Pet Tales: Pit bulls are heroes of award show and video

Abigail, a white pit bull mix, beat out 187 amazing dogs to win the title of American Hero Dog, but there were no losers at the 2017 American Humane Hero Dog Awards show in Hollywood. Each of the seven finalists received a standing ovation.

Wearing one of her trademark “bonnets,” the tail-wagging Abigail accepted her prize on stage.

Last November, Abigail was rescued by Love Is Fur Ever Dog Rescue near Miami. Half of her face, including one ear, had been torn away. Her rescuers think her horrific injuries were inflicted in dog fights.  Abigail, now about 3 years old, needed multiple surgeries and skin grafts. Veterinary staff wrapped gauze around her head wounds and tied the gauze in a bow atop her head. Facebook friends from around the world sent head wraps with fancier bows and colorful flowers on top.

Abigail has been adopted by a family but continues to make public appearances. Her Facebook page, Bonnets For Abigail, has more than 25,000 followers. Her mission is “to teach forgiveness and bring awareness to the importance of ending dog fighting,” according to the American Humane news release.

You gotta love all the hero dogs, but I was especially touched by Luca, a 10-year-old German shepherd who had retired from search and rescue work. The aging dog was called out for one last mission in 2016 when Fort Worth police were unable to find an elderly man with dementia. 

Luca succeeded where many people had failed. He searched rugged terrain and found the man, stuck in waist-deep mud in a fast-running river. The searchers think he would have drowned without Luca’s intervention.

The dog is now very frail, so his partner, Officer Cole Brock, rolled him onto the stage in a little cart. 

Among the most touching elements of the show were the testimonials of the owners and partners who emotionally described why their dogs are lifesavers. If you missed the show on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 25, go to to see the very moving video tributes for each dog.

No dogs from the Pittsburgh area were nominated this time. To nominate one for next year’s award, go to

Pit bull on video

A frisky and friendly dog stars in a video that has more than 82,000 views on the internet. The video was made for Animal Farm Foundation in Dutchess County, N.Y., but there is a local angle: The script for the nearly 2-minute video was written by Pete Smith of Mt. Washington.

Mr. Smith, a 2016 graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, is a public relations and social media account executive with Gatesman advertising agency in Pittsburgh. (He is also the son of Matt Smith, an editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

The pit bull mix’s real name is Santiago, but in the video he plays Stanley, who “talks” in the voiceover via an actor. Stanley frolics with his loving owner, getting treats for being a good dog. He sometimes gently mocks her, looking at the toilet and lamenting,  “She is still using the drinking bowl wrong.”

Mr. Smith’s script ends with this message:

“Every dog is special because of who they are as an individual ... and singling out dogs by using a meaningless label (pit bull) can actually hurt the dogs we want to help. That’s why we are calling ‘bull’ on pit bull awareness campaigns.”

Since the mid-1980s, Animal Farm Foundation has been working for equal treatment and opportunity for pit bulls, shelter liason and office manager Nicole Juchem said in an email. The non-profit helps “dog guardians across the country who are faced with discriination based on the way their dogs look.”

Animal Farm — an apparant allusion to the George Orwell novel — also rescues and re-homes dogs. It has programs to train pit bulls as detection dogs for police and assistance dogs for people with disabilities.

Santiago was rescued and adopted by Erich Steffensen, who works at Animal Farm. 

To see the video, go to or

Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.