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Unsung Heroes No More

Dr. Annette Sysel and vet tech Julie Carlson are top winners in an annual American Humane Association contest.

Dr. Annette Sysel, left, and certified veterinary technician Julie Carlson.

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A veterinarian immersed in cancer studies, a veterinary technician dedicated to helping military veterans and their pets, and a Chihuahua who spent 10 years in a breeding cage were honored Saturday at the American Humane Association’s annual Hero awards.

Annette Sysel, DVM, MS, the president of Bauer Research Foundation in Vero Beach, Fla., was named the 2015 American Hero Veterinarian. Julie Carlson, CVT, the founder of the Phoenix group Vets for Vets’ Pets, is the 2015 American Hero Veterinary Technician.

“Dr. Annette Sysel and Julie Carlson are truly outstanding examples of the many dedicated animal professionals doing heroic work every day,” said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, group director of U.S. Companion Animal Marketing at Zoetis Inc.

Zoetis, a Florham Park, N.J., maker of animal drugs and vaccines, was the presenting sponsor of the veterinarian and vet tech awards. Sysel and Carlson were selected from among five finalists in each category and were celebrated onstage during the Hero Dog Awards ceremony.

The event, which took place in Beverly Hills, Calif., will be broadcast nationally Oct. 30 on the Hallmark Channel.

Sysel holds an unpaid position with Bauer Research Foundation.

“Dr. Sysel has made a significant impact in fostering the human-animal bond by educating and working with pet owners to navigate the fearful process of treating pet cancers,” the American Humane Association stated. “In addition, she has been awarded several research grants and has conducted and published several studies identifying novel cancer biomarkers in canine, feline and human cancers.”

She is working on a blood and urine test that could minimize or eliminate invasive diagnostic procedures by identifying cancer earlier, the American Humane Association added.

“I am hopeful that our efforts at the Bauer Research Foundation will help to bring awareness and assistance to the development of safe and effective diagnostics and treatments for animals, children and adults afflicted with cancer,” Sysel said.

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Carlson and her volunteer group, Vets for Vets’ Pets, works with Phoenix-area veterinary hospitals to provide spay/neuter surgeries, vaccines, wound care and boarding and grooming services to the animals of military veterans. Donated food and pet supplies are given away to homeless and at-risk veterans, according to the American Humane Association.

“For many of the veterans I work with, their pets are the only family they have,” Carlson said.

She also teaches at Pima Medical Institute, a Mesa, Ariz., school that offers veterinary assistant and veterinary technicians programs, among others.

The 2015 American Hero Dog was Harley the Chihuahua of Berthoud, Colo. He was adopted after 10 years in a breeding operation.

“His journey of physical and emotional healing inspired a campaign called ‘Harley to the Rescue,’ which has raised the funds to save and provide medical care for more than 500 dogs from puppy mills over the past two years,” the American Humane Association stated.

“Harley’s battered appearance is a testament to the neglect and rough treatment he experienced, leading to a diseased heart, a mouth filled with rot, a fused spine, a broken tail, gnarled toes and legs. … And then there is his missing eye, the result of his cage being power-washed with him in it,” the organization added.

All eight finalists were named category winners. They are:

  • Emerging Hero Dog: Harley.
  • Arson Dog: Glory of Evansville, Wis.
  • Guide/Hearing Dog: Chara of Waynesboro, Va.
  • Law Enforcement Dog: Dax of Ashland, Mass.
  • Military Dog: Rambo of Converse, Texas.
  • Search and Rescue Dog: Glory of Sun Valley, Calif.
  • Service Dog: Axel of Fredericksburg, Va.
  • Therapy Dog: Hudson the Railroad Puppy of Castleton, N.Y.
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