The country’s top therapy dog of 2013 has been named – it’s a pit bull called Elle (pronounced Ellie) from Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. She helps teach kids how to read, as well as learn about dog safety and overcoming prejudice and stereotypes, something many pit bulls face.
She was presented with the award at the 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. No, dogs don’t really care about awards unless they’re made out of bone marrow, but they certainly enjoy the attention that ceremonies bring, and Elle certainly received her fair share of it!
“The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our ‘best friends’ – ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of the American Humane Association. “These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Elle as the top American Hero Dog for 2013. As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned. We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”
More than two million children are bitten by dogs every year, but Elle helps teach children how to approach dogs and recognize their body language and behavior. She also helps kids overcome their fears of dogs – who could be afraid when they’re being covered in kisses?
Elle is also part of the Tail Wagging Tales program, which helps children improve their reading skills. Reading to dogs instead of people can take some pressure off, allowing kids to relax and sound words out without having nervous adults waiting for them to make mistakes.
The loveable girl visits a number of schools, and also touches the other end of the spectrum by visiting retirement homes. She helps entire families learn about responsible pet parenting and raises awareness about misunderstood and feared breeds.
The award ceremony boasted a number of celebrities in attendance, including Pauley Perrette, Ben Savage, Danielle Fishell, Joey Lawrence, dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, and of course, Betty White, who is widely known as an animal lover and advocate. Set your DVRs & Hoppers (the hoppa!) – the Hallmark Channel will be airing the ceremony on October 30th at 8pm/7 central as part of the Pet Project, which aims to celebrate the happiness and fulfillment animals bring to our lives.