BERTHOUD, Colo. (CBS4) – A tiny dog from Berthoud has won a big prize. Harley the Chihuahua has been voted American Hero Dog by the American Humane Association.

The 6-pound pooch beat 170 other heroic hounds as this year’s most courageous canine. Harley is a spokes-dog with an inspirational story of survival. He spent his first 10 years living in a small cage in a puppy mill.

“He was being used to breed and produce puppies for pet stores,” said Rudi Taylor, one of Harley’s owners.

Harley (credit: CBS)

Harley (credit: CBS)

When Rudi and Dan Taylor adopted Harley he was a damaged dog with a rotting mouth, a fused spine, gnarled toes and deformed legs. He was missing an eye. Rudi says that’s the result of his cage being power washed with Harley in it.

“Several vets said he’s not going to make it a couple more months,” said Rudi.

But 4 1/2 years later, it’s “Harley to the Rescue.” He’s all over social media as the spokes-dog for National Mill Dog Rescue. His campaign called Harley to the Rescue has raised enough money to save more than 500 puppy mill dogs in the last two years.

HARLEY HERO DOG.tra5nsfer

“He means the world to us already. Now he’s going to mean something to the world,” said Theresa Strader the founder of National Mill Dog Rescue near Colorado Springs.

She’s excited that Harley was honored as American Hero Dog.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“It’s going to give us a great opportunity to educate,” said Strader.

Harley is already a teacher. He makes public appearances to educate people on the horrors of puppy mills. Despite his decade in isolation, his owners say he happily accepts love and attention from everyone.

Strader wants Harley to put Mill Dog Rescue out of business.

Rudi and Dan Taylor talk with CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Rudi and Dan Taylor talk with CBS4’s Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

“When we’re out of business, then this atrocity for dogs is over,” she said.

It might be a stretch to call Harley handsome, but his attitude makes him adorable. Happy to be free, he is now the poster pup for dogs still suffering.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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