Tabitha "Tabby Girl"

Anne Drake's Hero Dog

Published in: Update - Issue 3- 2012 »    Listen to Article ♫

When Anne Drake began losing her vision, she was devastated. She was 46, and everything she had been doing independently all her life was suddenly threatened. The fear that grew out of the new darkness caused Anne to find inhibitions everywhere she turned, leading her to a life of increasing isolation. In losing her eyesight, she was losing herself.

Then, at her family's suggestion, Anne came to Leader Dogs for the Blind, and from the moment she met Tabitha, her life began to change. With the friendly German shepherd at her side, Anne's confidence and independence returned.

This spring, the American Humane Association sent out a call for nominations of dogs that have performed extraordinary acts of service to be named the 2012 American Hero Dogs.

Anne and Tabitha in matching caps and gowns at Anne's graduation

In matching caps and gowns,
Anne and Tabitha walked
across a stage together to
accept Anne's diploma for
her master's degree in social
work from Indiana University.

Out of all the submissions in the guide dogs category, one entry shone above the rest. That was the story of the faithful German shepherd named Tabitha. Though Tabitha was now retired after seven years of work, Anne wanted to recognize the profound impact that Tabitha had had on her life:

Tabitha was my first guide dog; I obtained her from Leader Dogs for the Blind in 2004. Although now retired, she was and always will be my Hero Dog. Tabby Girl, as I called her, was the one that not only comforted me through the shock and depression of losing my sight, she welcomed me into a new life. By her love and skills, she showed me that life was still the same, I could still go and accomplish things, I just needed to go about some things a bit differently. It was with the new found courage that I gained from Tabby Girl's guidance that I continued to experience so much in life.

I completed both my undergraduate and graduate studies with her by my side. I overcame my fear of "the dark." I learned to trust myself once again, as well as others. There were so many things that she did over the years for me too numerous to mention in this short essay. Suffice it to say, Tabby Girl saved my life, not only physically, but emotionally, and mentally as well. Without Tabby Girl showing me the way to my new life, I really don't know where I would be right now. Tabby Girl will always be my Hero Dog.

Anne's heartfelt nomination and her constant campaigning on behalf of her beloved Tabitha paid off when Tabitha was officially named a 2012 Hero Dog in the guide dogs category. This meant a $5,000 gift to Anne's charity partner, Leader Dog, and that Tabitha and Anne flew to Hollywood in early October to accept Tabitha's award.

They didn't travel alone, however. Since her retirement, Tabitha has been reunited with her puppy raisers, Steve and Karin Pierce. She spends her days relaxing in the home in Ashland, WI where she lived her first year of life, practicing day after day the skills that would ultimately allow her to become Anne's hero dog. Even in retirement she is still making new friends, "working" as a greeter at the Pierces' store, Ashland Stove and Upholstery Works.

Anne and her second Leader Dog, Driver, in Palm Beach

Anne's second Leader Dog, Driver, gives her a
huge kiss.

When Anne and Tabitha flew to Los Angeles to receive the Hero Dog Award, they were joined by Driver and Karin Pierce. They attended a star-studded ceremony hosted by actress Kristin Chenoweth and meet the judges, including Whoopi Goldberg, who helped to choose the overall Hero Dog of the year. The event will be broadcast November 8 on the Hallmark Channel. Please check your local listings for time.

There are many hero dogs out there. They come in all shapes and sizes, and their service takes different forms. Some are members of our military. Some aid in search and rescue. Some offer comfort to victims of trauma. And some, like Tabitha, give their eyes and hearts to lead someone through the dark. We could not be more proud to be a part of this special recognition of Tabitha's work, and we hope you will join us in offering our congratulations and thanks to her and all of our canine heroes.

Below is a teaser clip from the Hallmark Channel about Tabitha and her work with Anne.