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Some of the most heartwarming stories of 2011 came from the smallest and most unexpected places. A long lost cat was found across the country, a Colorado dog was honored for being a hero, and a scientific breakthrough helped a dog learn to walk. Yes, this was a year that brought some truly moving stories about our beloved pets. Take a look back at this year’s most heartwarming local pet stories.

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A Colorado Dog honored for being a hero
The American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards honor those dogs used in service or those that have done extraordinary things. A Colorado dog was a 2011 recipient of this honor. Sadie is an arson and service dog that has worked in the Major Crimes Unit of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, has worked an estimated 400 fires and assisted in many different types of cases. In addition to working some 50 demonstrations per year to promote fire safety and prevention, she also worked in all of the extreme environments that Colorado has to offer, from snow-covered mountains to dangerous buildings. It is because of her tireless service that Sadie was truly deserving of this national honor.

Hours: Mon. – Fri. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

A Prosthetic Paw
A German short hair pointer received an amazing gift, the ability to walk. Brownie came from a shelter in Kansas and was placed with a Boulder family. The shelter is unsure of how the 3-year-old dog lost the leg, but says he was still a playful and active pup. In May, Brownie was fitted for an artificial paw from Orthopets, a Colorado clinic.  For the first time this dog is learning how to walk on all fours, and living life like any other dog.

Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Colorado continues to save pets
Approximately 150 dogs were found on one hoarder’s property in California, and 40 of those dogs were sent to Colorado to find good homes. Colorado, and Denver in particular, is known for being pet friendly. As a result, many states send their pets in need of good homes here. The relocated dogs were sent to the Denver Dumb Friends League and other facilities around the state.  These dogs have been placed in good homes and have a chance at a healthy life.

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(credit: CBS)

Missing Colorado cat found five years later… in New York
A calico named Willow went missing in Colorado five years ago during a home renovation. The cat was micro-chipped, and the family was shocked when they received a call from animal control in Manhattan five years later. No one is sure just how the cat made the1,600 mile journey, but Willow seems to be happy and healthy. Willow’s family is glad to have her back. This is another wonderful example of why it is important to microchip cats and dogs.

Related: Colorado pet owners, keep your pets safe from cold weather this winter with these tips.

Good Samaritans save a dog’s life
Most people know how difficult the rising cost of pet care can be, and the current economy woes can make things even more difficult. That is why Lisa Ison was amazed when some good samaritans stepped up and helped her pay to keep her dog alive. As KUSA-TV reported in September, Ison took Bella, her Pomeranian mix, to the Alameda East Veterinary Clinic with life-threatening concerns. The cost for just half the treatment was more than $900, something that Ison was unable to afford and she was concerned that she may have to put her beloved pet down.  Ison went to the restroom, and when she returned to the front desk she discovered that the bill was paid by two good samaritans who were in the lobby and overheard the woman’s concerns. The couple that paid for the pet’s care declined to be interviewed and are just happy that the dog is doing well. As Bella recovers, Ison is thankful and looking to pay it forward.

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Love your pet, too? Then make sure you keep them healthy by staying trim. Read more about the dangers of pet obesity.

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Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at