As we approach the New Year, it’s time to review some of the highlights of 2015. No, we are not talking about the year’s biggest news stories, best movies, songs of the summer or most memorable sports moments. Dog Tails wants to review 2015 the way we know best – the Year in Dogs! Below are some of the most memorable dog stories of the past year. Enjoy, and a Happy New Year to hound and human alike!

JANUARYTODAY Adopts a Guide Dog Puppy

The TODAY show on NBC welcomed a new edition back in January – a “puppy with a purpose“! On January 14th, a 10-week-old Yellow Labrador Retriever joined Matt, Savannah, Al and the rest of team in their NYC studio.

Wrangler, the TODAY show's "puppy with a purpose"

Wrangler back in January – photo from @WranglerTODAY Twitter

Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit that trains guide dogs to assist the blind and service dogs to help children who have autism, selected the puppy, later named Wrangler, for training, which would be chronicled throughout the year by TODAY’s cameras. Professional dog handlers conducted Wrangler’s training, with the help of the entire TODAY show team.

Viewers watched as Wrangler grew, met new people (including many celebrities), took his first road trip, got fitted for his first harness and learned many important lessons to help him on his journey from bouncy puppy to skilled guide dog. Check out Wrangler’s fun year in review here. Best of luck to you in 2016, Wrangler!

FEBRUARY“Feast” Wins Short Film Oscar

Oscar ceremonies are always fun, but they are also quite long, so it’s no surprise if you missed the winner of the Best Animated Short Film award, given out in the middle of 3-hour-plus show.

Still from "Feast," a 2015 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film (copyright Disney and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Still from “Feast,” a 2015 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film (copyright Disney and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

The 2015 winner in this category was “Feast,” a film that combines beautiful and classic hand-drawn 2D animation with modern, fluid 3D computer animation techniques to tell the story of the bond between a man and his lovable, energetic, food-obsessed Boston Terrier. Animation fans praised the film’s gorgeous style, while dog lovers gobbled up the sweet story of a hungry abandoned pup turned spoiled, spaghetti-chomping family dog. The short film, directed by Patrick Osborne, premiered in theaters as an opening act to Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” which won the 2015 Oscar for Animated Feature film. If you missed “Feast” in theaters, it is now available for purchase in iTunes for $2.99. Be prepared to watch it over and over and over again…

MARCHTSA Finds Stowaway Chihuahua

Stowaway Chihuahua via @TSA Instagram

The stowaway Chihuahua, via @TSA Instagram

It started off as a normal trip to the airport for one dog owner, but it didn’t end that way! As reported on TSA’s Instagram, TSA officers at LaGuardia Airport in NYC inspected a checked bag that had triggered an alarm during a scan, opened it, and found a small Chihuahua hidden inside. They were able to quickly track down the owner of the suitcase, who was just as surprised as they were!

The owner believes that the dog snuck into the suitcase and hid while she was packing, and she was relieved that her pup was found and doing well. The owner’s husband picked up the dog from the airport, and the suitcase – sans pooch – was placed back in cargo. That’s quite an adventure for the Chihuahua, and we’re very happy it had a happy ending for all involved.

APRIL Study Reveals Truth Behind Puppy Dog Eyes

We all know the look – those big, beautiful eyes that look up into yours and pierce into your soul, as if to say, “I love you so much. Give me a treat, please.” Turns out, there’s a scientific reason why that gaze is so transfixing.

DogWatch office dog Biz the black lab

DogWatch office dog Biz the black Lab has mastered the “puppy eyes” stare

As reported in journal Science this April, when humans gaze into dog’s eyes, the “love hormone” oxytocin is released – and vice versa. These shared happy feelings are similar to the feeling exchanged by parents and newborns. A team of Japanese scientists, lead by Takefumi Kikusui, a professor of veterinary medicine, shared these findings from their series of experiments. Since they found that this eye-contact bonding behavior is not found in wolves (i.e. dog’s ancestors), Kikusui speculated that humans and dogs may have co-evolved this ability in order for love to flourish across species. Fascinating!

MAY – Gizmo Joins DogWatch!

This May we welcomed a new team member at DogWatch headquarters in Natick, MA – Gizmo the Papillon puppy! Gizmo joined the DogWatch office dogs team on May 21, and immediately fit right in with the rest of regular crew, which includes Biz the black Lab (shown above), Brodie the Dachshund, Lucy 1 the Bichon Frise, Lucy 2 the Chug, Nellie the Aussie and Shiloh the Cockapoo. We all loved watching him meet new friends, play new games, learn the rules of the office, and finally grow into those big ol’ ears.

