A year after Tristan Moulton was born, he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy type 2, and his parents, Travis and Melissa, were told he wouldn't live past the age of 4.
Now 6, Tristan, who loves watching Cars and playing hide-and-seek with his nurses, is beating those odds, but his world is tough: He's wheelchair-bound, requires 24-hour care and has already been airlifted to the hospital three times this year, due to pneumonia-related complications.
So when his parents agreed to get him a puppy in April, they hoped it would be a bright spot in his life. They took him to a Yorkshire terrier breeder 65 miles from their home in Victor, Idaho, and told him he could have any dog he wanted. He picked the runt of the 12-week-old litter, and named him Max.
In his new action flick The Losers, Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a ruggedly handsome tough guy with a heart of gold, which, come to think of it, probably wasn't much of a stretch for the 44-year-old actor.
While most of the cast and crew came back from filming in the jungles of Puerto Rico with souvenir trinkets, Morgan came back with a new best friend – a very grateful, rambunctious mutt named Bandit.
"He just wandered out of the jungle in Puerto Rico, like our second day there, and promptly got hit by a car," Morgan tells PEOPLE at the film's Los Angeles premiere.
Greg Guy wants his phone to stop ringing, but he knows that's probably not going to happen -- at least not for a while. "I just wish all this would die down a bit," says Guy, 62. "It's been crazy."
It seems that ever since news got out that his three-year-old feline, Schnautzie, won an animal hero award for sniffing out a potentially lethal gas leak in his house, every reporter in the world has felt compelled to phone him up and pester him with questions. "It could have been bad, real bad," explains Guy when asked what would have happened if Schnautzie hadn't alerted his wife Trudy, 55, that something was wrong.
With the help of the Internet, some kind drivers and a lot of gasoline, shelter dogs are getting a new start. Spared from being euthanized at a kill shelter, thousands of dogs have gone from death row to safe havens by traveling hundreds of miles in a journey that starts in the South and the Midwest and usually ends in Canada.
Called the Doggie Underground Railroad, it works thanks to the efforts of Open Arms Pound Rescue and its network of volunteers, pounds, foster homes and e-mail lists that an average of 15 dogs per week have been rescued since 2007.
When Troy Yokum arrived home after a tour of duty in Iraq last year, he spent one day relaxing with family before hatching a plan. Stunned by the stories of friends who'd returned from the war and lost their jobs, he was on a mission: To raise money for struggling military families, and bring awareness to his cause.
Now, seven months later, Yokum is preparing to pound the pavement on a 7,000-mile, 16-month cross-country walk, with his sister's 2-year-old Shiba Inu Emmie by his side. Inspired by Terry Fox, the cancer research activist who attempted to run across Canada with an artificial leg, Yokum, 30, knew he had to do something big to draw attention.
"Terry raised so much money, and I was so impressed with his story," Yokum tells PEOPLEPets.com. "I knew if I was at least one-quarter as successful as him, I could raise some serious funds." Yokum's goal is to raise $5 million for Soldiers' Angels, earmarked for needy families.
With the help of companies like Louisville Slugger and Dog Is Good, Yokum's dream is coming true. On Saturday, he'll begin the rain-or-shine journey in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., stopping in major cities and 20 Major League Baseball stadiums along the way. He'll first walk to Los Angeles – "I'm hoping to get on the Ellen DeGeneres Show," he says – then back east toward San Antonio, and onward to New York City and Boston. From there, he'll turn around and head back to Louisville.
Estimating his walk at roughly 50 million steps, Yokum knows it'll be hard on him, as well as on Emmie. "Twenty miles is roughly 100,000 steps for a dog, so you can do the math," he says. "But I don't want people to think this is punishing for her." In fact, Emmie and Yokum take daily 20-mile hikes together, and she'll get to ride in Yokum's chase vehicle whenever her paws are pooped. They'll take days off, too, but only Emmie will get to rest: Yokum plans to fill his downtime with press appearances.
Along the way, the duo will stay with host families and in American Legion and VFW facilities, and visit veterans hospitals to lift soldiers' spirits. "Emmie can bring a smile to anyone's face," Yokum boasts. He'll also carry a drum to draw extra attention to himself. "I want people to come out and interact, and learn about the cause," he says. "Qualified men and women who've risked their lives for this country shouldn't be doing teenage-level work. They deserve their well-paying jobs."
Yokum himself has risked it all for his country as well. "My mom thinks I've already scarified enough," he says. But somehow he's still finding a way to put others before himself. "If you'd told me a year ago when I was sitting in the desert in Iraq that I'd be doing this, I'd have said, 'You're joking'," Yokum says. "And now, here we are."
To contribute to Yokum and Emmie's walk, visit their official Web site (check out the event schedule to see if they'll be stopping in your city). And help support their cause with the "Never Walk Alone" T-shirt from Dog is Good ($19.99).
Meet more heroic animals on PEOPLEPets.com:
Chicago Cop, Dog Retire After 9 Years Together
Gracie the Dog Helps Paralyzed Owner Escape Fire
A heroic beagle named Valentine has proved to be a fiercely loving mother – even after being abandoned by her owner in a snowstorm when she was about to give birth.
During a brutal snow emergency in mid-February, Julie Holmes, the chief dog warden for Hamilton, Ohio, responded to a call for help from a local resident who heard two dogs barking at something that seemed out of place. Found were a thin mom and seven newborn puppies trying to survive the cold in extreme distress.
Even though Doug James had dreaded the day he would have to euthanize Gucci, 16, his beloved chow-husky mix, the college professor in Mobile, Ala., feels better than he had expected the day after it happened.
"I am doing well," James, a professor of public speaking and theater appreciation at Spring Hill College, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "I had been putting it off but Gucci hasn't been able to walk for three weeks and his kidneys were going. He had 15 1/2 good years, and I was blessed with that. I did the right thing for Gucci."
Jake Vernon, 32, was lying in bed in his house in Spokane, Wash. It was the morning of St. Patrick's Day and he was in pain, his eyes closed. Both his legs had been paralyzed in a car accident a decade ago, and his right leg had been broken in a recent hospital mishap. So he took some medication and that's when his dog, Gracie Bean, saved his life.
Gracie, an American pit bull terrier, had begun yapping at Jake. She ran to the back door, barking, then ran back to a groggy Jake –who yelled at her.
"I even swatted her a few times and told her to lay down and be good," he told PEOPLEPets.com in a recent telephone interview.
When Tiffany Norton rescued Champ, a 4-year-old German shepherd from south central Los Angeles, the 70-lb. dog had been shot in the jaw, several places around his neck, on the shoulder, and in his upper abdomen. It happened during a Feb. 27 home invasion.
"We learned that the Los Angeles Police Department responded to a home where Champ was shot," Norton, co-owner of Coastal German Shepherd Rescue in Irvine, Calif., tells PEOPLEPets.com. "We don't know if the dog was trying to protect his owner, or when he was shot. But police called Los Angeles Animal Services to come get the dog because the owner relinquished him."
The surgeon is concerned, but not because the patient is drooling. That's to be expected at the Holland Military Working Dog Hospital, located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Surgeon Maj. Michelle Franklin is examining a spectacular wound on 5-year-old Sumo, a Belgian Tervuren shepherd who has gone through four operations. "We've taken pieces of skin from other places," explains Franklin, pointing at her patient's side, "and shifted them around to try to help him heal."
Sumo's prognosis is good; Franklin says he'll be able to return to work as soon as the wound heals.
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