Milford dog in running to be named ‘hero’

Michele Houston’s 13-year-old pit bull is affectionately called the mayor of their Milford neighborhood. Now, Jeffrey is becoming known by far more people since he’s in the running for a 2022 American Humane Hero Dog Award.

The national awards highlight ordinary dogs doing amazing things. There are seven categories, including law enforcement dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, military dogs, guide/hearing dogs, search and rescue dogs and shelter dogs. Jeffrey is in the shelter dog category.

“Jeffrey is a shining example of the type of dog you can find in your local shelter, and he sets an example so people can see, you know, you can find a dog,” Houston said. “They’re not broken. They end up in the shelter through no fault of their own, and they all deserve a chance.”

Jeffrey’s second chance began in 2010 when Houston adopted him from the euthanasia list at a kill shelter in New York City, saving him at the last minute.

“He saved me too,” Houston told News 12.

Since then, Jeffrey has saved countless others as well, offering comfort as a therapy dog. He was certified in 2012, and Houston said, has been in demand throughout his career. He’s helped those at The Cove Center for Grieving Children, Connecticut hospice, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Camp Erin and Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services.

“He loves people. He especially loves children, and he offers that quiet shoulder, or the kid that needs the clown gets the wagging tail. He’s really good at what he does. He was born to be a therapy dog,” Houston explained.

Jeffrey is also an advocate—not just for shelter dogs but pit bulls. And you’ll always find him with his signature look, painted nails. Houston started painting his nails 12 years ago after some kids in a reading program seemed a little afraid of Jeffrey at first. She realized they might’ve seen a dog that looked like Jeffrey “in a different light.”

“So the next time we went I painted Jeffrey’s nails bright pink, and the kids giggled, and it broke the ice. They thought it was hilarious,” Houston recalled.

Jeffrey’s list of skills doesn’t end there. It includes competing in the sport of World Cynosport Rally Obedience, during which dogs go through an obstacle course and show off their obedience skills.

“We’ve been at this since 2018. And in 2019, Jeffrey became the first pit bull in history to earn the highest achievement in that sport which is the Rally Master Champion Title,” Houston said.

Jeffrey is also the face behind “Jeffrey’s Joy of Giving Donation Drive,” which started after Sandy Hook as a way to give back to the community. Every December, Houston collects pet food, coats, non-perishable items and toiletries for those in need , along with monetary donations that go to a different nonprofit every year.

“We started out with Sandy Hook Promise,” Houston told News 12. “We’ve done Dylan’s Wings of Change, Collide NYC, The Maren Sanchez Home Foundation, Beth El Shelter of Milford.”

Jeffrey’s accomplishments are why he’s a semi-finalist in the annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards, which are based on online voting. You can vote for Jeffrey here every day through July 22. If he wins the shelter dog category, Jeffrey will compete for the overall Hero Dog Award of 2022 in November in Florida

Houston told News 12 she hopes the exposure will help all the shelter dogs out there still looking for a home.

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