Here’s a video from one of Gizmo’s first office visits. For more about Gizmo and our DogWatch office dogs, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram!


JUNE – Caitlyn the Pit Bull Inspires the Nation

In June, a young female pit bull mix from South Carolina who was the victim of horrific abuse became a inspiring symbol of survival against the odds. Caitlyn was found with her mouth taped shut with electrical tape, causing serious damage to her muzzle that required multiple surgeries and leaving her face permanently scarred. Charleston Animal Society oversaw Caitlyn care and found Caitlyn a loving foster home while her alleged abuser faces trial. The Animal Society also started a #IamCaitlyn social media campaign, designed to shed light on animal abuse and animals in needs throughout the country.

Caitlyn’s important message spread around the world, garnering thousands of shares and comments and inspiring many people to donate and adopt. Charleston Animal Society reports that they have “have received many emails and comments about how much she has been an inspiration for people in abusive situations and with scars,” and that Caitlyn’s “bravery in the face of such abuse and her beautiful scars have given many people hope for change in their own lives!”

In recognition of her resilient spirit and inspiring story, BarkPost gave Caitlyn a special “Dog’s Best Day” celebration. Check out the video below.

JULY – JFK International Airport Announces New Pet Terminal

Imagine an airport terminal with plenty of natural light, room to roam, private rooms with flat-screen TVs and even a pool! Sounds perfect, but it’s not for people, it’s for pets! The internet was abuzz in July with the news that a new $48 million animal terminal will open in early 2016 at JFK International Airport in New York City. Dubbed “The Ark at JFK,” this 178,000-square-foot space will be, according to developer Racebrook Capital, the “world’s only privately owned animal terminal and USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock.”

JFK Animal Terminal - Paradise 4 Paws Pet Resort pool

The planned dog swimming pool at Paradise 4 Paws at the Ark at JFK. Photo courtesy of Ark Development, LLC via

The facility will include a veterinary hospital and a “Paradise 4 Paws” pet resort, featuring private boarding, grooming, massage therapy, a jungle gym for cats and a bone-shaped swimming pool. It is also outfitted to take care of larger animal travelers, including horses and cows. In fact, the terminal’s architects even consulted renowned animal behavioralist Temple Grandin to design pens for cattle to facilitate their preferred movement patterns. 70,000 pets and livestock comes through JFK airport ever year, and 2016, they’ll finally be able to travel in comfort and style.

AUGUST – Hollywood Star Dog Uggie Passes Away at 13

On August 7, 2015, Hollywood lost one of its brightest stars when Uggie the Jack Russell Terrier passed away from cancer at age 13. Uggie appeared in many films, TV shows and commercials in his long acting career, but he achieved worldwide fame with his scene-stealing performance in the Oscar-winning film 2011 “The Artist.” In that film, Uggie played the beloved sidekick of a handsome silent film star (played by Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin) who is struggling with the transition to sound films. Uggie not only showed off his impressive display of tricks, but also captured the hearts of movie-goers with his sweet spirit and boundless energy.

RIP to my canine friend Uggie. I worked with him on Water for Elephants. What a special , sweet soul. ❤️

A photo posted by Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) on

Uggie’s trainer and caretaker Omar von Mueller rescued him from the pound at 9 months, after his previous owners felt he was too high-strung for them to handle. von Mueller undertook training the puppy and helped him channel that energy into his performances. Wendy Holden, who “co-wrote” Uggie’s autobiography in 2012, said of him: “”It’s a coincidence that he happens to be a star in a dog’s body. He fills the room with his terrier presence. He’s amazing.” He was indeed, and he’ll be missed by movie lovers and dog lovers all over the world.

SEPTEMBER Puppy Mill Survivor Harley named 2015 American Hero Dog

Harley the 2015 Hero Dog

Harley, shown with his awards from American Humane Association. Photo via Harley’s Facebook page.

This September marked the 5th Annual American Humane Association American Hero Dog Awards, celebrating remarkable dogs who do “extraordinary things” to help humans and their fellow animals. The 2015 nominees included therapy dogs, service dogs, retired military dogs and police dogs. This year’s winner Harley the Chihuahua may be tiny, but his impact is large indeed.

