Nutley, N.J. - In October of 2011, Cody Berry opened the door to the gas chamber fully expecting to retrieve the dead bodies of 16 unwanted dogs. To his surprise, he saw a lone tail wagging among the supposedly dead animals.
Berry, an animal control officer in Florence, Ala., rushed in and grabbed the dog who was gasping for air. Just minutes before, he had placed that same dog into the chamber with the full intention of killing it.
“Cody rushed in, grabbed the dog, wrapped him a blanket and made sure he got fresh water and lots of air,” said Phil Stevenson, Florence’s media director.
Stevenson added: “Cody, being a young and very religious man, was amazed and confused how this dog could have survived, and immediately the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den from the Bible came to mind. Within minutes he had named the dog 'Daniel' and placed a name tag on him.”
Little did anyone know that Cody’s act of compassion for the stray Beagle-mix who had been at the shelter less than a week would lead to Daniel currently being in first place for the American Humane Association’s “Hero Dog Award,” competing against scores of other dogs. The winner will be announced on Oct. 6 at the Beverly Hills Hilton.
The shelter already had adopted a ban on the use of its gas chamber; however, that ban was not scheduled to take effect until Jan 1, 2012. As a result of Daniel’s miraculous survival Stevenson said, “we have completely dismantled our gas chamber and are trying very hard to convert to a 'no-kill' shelter." After Daniel’s death-defying miracle, no more dogs were placed in the chamber.
With the help of the charitable “Pilots for Paws” organization, Daniel was flown first to Tennessee where, according to his current owner Joe Dwyer of Nutley, N.J., “received some excellent veterinary care. He was neutered, got his teeth cleaned and some mange on the back of one his legs were treated.”
"Actually his teeth turned out whiter than mine," Dwyer jokingly said.
When asked why Daniel was taken out-of-state to be adopted, Stevenson said, "Up in the Northeast there is a shortage of adoptable dogs, so when possible we cooperate and send as many of our adoptable dogs as possible. Without the help of Pilots and Paws that wouldn’t be possible.”
Daniel ended up at the Eleventh Hour Rescue, a Rockaway, N.J.-based, non-profit animal rescue organization.
“I knew some of the members and half-heartedly said Daniel would make a great fifth dog around my house, not knowing it would ever happen,” Dwyer said.
After one adoption application for Daniel was turned-down, Dwyer jokingly added, “without of course consulting my wife, Geralynn, I put in an application to adopt him.” After several opportunities for Daniel to interact with Dwyer’s other four dogs, his application was approved.
For the past seven months, Daniel, who Dwyer estimates to be 18-months-old, lived with his dogs, including his 11-year-old Dachshund Rommel, who recently died.
Perhaps remembering his experience in the gas chamber, “Daniel was the first dog to notice Rommel’s death, and he took it quickly and harshly,” said Dwyer. In fact, Daniel took Rommel’s death so hard “that he had to be treated for colitis, which he is almost over,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer hopes that Daniel’s survival of the gas chamber "and his notoriety and fame will help people have a deeper level of respect for their pets and encourage more spaying and neutering," Dwyer added.
Dwyer said, "It's not just about the gas chamber, it's about the whole concept of being a good pet-parent, taking care of your animals, making sure they get good veterinary care and lots of love, and Daniel, being a very emotional dog, has a lot of love to offer."
“Daniel’s Law,” named in his honor is pending before the Pennsylvania Senate banning use of gas chambers in the state as a means of animal euthanasia.
After his near-death experience and flight from AL, Dwyer said “Daniel enjoys “running and playing with my three other dogs, mostly my therapy dog - Shelby, a Pitt-Bull mix.”
“Nutley being a small town where everyone just about knows everyone else, Daniel is known and loved by just about everyone in town, and he shows his unconditional love to everyone he meets," Dwyer said.
Dwyer said: “Having trained dogs for five years, I find Daniel at the end of the day after he has played with our other dogs all day all he wants to do is cuddle with my wife or I. In my opinion I would place him in the top five dog personalities.”
To vote for Daniel http://bit.ly/VoteDaniel