Piano-Playing Cat Among ASPCA Award Winners

The year's remarkable animals and people are being honored for their deeds at this year's American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Humane Awards Luncheon, held today in New York City.

After a call to the public for nominations in February, a committee reviewed hundreds of entries to arrive at just 10 animals and people that "celebrate the important role that animals play in our lives", in the words of President & CEO Ed Sayres.

The ASPCA "Dog of the Year" is Archie, an 8-year-old black Labrador Retriever, who is an assistance dog for Sergeant Clay Rankin. Rankin suffered spinal injuries while serving in Iraq, and Archie is his primary caregiver and social safety net. Archie’s loyalty and perseverance in helping Sgt. Rankin accomplish his daily tasks has allowed the veteran to regain his confidence and independence, move forward with his life and continue serving the country he loves.

The ASPCA "Cat of the Year" is the now famous piano-playing cat Nora. Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow adopted Nora, a 5-year-old gray tabby, from an animal shelter in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Her piano-playing antics became a YouTube sensation early this year, and even inspired a composer to create a symphony especially for her. The "Tommy Monahan Kid of the Year" award is named after a 9-year-old boy who died in 2007 trying to save his pet from a house fire. This year’s winner is 11-year-old Monica Plumb from Powhatan County, Virginia, who has raised money for fire departments to buy oxygen masks for pets.

Deputy Chief Mark Duff and the Hingham Fire Department won the ASPCA "Firefighter of the Year" award after saving a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever called Ollie who had fallen through the ice into the waters of Hingham Harbor in February. The ASPCA "Law Enforcement Officers of the Year" award went to undercover agents Sergeant Terry Mills and Sergeant Jeffrey Heath of the Missouri Highway Patrol who were instrumental in the seizure of more than 400 dogs from dog fighting rings across multiple states.

The ASPCA "Lifetime Achievement" award went to Richard O’Barry who trained dolphins in the 1960s for the popular American TV series Flipper. His rescue efforts have led to the release of 25 captive dolphins in Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas and the United States. O?Barry is currently the subject of an award-winning documentary, The Cove, which chronicles an effort to expose the truth about dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan.

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