Four years ago, 10 year-old Harley was rescued from a puppy mill, where he had spent his entire life in a metal cage. Harley lost one of his eyes when his cage was cleaned with power washer, and he had other ailments due to the poor treatment he received. Because of these issues, Harley wasn’t expected to live very long, but thanks to his fighting spirit and the dedicated care of his adopters Rudi and Dan Taylor of Berthoud, CO, he has thrived and in turn, inspired others. Harley is the face of “Harley to the Rescue,” a campaign that has raised over $500,000 to help rescue, care for and find homes for hundreds of puppy mill dogs. Accepting Harley’s award, Dan Taylor noted that Harley’s “spirit is allowing him now to be the voice for dogs who cannot speak for themselves… and give everybody hope that tomorrow’s going to be a better day.”

To learn more about Harley and his important cause, check out his Facebook page.

OCTOBER – Pumpkin the Raccoon and Her Dog Sisters Become an Instagram Sensation

Pumpkin the Raccoon, with her dog sister Oreo

Pumpkin the Raccoon, with her dog sister Oreo. Photo via @PumpkintheRaccoon Instagram.

Dogs and cats have new competition in the cuteness category, thanks to one photogenic Bahamian raccoon. This October, Pumpkin the raccoon became the toast of the internet when her adorable exploits on Instagram went viral. Pumpkin was rescued by Rosie Kemp and her daughter Laura Young after she fell out of a tree and was abandoned by her mother. When the Bahamas Humane Society was unable to care for the orphan raccoon, Laura and her husband William agreed to keep her.

Pumpkin lives with two canine sisters, Oreo and Toffee, and the trio get along swimmingly. (Literally, they hang out by the pool!) Their adorable pictures soon became a social media phenomenon, and Pumpkin’s Instagram account now has over 470,000 followers. Who knew raccoons could be so cute?

NOVEMBER – Amy Poehler and Her Funny Friends Help Shelter Dogs Find Homes

Amy Poehler is not just a funny lady – she’s also an animal lover! So she recruited her comedian friends to help with a hilarious and successful adoption campaign, “Heavy Petting.” Hosted on her website Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Heavy Petting is a video series starring adoptable dogs, whose unique personalities are brought to life in voiceover by wonderfully funny people. There’s Madison, the “highly intellectual” terrier mix voiced by Poehler’s drolly deadpan “Parks and Recreation” co-star Aubrey Plaza. Then there’s Kiki, the sturdy male (yes, male) American Bulldog voiced by Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman. And finally, there’s Buddy, the tough “New Yawker” voiced by comedian Aziz Ansari. Check out this little Maltese with a big heart in the video below.

In a recent update, Smart Girls reports that six of the eight dogs featured in Heavy Petting have been adopted! Fantastic news, and we look forward to more funny videos and fabulous dogs in 2016.

DECEMBER – Two Dogs Go to Battle Against the Elf on the Shelf

Ricochet and Rina vs. the Elf on the Shelf

Ricochet and Rina vs. the Elf on the Shelf, via Facebook.

December means many things – colder temperatures, crowded shopping malls, hectic travel schedules and, of course, “Elf on the Shelf” photos on your friends’ Facebook pages. This year, two California dogs set aside their normal do-gooder ways to have some mischievous fun with the Elf phenomenon. Ricochet, a surfing service dog, and her sister Rina (one of the winners of our 2015 DogWatch Halloween Photo Contest) posted an entertaining series of photos on their Facebook page detailing their Elf on the Shelf hijinx. Our favorites are the elf bowling, silly string payback and the dress up shots.

In addition to spreading joy, the Dogs vs. Elf of the Shelf photos are part of Ricochet and Rina’s Surfin’ Santa Paws! campaign to support Ricochet’s surf dog program, designed to help create positive experiences for kids with special needs, adults with disabilities and wounded warriors with PTSD. Right on, Ricochet and Rina!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these 12 stories from the Year in Dogs, and we look forward to sharing many more stories like these with you in 2016 here and on our Facebook page!


Featured Image Credits, clockwise from top left: @WranglerTODAY via Twitter, Charleston Animal Society via Facebook, @TSA via Instagram, @PumpkintheRaccoon via Instagram , Surf dog Ricochet, the SURFice dog! via Facebook, still from “Feast” © Disney via Buzzfeed, Harley via Facebook, and @Uggie_TheArtist via Twitter.