Whenever my friend, Mark Pfeifle, asks me to do something, I do it. We met many years ago when he was working at the Republican National Committee. He is the most brilliant public relations guy I have ever met. He could sell ice to people who live on the polar caps.
When Mark suggested I attend the Lady in Red Gala in Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday night, I immediately made plane reservations.
I was not disappointed. First, the cause was something I believe in. The American Humane Association cares for those without a voice. I encountered their work in 1989 when I was still eating animals and writing a book on child abuse. The American Humane Society was the most reliable place to find out who was working in child abuse and what numbers of children were abused. Most people think that the American Humane Society only works for animals, but so much of its work is for children, too. It has been working for animals and children since 1877, and its website has the amazing history.
The Lady in Red Gala helped support a rescue boat that gave lifesaving rides to many hundreds of animals, including transporting animals to safety after Hurricane Sandy in the northeast, tornadoes in Oklahoma and flooding in South Carolina.
What warms hearts most, however, is to see how there is a new beginning for dogs who have been there for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Humane Association is known for its “Hero Dog Awards.” These dogs are considered ordinary dogs that do “extraordinary things.” We have seen dogs that sniff for bombs at airports and on trains, but sometimes “man’s best friend” engages in the most heroic act. This is not the first time animals have been heroic. A pigeon, “Cher Ami,” is credited with saving 200 lives in World War I.
The American Humane Association made sure military working dog Cena was reunited with his handler, Jeff DeYoung. He has an extraordinary story. Fox News reported, “Their story began in August 2009, when at 19-years-old, Jeff went to special handler training school to learn how to handle and care for Cena in Afghanistan. … They supported combat operations and counter improvised explosive device warfare, and were wounded in the line of duty. However, the team continued their missions and participated in Operation Moshturok, the largest operation in Afghanistan at that time. The pair spent three months living out of a backpack, dealing with sandstorms, floods and hailstorms. Their battle bond was formed out of necessity and out of unconditional love.”
Fox continued, “Jeff and Cena were separated on April 25, 2010, after Jeff’s deployment ended. But, Jeff’s battle with [post-traumatic stress] was just beginning as he returned home alone, and all he wanted was his dog back. … Like so many other veterans, life-threatening depression was Jeff’s new reality. That was until June 5, 2014, when [military working dog] Cena was retired and adopted by Jeff. The battle buddies were reunited [with the help of American Humane Association], and the healing process began.”
At the Lady in Red Gala, I met, pet and kissed the 2015 American Hero Dog, Harley. The Harley story is amazing. Harley was in puppy mill for 10 years. He lost an eye when they power washed his cage, and he has other medical problem such as a deformed leg. He survived and was rescued by volunteers and brought to veterinary care.
He was adopted by Rudi and Dan Taylor in Colorado and they were told he might not even live a year. That was in 2011. He is still with us and was voted by almost a million people as the 2015 Hero Dog of the American Humane Association. He now has a Facebook page and a website. He helps raise money to support shelter dogs and travels to help other dogs (and thereby, people).
He was featured in a Hallmark special in October. The MC and promoter of the event, Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, has supported the work of the American Humane Association year after year, giving hope to those who have none. Most people are unaware that it was the Humane Association that put fountains in town squares so horses could drink or that it helped end corporal punishment in schools and stop child labor in America.
With so much terrorism and negativity happening in the world, it was a pleasure to attend an event so upbeat and fun but at the same time so important. Way back in 1877, when the American Humane Association started, its organizers likely didn’t think a charity dinner would have so much impact, but it does. People and animals benefit every day.
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