November 25, 2009
Dog of the Year Passes Away with Honors
On October 29, a very special 8-year-old black Labrador Retriever arrived at New York City’s Pierre Hotel and charmed a ballroom full of people while receiving the ASPCA Dog of the Year award. The Lab was Archie, assistance dog and social lifeline for Iraq war veteran Sergeant Clay Rankin. The event was the 2009 ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon.
Archie’s talents and warmth were clearly recognized by the ASPCA. His humane hero description read: 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.
It was when Sgt. Rankin took to the podium to accept Archie’s award, however, that the depth of their relationship became clear. “Archie helps me to walk. He helps me to maintain my balance. If I need something, he gets it for me,” began the Sergeant. “He also wakes me if I’m having nightmares and touches me with his nose if I start going into a flashback.” He then told a powerful story about one soldier who’d been sent home with a bad injury. When he met Archie during a hospital visit, he smiled for the first time since being deployed. “There is life after injuries,” the Sergeant assured the rapt audience, who gave him a standing ovation.
On Thursday, November 12, while returning home after visiting soldiers at a VA hospital in San Antonio, TX, Archie passed away from an apparent heart attack. His death was unexpected.
Dog and man came together in October 2006, after Sgt. Rankin returned from Iraq with spinal injuries. As Rankin suffered daily pain and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Archie quickly became his primary caregiver and social safety net. Trained by Patriot Paws, a Rockwall, TX-based organization that works with service dogs and matches them with disabled veterans, Archie was also the first canine graduate of the Army Wounded Warriors Program, which assists and advocates for seriously wounded, ill and injured soldiers, veterans and their families.
"I only met Archie once, this year at the Humane Awards Luncheon,” says Arielle Greenberg, ASPCA Special Events Manager and member of the committee that chooses each year’s heroes, “but it was enough for me to see that he was not only essential to Sergeant Rankin, but a ball of happy energy all on his own."
We honor Archie and Sgt. Rankin, and the model of the human-animal bond that they displayed.