2008 NJVMA Animal Hall of Fame Inductees
Melvin Heckman is a big, tough guy. Tinker Toy is a tiny little poodle. They make a perfect couple. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Melvin says. Tinker Toy’s devotion has been a mainstay for Melvin as he recovers from the strokes that have kept him fighting for his health over the past year. “Through it all he’s the one who cheered me up and made me laugh with his antics.” Tink even visited Melvin in the hospital and that visit made all the difference. “Even though I was very ill, he made me feel like a million bucks. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through everything if it wasn’t for him” Tinker Toy was nominated by Dr. Suzanne Smith of Spring Mills Veterinary Hospital in Milford.
Therapy animals come in all sizes and shapes, but few come in the 120-pound size that Takoda brings to his work. The three-year-old Shiloh Shepherd brings a giant economy size package of gentleness and compassion to the severely handicapped people he works with. After a budding career as a show dog, it took just one visit to the nursing home room of owner Cindy Schliefer’s mother to put Takoda on a new career path. “I knew right away this is what he was meant to do,” she said. Takoda was nominated by Dr. Larry Hirshenson of Morris Hills Veterinary Clinic in Boonton.
Renato F574 and his handler, Master at Arms 1 John Washington are back at Earle Naval Weapons Station after a tour at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where Renato distinguished himself in the war against terror. In the face of threats from Afghan warlords, Renato and MA1 Washington provided a critical line of defense for coalition forces at Bagram. “Renato is a tireless worker and one of the sweetest Military Working Dogs I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” wrote nominating veterinarian, CPT Michele Pfannenstiel of Fort Monmouth.
Cassius Clay is a three-year-old pit bull whose selfless donations of blood at the Willingboro Veterinary Clinic’s volunteer blood bank have saved the lives of 16 seriously ill or injured fellow canines. It takes a special dog to sit perfectly still for the long minutes while blood is taken from the jugular vein. In addition to his steely discipline, “Cash” also displays a sunny personality that has made him a favorite at the clinic and a good will ambassador for a breed that is all too frequently judged on the basis of the actions of a few bad owners. In the words of nominating veterinarian Larry Wolf, “He is a dog who wants to make a difference in the world.”
The Animal Hall of Fame was established to honor and celebrate the human-animal bond. Few people honor it more consistently in their daily work than Carol Hoffman. As a volunteer at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, Carol’s job is to act as a matchmaker between dogs who are leaving the program and the many, many people waiting to adopt them. She brings to that job an intense devotion to the dogs and the families who raised them as puppies. Her goal, she says, is to be able to look the puppy-raisers in the eye and say she has found the perfect home for the dog they lavished their time and affection on. She works with each individual dog and interviews each prospective adopter to assure, in her own heart, that every adoption is a perfect match. Carol was nominated by Dr. Dolores Holle chief veterinarian at The Seeing Eye Inc.