Shelter-rescued dog earns recognition for heroism

By Jack King, CNJ STAFF WRITER

Jenny darted between owner and a rattlesnake.

Jenny, a mixed-breed dog who died after shielding a Clovis second-grader from a rattlesnake, has received an international animal heroism award.
The Elisabeth Lewyt Award for Heroic and Compassionate Animals, presented to 50 dogs and cats since 1999, is a collaboration of the North Shore Animal League of Port Washington, N.Y., and Animal People, a Clinton, Wash.-based animal newspaper.
Named after a long-time board member, organizer and fund raiser for the animal league, the Lewyt Award is aimed at spotlighting the heroic or compassionate deeds of former shelter animals, said Merritt Clifton, Animal People’s editor.
Clifton said about 50 animals from around the world are nominated for the award each year. Nominators may be officials at shelters, owners, the friends of owners or even people who have read about the animal’s act in a newspaper.
In Jenny’s case, a researcher for Animal People saw her story on the Internet and forwarded it to Animal People, which submitted the nomination, he said.
Jenny died in October 2003.
She and her owner, John Samuel Kelm, a second-grader at Ranchvale Elementary, were walking in a vacant lot behind John Sam’s home on County Road R, west of Clovis. As they walked down a path, Jenny suddenly hesitated, then rushed in front of her master, to be struck three times by a rattlesnake that had been hidden in the grass. Although she was treated by a local veterinarian, she died the next day.
Jenny was chosen from a pool of about 12 nominations that were winnowed down to four finalists, Clifton said.
“Among heroic dog cases, a handful stand out to signify why someone might want to adopt a shelter dog. The classic nominee is a dog, or cat, who alerts someone to a house fire. We’ve only had one other nominee who saved someone from a snake,” Clifton said last week.
The North Shore Animal League and Animal People want to publicize the fact that shelter animals can do the same kinds of things purebred animals do in traditional stories, said league spokeswoman Marilyn DiToro.
“They’re just as bonded to their guardians and capable of heroism and all they want is a little bit of love,” she said.
John Sam’s mother, Amanda Wright, said he adopted Jenny from the Roswell Animal Control shelter, after making a visit there with her sister Melissa Deeter. Although he has recovered from the loss and now has a pet rat, he keeps a picture of Jenny in his bedroom, she said.
“So I can remember what she looked like, forever,” John Sam said.
With the Lewyt Award, both the shelter and the family get a $500 cash prize and certificates.
Wright said she will probably let John Sam spend a little of the money, then save the rest. She said she’ll also give the certificate to him, so he can hang it in his room with Jenny’s picture.