2015’s Dog of the Year Award Goes to Tara the Hero Cat

Victoria Heuer
Jun 22, 2015
3 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Tara the Cat Recognized for Courage in the Face of Danger

It’s never a surprise when a dog wins the award for pet hero of the year; dogs are well known for jumping into action in times of crisis and saving their owners from injury, or even death. Cats…  not so much. While canine history has hundreds of dogs to represent bravery and heroism, cats have only a handful.

So when the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Los Angeles announced their choice from the nominations for the most heroic dog of 2014, it came as a big surprise that the title was awarded to a cat.

Of course, the winner is not just any cat. Last year, Tara, a 6-year-old cat living with her human family in Bakersfield, California, raced into action when her 4-year-old human companion, Jeremy, was attacked without warning or provocation by a neighbor’s roaming dog. The entire incident was caught on security cameras and the video posted on YouTube by Jeremy’s father, Roger Triantafilo.

The boy had been playing quietly on his tricycle in his family’s driveway when the dog spied him and ran into the yard, grabbed his bare leg, and dragged him from his trike. With his teeth clamped into Jeremy’s leg, the dog was dragging the boy across the driveway and shaking his head violently when Tara sprinted toward them, slamming her body into the dog. The startled dog released Jeremy and ran, with Tara close behind him. At the same time, Jeremy’s mother, Erica Triantafilo, heard the boy screaming and ran to him. The entire incident lasted only a few seconds, so fast that Jeremy’s mother, Erica Triantafilo, did not realize what had occurred until she watched the video footage later that day.

"A cat this spectacular should be the National Hero Dog"

The spcaLA National Hero Dog Award, now in its 33rd year, is traditionally awarded to a dog that has displayed a courageous act or has gone to extraordinary lengths to save or protect the life of a human, given that the dog has never been formally trained for rescues or as a police dog.

Some of the previous winners include Ronnie, a Wire Fox Terrier who defended his human and canine companion against a coyote intruder, and Diamond, a Pit Bull Terrier who alerted her family when their home caught fire and shielded one of her human companions from flames, injuring herself in the process. Tara is the first cat to ever receive the award.

In a press release announcing the winner, spcaLA President, Madeline Bernstein said “We were so impressed by Tara’s bravery and fast action that the selection committee decided that a cat this spectacular should be the National Hero Dog.”

Tara and her family were presented with the etched glass award inscribed with Tara’s name, along with a year’s supply of cat food. The spcaLA emphasized the special distinction of the winner in a cute and clever way. Rather than have the award rewritten from “Annual National Hero Dog Award” to “Annual National Hero Cat Award,” the spcaLA had the award company strikethrough the word “dog” and place “cat” above it in a handwriting style.

This is not the first time Tara has been honored for her courage. Last September she was also awarded the Blue Tiger Award, which traditionally is awarded to military working dogs. “It was brought to our attention that Tara fulfilled a similar mission," said Susan C. Haines, National Executive Director for the U.S. Exercise Tiger Commemorative Foundation.

Tara’s hometown of Bakersfield honored her with a certificate of recognition , which read in part, “Your act of valor serves as an example to American household cats everywhere.” She was also awarded her very own day – June 3 was officially made “Tara the Hero Cat Day” in Kern County, California.

You can read more about Tara on her website, and see more of her at her official Facebook page

Tara with her human companion, Jeremy / Tara Hero Cat - Official Facebook page

Image: Tara the Hero Cat, courtesy aspcaLA

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