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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Top dogs of 2024 named

Some of Australia’s top dogs have been recognised for their work to inspire and make a positive impact in communities across the nation.

From Medical Assistance and Therapy Dogs to Conservation Detection and Palliative Care Dogs, the Puppy Tales Australian Dog of the Year and People’s Choice Awards recognise canine companions that represent the essence of the Australian doggo – love, courage, inspiration, assistance and fur-iendship.

“In its fourth year, the Puppy Tales Australian Dog of the Year Awards reminds us yet again how incredible dogs are!” said international award-winning pet photographer, author and
founder of Puppy Tales – an online portal aimed at helping pet owners make the most of life with their dogs – Kerry Martin.

“We see how ordinary fur-citizens from around Australia have helped their people, made a difference to others and be outstanding Paw-stralians in the communities that they live in.”

The Puppy Tales Australian Dog of the Year is Kali the German Shepherd and the People’s Choice Award recipient is Heidi the Australian Cattle Dog x Koolie.

The Australian Dog of the Year is Victorian German Shepherd, Kali (pictured, main photo), who is described by judges as a ‘gentle, trusted therapy dog’.

Kali has worked with Sharyn Thompson for nearly 11 years as a therapy dog, helping children with literacy needs via Story Dogs Australia, supporting staff and patients in the Emergency Department, Cancer Care and the Ambulance Bay of Latrobe Regional Hospital and providing a furry shoulder to cry on in the 2020 bushfires in East Gippsland.

“When we first got there, I was putting the vest on Kali and a gentleman came up to us and asked, ‘Can I pat your dog?’ I said ‘Of course, that’s what she is there for.’ He buried his face in her fur and cried. After a while, he said thank you and left. I went to sign in, in tears,” said Sharyn.

She says Kali changed the life of a young girl who had a phobia of dogs.

“She was so scared of dogs that she couldn’t even get out of the car. Six weeks later, she was happily walking beside Kali and playing recall with her at the park!”

Kali represents DOGS Victoria at pet events and presentations, such as Melbourne University Medical Students’ information sessions. She also attended Parliament House for the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016 hearings.

“Kali’s nomination stood out in many ways,” said Kerry. “Over a decade, Kali has done a lot to contribute to communities everywhere, from the Gippsland bushfires to Parliament to hospitals, schools and more. Her nomination was also uniquely written from Kali’s perspective.”

Victorian therapy dog. Heidi. of Latrobe Regional Hospital’s Emergency Dept was awarded the People’s Choice Award.

Heidi with Cathy’s dad.

Heidi is 13.5 years young and Cathy James’ dearest friend, that one-in-a- lifetime Heart Dog. Heidi has numerous championship titles with Dogs Australia and lives to make people happy, comforting them in times of need.

Cathy’s dad had extreme dementia and when he came home from the hospital for palliative care, Heidi was his constant companion.

“Heidi was unbelievable, not leaving dad’s side in his last days. She plopped herself beside him and did not move, even when she got whacked by dad’s hand (by accident). His hands would stop and rest on her. She calmed him. It was during COVID (lock down) and nobody could visit. Heidi was dad’s constant companion and attended his funeral,” said Cathy.

Sadly, Heidi has cancer and nearly died while having chemotherapy.

“Heidi is a survivor, the epitome of the classic Aussie Battler,” says Cathy. “She is ballzy, stoic, headstrong, so incredibly loving and loved beyond life itself. Anyone who meets Heidi knows there’s something incredibly special about her. Heidi and I live for each other. She is the dearest friend I will ever have.”

“The decision (for People’s Choice Award) is out of my control, but I’m thrilled for Heidi! She’s a rescue that’s gone to do some amazing things in the dog world but also helped her human and her dad in very difficult circumstances,” said Kerry.

Winners, nominees and voters received prizes worth more than $10,000 including $1,000 donation by Puppy Tales to the Winner’s preferred charity and $250 to the People’s Choice’s nominated charity.

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