Island bloodhound in hunt to become national Hero Dog
The award, which was first given in 2010, recognizes the special bond between dogs and people. Jamestowners can vote for Abby by going to HeroDogAwards.org. The voting is held once a day through July 30, and the tally is cumulative, so her fans have to keep up the effort every day.
Abby has helped police find missing people, and she’s also reunited pet owners with lost loved ones. She’s a tracking dog certified by the American Mantrailing, Police & Work Dog Association.
The first Hero Dog was Roselle, a guide dog who became a star in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11. Her blind owner, Michael Hingson, survived the terrorist attack because she led him down 78 flights of stairs.
Abby picks up a trail from a scent article. According to Botelho, she’s “very good” at her work. She has helped save Alzheimer’s patients who have wandered away, and she’s also helped with police cases.
Recently, she helped find Scooby Doo, a lost cat in Jamestown, and Skittles, a cat that was wondering around Cranston. Abby only started looking for lost pets in 2007 after one of Botelho’s co- workers called and said her boxer, Lola, had run away from home. She had been gone four days. Abby led the search team to the highway where they found Lola. She had been hit by a car and was hurt and frightened.
“Another night and she would have died,” Botelho said.
Since then, Abby has tracked lost dogs, cats, rabbits, a tortoise and even a coyote. The coyote was in the Elizabeth Islands where the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study was attempting to catch the animal to fit it with a tracking collar. That was one time Abby didn’t find the animal, Botelho said. The trail went through a thick swamp, and the scientists wanted Botelho to let Abby off the leash. She refused for the dog’s safety.
“Abby would have tracked that coyote all the way to its den,” she said. The problem? The coyotes would have all leapt on her once she got there.
But most of the time, Abby gets her cat, dog or human. If the search isn’t successful, it’s because the people didn’t pick up on the dog’s clues, Botelho said.
People who need Abby’s help can go to Botelho’s Facebook page (“Furbaby Alert”) and leave a message. She doesn’t charge for her services.
Abby won’t win any money for becoming a Hero Dog. The winning dogs raise prize money for a charity partner while receiving much-deserved recognition for performing incredible deeds. Abby’s charity is the Sage Foundation. The organization helps pay veterinary bills for working and retired dogs.
If Abby wins the search-and- rescue category, the Sage Foundation will collect $1,500. And if the judges picked Abby as the Hero Dog of 2013, the foundation would receive an additional $5,000.
“The Sage Foundation helps military dogs with rehabilitation,” Botelho said. She picked the group because it was a nonprofit organization with a commitment to helping canines.
Botelho would also like Abby to have some recognition.
In the past she has been skeptical when people called Abby a hero, but she decided to enter her dog for the Hero Dog voting after a colleague at Massachusetts Vest- a-Dog in Taunton, Mass., told her about it. Together they went over the list of eligible charity partners.
The public chooses one finalist in each category by voting on the website. Ultimately, a panel of celebrity judges and the public will pick the 2013 Hero Dog. In all, 140 dogs have been nominated in eight categories: law enforcement, service, therapy, military, guide, search-and-rescue, hearing and emerging hero.
The online contest started earlier this month and will continue until July 30 when the finalists will be selected. If Abby makes the cut – and if she’s a finalist she’ll win a trip to Los Angeles for the Oct. 4 awards ceremony – people can visit the site and vote for her for the Hero Dog grand-prize winner every day from Aug. 6 through Sept. 26.
The trip includes face time for Abby with Betty White. While they’re in Hollywood, Botelho would also like Abby to meet her namesake. Abby is named after a “NCIS” character. Her other dogs, Ziva and McGee, are also named after characters on the television show, she said.
Ziva, also a bloodhound, helps on searches, but Abby is Botelho’s main tracking dog. McGee, an Australian shepherd, is still in training. American Mantrailing, Police & Work Dog Association is holding a certification seminar in Jamestown in June. Tony Keith, one of the leading trainers, is coming. Botelho may try to get McGee certified.