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2009 Hall of Fame
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For members of the Alabama School for the Blind (ASB) it is easy to understand why a cat named Calico was chosen to be inducted into the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame. This special stray calico feline appeared at the school in 1999 looking for a home. She found it there and the members of the school found a life long friend and companion.

Calico’s kind temperament and love for people has enabled many students to become comfortable holding a cat for the first in their life. Calico’s regular visits to the dormitories, the nurse’s station and even to the classrooms have brought laughter and comic relief to many ordinary school days. She has also taught students about responsibility and caring for others.

According to school officials, “Calico has an important mission; to teach students about caring, loving and enjoying the wonderful creatures God has given us to have as pets. Through pets, we all become better, more considerate and caring people toward each other.”

And so it is with Calico; A caring, loving and patient feline who brings a brighter day to the students and faculty at the Alabama School for the Blind.



Champ is credited with saving his owners life by detecting cancer in her breast. As Betty Owens of north Alabama lay in bed one night, Champ began sniffing at her breast. He was so persistent that is was difficult for her to even get any rest. But the persistence got Betty’s attention. She went to her family doctor who was very astute and knew that some dogs were able to detect small discreet tumors. The physician referred Betty to an oncologist and a diagnosis of breast cancer came shortly thereafter.

The doctor told Betty that if Champ were to ever start sniffing her again, not to ignore him, he had a special gift for cancer detection. A few years later, Champ began his sniffing regiment again only this time on Betty’s cheek area. And yes, Champ made the correct diagnosis once again. Betty subsequently had two cancerous growths removed from her cheek and is today cancer free. But the story doesn’t end there.

Champ is himself a survivor. In 2003 and 2006 he was attacked by what authorities believe were coyotes. He suffered fractures and abrasions, but following surgery performed by Dr. Michael Newman of Decatur, Champ was soon out of the hospital and back home with Betty.

Champ is a very fitting name for this canine that survived two attacks himself and saved his owner’s life, not once, but twice. He is indeed a Champ!

For Nena Moon, a volunteer at Hand-in-Paw of Birmingham, her little miniature Schnauzer named Ellie is her pride and joy. Ellie and Nena are a therapy team who are well known at the Wallace Tumor Institute at the University of Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Center. There they visit patients and bring abundant joy to many patients throughout the year.
Earlier this year, Nena and Ellie won the national Pet Partners Beyond Limits Award. They were the only team from the southeast to advance to the finalist stage for this award.
It is because of her extreme dedication to helping patients through very difficult times that Ellie was selected to be an inductee into the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame. She is a true ambassador in helping medical and educational facilities understand and embrace the benefits of animal-assisted therapy.

The Story of Zeke is a heartwarming account of a horse that was neglected and subsequently adopted by the Spirit of Hope Youth Ranch in Wilsonville, Alabama. Zeke had numerous health problems including Cushing’s disease that had developed over time and predisposed him to hoof problems. Some folks had given up on Zeke because of all the health issues, but the members of the ranch did not, and through a regiment of treatments and special care Zeke survived and today is a big part of the emotional healing of youngsters who stay at the ranch.

Zeke’s most miraculous quality is his ability to touch people. When a child walks into the barn, Zeke rests his head on the stall door, winks and gives a little nicker as if to say “Choose me!” You can almost see the ice melt away from the frozen heart of a child who has not known unconditional love. Zeke represents hope, because even a broken little red horse can find comfort and love and give it back threefold.

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