Hooch the French Mastiff Wins American Humane Emerging Hero Award

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Some days, you’ll come across a dog whose story will just make you cry. Other days, you’re lucky enough to come across the story of an inspirational dog and you need All. The. Tissues. This is one of those days.

The annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards are a celebration of the bonds between dogs and people, and recognize varied acts of courage and heroism our four-legged friends exhibit daily. Dogs compete in eight different categories–Law Enforcement, Arson, Service, Therapy, Military, Search and Rescue, Guide/Hearing and Emerging Hero Dogs–and are chosen by the votes given online.

The Emerging Hero Dog award is a category for ‘ordinary’ dogs who ended up doing extraordinary things, and this year’s winner was a French Mastiff rescue named Hooch. Hooch’s dad, Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue founder Zach Skow, who is pretty inspirational himself, says Hooch is the picture of resiliency and an example of how past adversity doesn’t have to define who one is today.

Related: Former Rescue Ruger The Hero Dog Sends Poachers Packing

And Skow would know…he’s a former alcoholic, who was diagnosed with liver failure in 2008. Calling himself vulnerable and scared as he entered rehabilitation to save his life, he began working with the Humane Society and saw in so many of the ‘undesirables’ a little bit of himself. He was motivated to found Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, a non-profit that works tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome dogs on death row.

One dog he was called to rescue was Hooch, a French Mastiff who was in need of some desperate help. He was emaciated, and didn’t eat or drink. He clearly had been abused prior to his sheltering, as his ears were cut off and his tail was broken. Zach assumed that Hooch’s inability to eat and wild, thrashing behavior was the result of a broken or dislocated jaw. When Zach took Hooch to the vet, he learned the trauma Hooch had faced in his life was far more heartbreaking.

Someone had cut Hooch’s tongue out, possibly in preparation to make him a bait dog for illegal dog fighting, and it literally made it impossible for him to eat or drink.

Related: ASPCA Wants The Department of Justice To On Dog Fighting Laws

Zach and the dedicated vet staff tried desperately to nourish and hydrate Hooch with a feeding tube, but poor Hooch was too traumatized and pained and constantly tore the tube out. Desperate measures calling for desperate times, Zach attempted all he could think of–hand feeding Hooch by putting the food down his throat while Hooch held his neck back to get the food to go down. To say this act of love for a pet was life-saving is an understatement, but Zach saw it as a way to gratefully give to another who needed help in rehabilitation, as he had so generously been given in his own life.

And Hooch keeps paying it forward! When Zach rescued him, he was only 43 pounds. Now a hefty 95, Hooch does his part to help others in need by showering (literally–Zach says he drools like you’ve never seen!) everyone he sees with love.

Hooch seems to have a heart for non-verbal children with autism, and works as a therapy dog for those children, as well as others who have been abused or have special needs. In addition, as part of Marley’s Mutts programs, he helps give comfort and support to homeless people and prisoners who have serious addictive backgrounds, and he is a testament to how a little bit of love and commitment can make a huge impact in the lives of so many.

Well-done, Hooch! We salute you!
Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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