Scars from the past don't necessarily define the future.
While the stories of all eight finalists for the American Humane Association's 2014 American Hero Dog Award are nothing shy of incredible, Susie, a 5-year-old pit bull mix, won the coveted prize Saturday night. Each of the pups and their owners took the stage at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, to be recognized for their work -- from search and rescue to medical aid to arson investigation.
Susie's list in particular goes on and on.
As a puppy, Susie was found savagely beaten, burned and left for dead in a park in Greensboro, North Carolina. Luckily, a local animal shelter stepped in to address her wounds, and Donna Lawrence decided to adopt her.
Less than a year prior, Lawrence had suffered an attack from a neglected pit bull that left her severely injured and unable to have children. However, she met Susie as she struggled with a deep depression of her own, and was able to find strength in their bond.
"I was drawn to her spirit -- her love and affection for people when she should hate them," Lawrence told Today.com. "She was living in the moment, not living in the past, happy ... I thought, 'If this puppy can forgive humans, I can forgive dogs.'"
Soon after her adoption, Susie became a therapy dog that specializes in helping people who have also suffered from trauma. She inspired Lawrence to found Susie's Hope, a nonprofit that raises awareness of animal abuse.
In 2010, their work inspired the creation of Susie's Law, a North Carolina State Senate bill passed by Gov. Beverly Perdue, which allows for persons convicted of cruelty to animals to be sentenced for up to 10 months of jail time. Susie's paw is printed on the bill next to Purdue's signature, Today.com reported.
"I’m just blown away," Lawrence told Today.com after hearing that her dog won the award. "There were so many amazing dogs with great stories. When they called Susie, I just wanted to cry."