Honoring man’s — and dog’s — best friend - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Honoring man’s — and dog’s — best friend

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Posted: Thursday, July 7, 2005 3:49 am | Updated: 9:31 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The sounds of howling and scratching caught the attention of Shadow’s owners.

The couple were staying in a Gilbert home to take care of a border collie named Missy — who barked and scratched frantically at the back door an hour after she and Shadow were let out in the early morning.

Shadow was in trouble. The small dog had fallen in the backyard pool and was struggling to survive.

Hearing the noise, Shadow’s owners rushed outside just in time to save the canine’s life.

The rescue in June 2004 earned Missy, who is about 7 years old, the title of Pet of the Year. She was honored last month, along with the Service Dog of the Year, by the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association.

"She’s perfect. So sweet and docile," said Jenny Beutner, Missy’s owner who adopted her about three years ago and proudly accepted the award. Recalling the incident, she said, "As soon as they opened the door, Missy ran right to the pool to let them know that’s what she was barking about. I couldn’t believe it."

Since the accident, Missy keeps a close watch over Beutner’s four children — ensuring they too don’t get into trouble.

"If the kids are playing or jumping into the pool, it bothers her," Beutner said. "She barks a lot. She worries about everybody."

The Service Dog of the Year, Gabriel of Ahwatukee Foothills, received his honor just as his family learned that the cancer the 6-year-old Weimaraner had been battling is now in remission.

Gabriel was adopted by Pam Gaber, who later said her dog’s effect on abused and at-risk children inspired her to create Gabriel’s Angels, a pet therapy group.

"Gabriel was noted for the role he played, being the founding dog in Gabriel’s Angels," Gaber said. "Here’s an animal working four years, who is diagnosed with cancer and had to face chemotherapy for the past six months.

"Now he’s back in action, beginning to work again. So he’s feeling good and we had a wonderful award ceremony."

Gabriel, and the more than 90 dogs who have followed in his footsteps as therapy dogs for the East Valley agency, are all work when they have their vests on — focusing on cheering up and teaching atrisk children to be loved and to care for another.

But when the vest comes off, Gabriel is a typical dog.

"These kids don’t necessarily learn through other humans," Gaber said. "Pet therapy dogs are able to teach behaviors such as trust, empathy, compassion and nurture. These animals unconditionally and nonjudgmentally accept these kids."

For information on Gabriel’s Angels visit www.petshelpingkids.org.

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