Why Harley’s Hero Dog Award Matters to Us All the World Over
The American Humane Association’s prestigious Hero Dog Award for 2015 has just been awarded to a little one eyed Chihuahua, who spent 10 years in the puppy mill industry. Harley existed in a wire cage for the majority of his life and yet, last night walked the red carpet in Hollywood at a star-studded gala evening celebrating the powerful bond between dogs and people. I was lucky enough recently to interview Harley’s mum Rudi Taylor and I know what a tremendous moment in their lives this is. It’s a stunning triumph for a once exploited, helpless dog enslaved in the puppy breeding business. It’s also a deeply meaningful award for campaigners who are warmly celebrating this win.
For many who campaign against the industry that took away Harley’s liberty, robbed him of his health, blasted away his eye and crippled his body, this high profile award is enormously significant. Harley epitomises the courageous quality of dogs who have no choice but to survive, trying not to go insane as their incarceration continues all the time their fertility gives their existence value. Most dogs won’t get out alive. By Harley winning the award it sends out a sharp message that commercial, industrial puppy breeding which occurs the world over, is a cruel betrayal of the canine-human bond. That dogs lives matter, not for the money that can be made from them, but simply for being themselves. While Harley is certainly heroic, he should not have had to be. He should have been happy and free his whole life.
While the beauty of the win, and the fun of the event is to be celebrated and enjoyed by us all, it’s also worth reflecting on what Harley’s whole life represents. He’s one survivor, out of millions of dogs across the globe, who will never know what life outside a breeding establishment is like. Millions of parent dogs remain trapped in places most people choose not to imagine; certainly infinite numbers of puppy buyers are closing their minds and turning their backs on the many Harleys who have no choice but to supply the puppy business.
This is why the award is important. While Harley rightly basks in the warm limelight of his wonderful achievement, we must all shine such a burning bright spotlight on the business that caused him to suffer that the breeding industry can no longer hide all the other Harleys of the world. Together, we can use Harley’s story, his journey, his award, his dream, to bring them all out, like Harley to sit smack bang right in front of the puppy buying public. To make them see what is going on behind the facade of cute puppies. To force the legislators, the authorities and vested interests who allow the breeding industry to flourish and remain, one that’s based on inexcusable cruelty. We must jump up and down celebrating Harley’s award and make people see, really properly see, that while Harley the Hero Dog is alive and out and free, he left behind many more who will never know this, and that his place was filled as soon as he left that small and nasty cage.
We can use Harley’s story and award to put a real face, a one-eyed, damaged, venerable face to an industry that must end. To give a strong, loud voice to each and every dog whose sad, unjust fate it is to be a breeding dog. In a recent interview with me, Harley’s mum, Rudi Taylor told me what his life means to her:
“Harley has inspired me to be more proactive than ever in my involvement with puppy mill rescue and puppy mill awareness. He’s helped me realize how caring and giving people are; and made me realize there really is HOPE!”
There certainly is. This “little dog with a big dream” is one huge source of hope to us all.