ST. LOUIS, Nov. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- From abandoned pet to forever friend, an inspiring dog named Pepper serves as hope to pet lovers who believe rescue animals can overcome great odds. Pepper's journey of survival was made possible due to the dedication of a small animal rescue organization named Sheryl's Den Animal Rescue in West Milford, N.J., and its founder Sheryl Hogan, who refused to leave the broken Labrador behind. For its work with Pepper, Sheryl's Den Animal Rescue has been selected as the grand-prize winner in the Purina® Pro Plan® Rally to Rescue® Stories Contest.
Pepper's ordeal began on a snowy February day in 2010 when she was thrown from a vehicle into a highway embankment and left abandoned after her owners sped off. Luckily for Pepper, help wasn't far behind, as Hogan was on her way home from a seven-hour journey to a shelter to rescue animals that were to be euthanized due to a snow storm. After witnessing this unthinkable act, Hogan pulled over to find a beaten and injured black Labrador retriever. Hogan could not imagine leaving Pepper, whose fate was surely death, without care or shelter on a cold winter day. Once home, a veterinarian's examination revealed broken bones, severe hip dysplasia, hair loss from poor nutrition and parasites. But worse, Pepper suffered from severe emotional trauma that left her extremely fearful and untrusting.
It was clear to Hogan that Pepper was in need of long-term physical and emotional care that not many foster homes would be able to provide. Fearful of even the slightest noises or movements, Pepper's care required months of Hogan sitting by her side and talking to her before she learned to trust and accept affection. Pepper soon stole Hogan's heart, and she knew that Pepper had found her forever home.
Hogan and Pepper will be honored live in the main ring prior to the start of the National Dog Show presented by Purina®, which airs on NBC on Thanksgiving Day. In addition, Hogan and Pepper will receive VIP treatment at the National Dog Show including a backstage tour, exclusive tickets and seating, and the opportunity to have a meet-and-greet with David Frei, expert analyst for the show and nationally renowned dog expert. As part of the grand prize, Sheryl's Den Animal Rescue will be awarded with $5,000 in Purina® Pro Plan® brand pet food coupons to help support the organization's continued care for animals in need.
"It was clear Pepper's spirit was broken and I could not allow one more moment of uncertainty for a dog that had already been through so much," said Hogan. "We never gave up. It took time, patience and proper training, but now Pepper is one of the happiest dogs I know."
Pepper has since recovered from her physical and emotional injuries from that fateful February day and is thriving as a permanent member of Hogan's family. Pepper now serves as a welcome mascot to Hogan's other rescued pups at Sheryl's Den Animal Rescue.
"We are honored to recognize Pepper for her willpower to survive and the persistent efforts of Sheryl's Den Animal Rescue and Sheryl Hogan for their commitment to Pepper and rescue animals across the country," said Shawn Brain, assistant brand manager, Purina® Pro Plan®. "Pepper's story serves as a reminder of the efforts and devotion of small pet rescue organizations and the need to support these organizations through adoption, volunteering and giving."
The Purina® Pro Plan® brand launched the fifth annual Rally to Rescue® Stories Contest to honor small pet rescue organizations and the pets they help to overcome tremendous odds. The nationwide contest raises awareness of pet adoption and promotes the incredible but often untold stories of pet rescue. More than 60 stories were submitted and a judging panel selected the 10 most inspiring success stories as finalists. From June to October, more than 12,000 votes were cast by pet lovers across the country to select the story that inspired them most as the grand-prize winner.
While Pepper's tale of survival is truly heartwarming, it is just one of countless stories that occur every day at pet rescue organizations. To read more of these incredible stories, visit www.rallytorescue.org or www.facebook/rallytorescue.
About Rally to Rescue®
Smaller pet rescue organizations help place nearly half a million dogs and cats in homes each year and represent nearly 45 percent of all pet adoption agencies. However, they are often overlooked by potential donors due to more limited fundraising and marketing resources.
The Rally to Rescue® Tour is part of a larger campaign known as Purina® Pro Plan® Rally to Rescue®. The campaign is committed to raising funds and awareness for pet rescue organizations nationwide via local adoption events. In addition to helping pet rescue organizations find loving, forever homes for more than 400,000 pets since 2005, Pro Plan® has provided more than $1 million in support of the Rally to Rescue® program during the past two years. Pro Plan has set a goal of 500,000 pet adoptions since the program's inception by the end of 2011.
To learn more about the Purina® Pro Plan® Rally to Rescue® campaign, visit www.facebook.com/rallytorescue.
About Nestle Purina
Nestle Purina PetCare Company promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestle Purina PetCare is part of Swiss-based Nestle S.A., the world's largest food company. Rally to Rescue is not a 501(c)(3) organization.
Sylvia Henry: 312.729.4472
Bill Etling: 314.982.4825
Nestle Purina PetCare Company
SOURCE Nestle Purina PetCare Company