Once Burned and Left for Dead, Susie the Pit Bull Named Hero Dog of the Year

Dogs’ ability to forgive never ceases to amaze and continues to be something we can all learn from. One pit bull mix who endured unimaginable suffering, triumphed over cruelty and has gone on to inspire us was honored this week when she was was chosen as the winner of the American Humane Association’s American Hero Dog Awards, which were created to celebrate out relationships with dogs and their extraordinary acts of heroism.

Her name is Susie, and her story is one of tragedy and hope not only for her and her adopter but for others, too. Susie was just a puppy when she was savagely beaten, set on fire by her owner and left for dead in a park in North Carolina in 2009.

She had second and third-degree burns covering more than 60 percent of her body, her ears were burned off, and she had a broken jaw and teeth. More than 300 maggots found on her body left vets to conclude she had been left for dead two weeks prior.

She was taken in by the Guilford County Animal Shelter where she received extensive vet care before being adopted by Donna Lawrence, who herself had some healing to do after being attacked by a neglected pit bull. The incident caused her to have a miscarriage, and she was told by doctors she should never be able to have children. She was left with an understandable fear of dogs.

“If Susie hadn’t come into my life, I don’t know that I ever would have gotten over the fear,” Lawrence told Today.com. “I was drawn to her spirit ― her love and affection for people when she should hate them, you know? She was living in the moment, not living in the past, happy … I thought, ‘If this puppy can forgive humans, I can forgive dogs.’”

After being adopted, Susie began training to become a certified therapy dog and her story inspired tougher laws for animal abusers in the state. Thanks to the work of her supporters, Susie’s Law passed in 2010. The law makes it a felony for a first offense to “maliciously torture, mutilate, maim, cruelly beat, disfigure, poison, or kill an animal” and gives judges the ability to send convicted abusers to jail. Susie’s paw print is on the bill that Governor Beverly Perdue signed into law.

While Susie and Lawrence continue to share her story of courage and forgiveness, there were still 35 other dogs who were nominated from across the country in categories including Law Enforcement Dogs, Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide & Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and Emerging Hero Dogs. The awards pulled in one and a half million votes from the public and eight finalists, including Susie, were chosen. The seven other top dogs include:

Kai -  a six-year-old black Lab who was rescued from a shelter and now works for the San Antonio Fire Department investigating arson cases and helps teach children about fire safety.

Xena – a pit bull who was on the brink of death when she was rescued before getting adopted into a family with an autistic son, who she has helped come out of his shell.

Xxon – a dog who was partnered with Air Force Sergeant Michael Malarsie, who suffered a loss of friends and his vision in Afghanistan. Xxon is now Malarsie’s service dog and the two actively advocate for service dogs for members of the military.

Kota – a member of the Virginia police force who was injured in the line of duty, but kept going to protect his human partners. Now undergoing physical therapy, it is hoped Kota will return to active duty.

Chaney – a lab who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an IED detection dog whose work saved lives by detecting explosives and boosting morale. Chaney now works with his adopter at an organization that trains service dogs for disabled vets and children with autism.

Bretangne – a dog who has served in the  search and rescue community and worked at the World Trade Center after 9/11. Following her retirement, she still serves as an ambassador and helps children learn to read.

JJ Krawczyk – a small shelter dog who was rescued, trained and partnered with a child suffering from a rare condition, Mastocytosis. She has been working to keep her alive by monitoring her condition and alerting her parents if her life might be in danger. Her presence was even requested by doctors during a surgery.

The award ceremony will air on the Hallmark Channel on October 30 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central if you want to check it out.

Photo credit: American Humane Association


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

OMG - what this poor puppy went through. I am crying for the pain she must have felt, but smiling because she is now loved by Donna Lawrence!!
Thank you to Guilford County Animal Shelter for all they did to help this sweet girl.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Valentina R.
Valentina R3 years ago

If you want a Pitbull, please, don't buy one: the shelters and rescues are filled with handsome, lovable, lively Pits. Too many of them never have a family and are euthanized. Safe a life, give a Pit a home.

Barbara B.
Mrs B3 years ago

I LOVE stories like this, because it shows the strength and love that comes from facing adversity.

Barbara B.
Mrs B3 years ago

I LOVE stories like this, because it shows the strength and love that comes from facing adversity.

Betty Kelly
Betty Kelly3 years ago

It is amazing that animals [esp. dogs] give so much to humans.

Miriam O.

Thanks so much for sharing Alicia!