when the second plane crashed into the second tower. Amid the chaos and confusion, as debris fell on them, Roselle and Mr. Hingson made their way to a subway and went home.

Actress Betty White, a passionate animal lover, handed the award to Mr. Hingson at an Oct. 1 star-studded gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

But another yellow Lab accompanied Mr. Hingson to the stage, for Roselle died June 26. She was 13 years old, which is quite elderly for Labs.

"Roselle had a long and happy life," said Mr. Hingson, who now lives in Novato, Calif.

Accepting the award with Mr. Hingson was Africa, Roselle's successor. Blind from birth, Mr. Hingson, 60, has had seven guide dogs. Roselle and Africa were trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind. The San Rafael, Calif.,-based organization will receive the $10,000 that Roselle won as top hero dog.

Go to www.herodogawards.org to see pictures and bios of all the dogs.

I voted for Roselle, who was featured in Pet Tales on Aug. 6.

My second favorite was Sage, 12, of Hagerman, N.M. The black and white dog (she looks like a border collie) won the "search and rescue" category. Her resume includes service at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, where she found the remains of one of the terrorists.

Sage was also called to service after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and she worked for the U.S. Army in Iraq, where she searched for missing or captured soldiers.

In 2009, Sage was diagnosed with two types of lung cancer, believed to be the result of searching at highly toxic sites. Now she inspires cancer patients and survivors, walking in "Relay for Life" events and vising camps for children with cancer.

A golden retriever named Ricochet won the "emerging hero dog" category with an unusual mission. Ricochet lives in Escondido, Calif., where she rides surf boards. Ricochet surfs with children with special needs and people with disabilities. Google her name on the Internet to see pictures and video of this amazing dog.

"As a surfing dog she has inspired people all over the world," teaching them to "turn negatives into positives" says her bio on the American Humane website.

And that's not all. Ricochet has raised more than $100,000 for a variety of organizations that help humans and animals.

We can see the hero dogs walking the red carpet with their owners and celebrity guests when the awards gala is televised at 8 p.m. Nov. 11 on the Hallmark Channel.

For the birds

Spend "An Afternoon in the Rainforest" and get up close and personal with parrots. Billed as "a live interactive performance for all ages," this show is presented by The Parrot Education and Adoption Center at 1 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Garden City Fire Hall, 600 Garden City Drive, Monroeville (15146).

John Lege, known as "That Guy With the Birds," works with PEAC and used to be a volunteer trainer at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

The rain forest shows are entertaining and educational, said Scott R. Reichert, executive director of the all-volunteer nonprofit parrot organization.

"John brings his trained birds" to demonstrate that highly intelligent parrots can be taught to do many amazing things," Mr. Reichert said. "John makes it clear that parrots are high-maintenance pets" that are not for everyone.

Which is where PEAC comes in. In the hands of uninformed owners, parrots can be unpleasant -- biting the hands that feed them and plucking their own feathers because they are stressed and unhappy. PEAC volunteers teach bird lovers how to have healthy and happy pets. PEAC volunteers also rescue and rehabilitate parrots whose owners are unable or unwilling to care for them.

Admission is $5. There is no charge for children under 4 or for members of PEAC.

Thinking about getting a parrot? Go to www.pitpeac.org for further information and to see pictures and bios of rescued parrots that need permanent homes.


Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. First Published October 29, 2011 4:00 AM


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