Of Champions and Heroes

Feb 16, 2013

Banana Joe (credit: Kjunstorm) / Gabe (credit: American Humane Association)


It has been a week of mixed feelings in the dog world, as one champion was crowned top dog, and America lost its 2012 Hero Dog.

On Tuesday night, after two days of competition, a little Affenpinscher beat out more than twenty-seven hundred other dogs to walk away with the title of Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. The little black dog goes by the name “Banana Joe”, and probably helped to introduce the toy breed to lots of folks. With his little monkey-like face and perky attitude, he captured the attention of the judges at the show who know a winner when they see one.

Scheduled to head home to the Netherlands the day after the show, instead he found himself the center of attention on all the morning TV shows, not to mention flashing cameras as reporters everywhere are learning how to spell “Affenpinscher”. At only five years old, he has already won 86 titles, but this is his first, and last, Westminster win. Banana Joe is retiring to live a life of leisure with his owner.

Even while we celebrate with Banana Joe, dog lovers are mourning the loss of a hero. Gabe the 10-year-old blond Labrador Retriever who was named the American Humane Association Hero Dog for 2012 passed away unexpectedly from cancer on Wednesday.

He was a highly decorated dog that served in Iraq on more than two hundred combat missions. Gabe retired from the military a couple of years ago and made appearances around the country with his owner and handler, Sgt. First Class Chuck Shuck, to raise money for the United States War Dog Association.

Shuck was with his devoted companion when Gabe died. Gabe’s Facebook page says it best: “Rest in peace sweet, beautiful Gabe, a hero and friend to all.”

Even as dog lovers mourn Gabe’s passing, they celebrate a life that expressed the best about dogs – courage and companionship. And that’s the very thing that makes little Banana Joe such a winner – he may be a beautiful show animal, but at heart he is still a happy dog that loves people. That’s something they had in common with each other, and with your own family pet.

Hug a dog today and feel the love, when you’re speaking of pets.