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Former Marine Turned Dog Savior Wins Hero of the Year

Posted December 02, 2014 in A Vet's Life

This story was selected for our series: “Top Stories of 2014.”

stray dog

Since 2007, every year, CNN recognizes everyday people from around the world for making the world a better place. Every fall, after collecting nominations from the general public, CNN introduces the CNN ‘Top 10 Heroes’ and asks the public to vote for their favorites. This year, each of the ten heroes was awarded $25,000 and the hero of the year received an additional $100,000 to continue doing exemplary work.

During the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute show, CNN honored the top ten heroes for their exceptional humanitarian contributions and announced the CNN Hero of the Year. If you have never seen the show, I highly recommend watching it. Personally, I find it incredibly inspiring to see what people can do when they dedicate themselves to making the world a better place. In contrast to the regular news cycle that bombards and numbs us with endless stories of crime, violence and tragedy, CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute reminds us that there are good people in the world that dedicate their lives to helping others.

Who was hero of the year?
This year, Pen Farthing, founder of a pet charity called Nowzad, won ‘CNN Hero of the Year.’ So who is Pen Farthing and what is Nowzad?

According to nowzad.com, Pen Farthing, an ex member of the Royal Marines, started Nowzad in May of 2007. Farthing had been stationed in the Afghanistan town of Now Zad in 2006. He was struck by how the town was overrun by stray dogs. One day, after breaking up a dogfight, he was followed home by a dog he later named ‘Nowzad,’ reports Katie McLaughlin of CNN. Nowzad became a faithful companion and ultimately the inspiration for Pen Farhting’s nonprofit Nowzad Dogs. Farthing rescued Nowzad from his life as a stray, and Nowzad returned the favor by rescuing Farthing from the stresses of combat.

As a result of the difficulty he experienced when trying to bring Nowzad home to England, Farthing founded Nowzad Dogs to help other returning soldiers reunite with the dogs and cats they adopted while on duty in Afghanistan. Nowzad Dogs has helped reunite nearly 700 soldiers with the animals they adopted, says McLaughlin. Since then, the mission has focused on helping the strays of Afghanistan.

Helping the dogs of Afghanistan
Nowzad Dogs charity operates the only official animal shelter in Afghanistan. In addition, they have a small animal clinic and help train local Afghani veterinarians. They also are determined to start a trap, neuter, vaccinate and release project to help decrease the population of stray dogs and to lower the incidence of canine rabies. You can learn more about Nowzad Dogs here on their website.

Hopefully, reading about Pen Farthing and Nowzad Dogs has inspired you as well. Pen Farthing and the other ‘CNN Top 10 Heroes’ serve as reminders that one dedicated person can make a huge impact in the world. We can accomplish anything we want with hard work and perseverance. Just imagine how amazing the world would be if we all dedicated ourselves to one worthy cause?

More of 2014's top stories:

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

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The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.