LOUISVILLE — The Kentucky Humane Society’s facility director and Ethan the dog’s owner have received one of the commonwealth’s highest honors.
Jeff Callaway was honored as a Kentucky Colonel on Wednesday, the Kentucky Humane Society posted on social media. The title is one of the highest honors bestowed by the governor of Kentucky.
The title recognized Callaway for his work in Ethan the dog’s recovery after the dog was left for dead in the humane society’s parking lot in Jan. 2021.
Following a full recovery, Ethan was adopted by Callaway in March 2021.
Now Ethan could be next for national recognition.
Ethan, a Presa Canario Spanish Mastiff, took the world by storm when his story of survival was shared on social media in 2021.
A year-and-a-half later, he’s up for the 2022 American Hero Dog title from American Humane.
“So American Humane Hero Dogs Awards puts on a contest every year,” said Callaway. “This year there were over 500 dogs in the contest and seven categories…Ethan was luckiest enough to win the Shelter Dog category.”
Callaway, and Ethan, live with their family in Jeffersonville.
“Now he is competing against six other category winners,” Callaway said. “Voting is until Sept. 13.”
Anyone 18 and older can vote once per day at: https://www.herodogawards.org/dog/2022/shelter/ethan?
Since Ethan won the Shelter Dog of the Year award, he and Callaway will attend a gala in Florida on Nov. 11.
It will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel and the winner of the overall award will be announced at that event.
Ethan’s story has been shared on social media since day one, when a family dropping off donations to the Kentucky Humane Society found the dog in the parking lot.
“The Kentucky Humane Society called me and said ‘Are you still here? Someone just dropped a dead dog off in the parking lot, can you check the cameras?” Callaway said.
Callaway went into the vet area later on to check on the dog.
“He took a breath,” Callaway said, and the rest is history.
In the summer of 2021 Ethan got an MRI to check on his health after he started having seizures.
The results were concerning, showing lesions on his brain and other injuries tied to abuse, starvation and dehydration. He’s doing just fine today.
Winning the Shelter Dog of the year award is a reflection of how much Ethan’s story has had an impact.
“The family that found him came back and they wanted to see him a month or two later and they were talking to their sons about how because they’d stopped and saw him it saved his life,” Callaway said. “I explained they did n’t just save his life from him, they saved thousands of dogs’ lives.”
Callaway said the money raised because of Ethan helped saved the lives of thousands of other dogs and raised awareness of shelter dogs nationwide. Donations to Kentucky Humane also poured in from across the country.
Callaway has kept up with Ethan’s story on social media because he said it’s inspiring to people going through hard times.
“I would get letters from people who were just diagnosed with cancer…or from someone who just lost someone during COVID and didn’t have a chance to say goodbye,” he said. “Even to the point where I had a few people tell me they were going to commit suicide, then they saw Ethan’s story and said, ‘I’m going to see what happens with this dog’ and the next day he was a little bit better, and they decided they’d live.”
Dr. Emily Bewley is the veterinarian at the Kentucky Humane Society.
She said Ethan was a pivotal patient for the animal shelter.
“When they carried him into vet services, I thought they were actually bringing me a dead dog,” she said, noting Ethan was extremely emaciated. “He was just the absolute skinniest dog I’ve ever seen that was still breathing.
She still sees Ethan at the shelter nearly every day she’s there.
“I think shelter animals get a bad rap, people get pure bred and you get that from a breeder,” she said. “I think Ethan is an example of how you can find incredible animals, incredible pets and incredible stories at your local shelter.”
Being able to share Ethan’s story to help lift the spirits of others was so important for KHS.
“His heart just kept beating. I don’t think there are many animals that do that,” she said. “If he won, that would be totally insane, Ethan keeps breaking these barriers.”