Alligator-Fighting Dog Named Heinz Pet Products 47th Dog Hero of the Year; Canine Honored for Protecting Injured Elderly Woman; Two Additional Dogs Given Runner-Up Awards

PITTSBURGH--()--April 3, 2002--An Australian blue heeler who survived an encounter with an alligator was named the Heinz Pet Products(TM) 47th Dog Hero of the Year. Two-year-old Blue, from LaBelle, in Southwest Florida, saved an 85-year-old woman from an alligator attack and survived numerous injuries from the dangerous encounter. Blue continues a tradition of canine heroism that began in 1954 with the announcement of the first Dog Hero of the Year Award.

Ruth Gay took the family dog for an evening walk along an alligator-infested canal behind her house. Gay slipped on the wet grass and fell, breaking her nose and dislocating her shoulder. Unable to get up and not expecting her daughter and son-in-law, Sylvia and Albert Gibson, home for several hours, Gay yelled for help while Blue lay at her side. Suddenly, Blue growled and ran away into the darkness. Apparently, Gay's calls attracted the attention of an alligator that climbed the canal embankment about 50 feet from where Gay lay injured.

Blue, sensing the danger Gay was in, began fighting with the alligator. Despite suffering numerous puncture wounds to his stomach, Blue successfully deterred the reptile. When the Gibson's arrived home more than an hour later, Blue ran to their car, barking and jumping. He led them to where Gay had fallen. The Gibson's took Gay to the hospital where she remained for six weeks, recuperating from shoulder surgery. After caring for Gay, the couple took Blue to a Fort Myers, Florida animal clinic where he required surgery to repair the wounds. Both Gay and Blue have recovered from their injuries.

"I heard the alligator and Blue fighting, and I thought Blue was dead," said Gay. "It wasn't until my daughter came home and I heard Blue barking that I realized he was still alive and that he saved me from the alligator."

For his heroic actions, Blue and his family received these 47th Dog Hero of the Year Award prizes:

-- One year's supply of various Heinz Pet Products such as Kibbles `N Bits(R), Gravy Train(R), Reward(R)and Skippy(R) dog foods and Pup-Peroni(R), Meaty Bone(R), Jerky Treats(R) and Snausages(R) dog snacks;
-- $500 cash;
-- $100 gift certificate to Blue's veterinary clinic for his ongoing care;
-- Specially engraved Dog Hero food bowl.

47th Dog Hero of the Year Runners Up

Two other dogs also were recognized for their heroic acts in 2001. Each received $200 and a certificate of merit.

Patty, a yellow labrador retriever from Glenburn, Maine, won first runner-up honors for preventing her owner Ray Fogg from drowning during a winter sea-duck hunting trip. Fogg's boat capsized in the 40 degree ocean water. Even though he was wearing a life jacket, he knew he couldn't swim ashore with the cold water temperature and weight of sodden clothes. Fogg yelled for Patty and grabbed onto her tail and kicked. Even though she was swimming against the current, Patty never gave up as she towed Fogg 200 yards to a ledge. They were rescued by game wardens later that night.

Neo, an 11-month-old Siberian husky from Charlotte, North Carolina, is the second runner-up. While attending the Siberian Husky National Specialties in Kerhonkson, NY, Neo and Marci Snead, his diabetic owner who also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalsia, went for a walk in an isolated part of the grounds. Unfortunately, Snead suffered hypoglycemic shock and began having convulsions, causing her to fall to the ground and strike her head. Recognizing the danger his owner was in, Neo ran to a building and caught the attention of a group of people. They followed Neo as he ran to where Snead lay and summoned an ambulance. She has recovered from her ordeal.

Heinz Pet Product Dog Hero of the Year Award

"Blue, our 47th Dog Hero of the Year, is especially unique since we've never had a winner who fought an alligator - he's a very brave dog," said John Essegian, general manager of Heinz Pet Products dog brands. "Heinz Pet Products is proud to acknowledge our amazing dog heroes this year and continue the tradition of recognizing the loyalty and bravery of man's best friend."

The Heinz Pet Products Dog Hero of the Year Award recognizes dogs that have gone to extraordinary lengths to assist someone in need. The program began in 1954 when Tang, a Collie from Denison, Texas was named the first Dog Hero of the Year. Tang saved children from severe harm or death on five separate occasions. Winners during the past 47 years include canines that alerted owners to fires or carbon monoxide poisoning, prevented drownings or animal attacks or saved people from dangerous situations. For more information about the program and past award recipients, or to nominate a dog hero, visit

Since 1954, Heinz Pet Products has offered nutritional and well-balanced pet food and pet snacks that dog and cat owners have been eager to serve their pets. Heinz Pet Products offers the most balanced family of products of any American pet food company, including major brands such as 9-Lives, Kibbles `N Bits, Skippy, Gravy Train and Reward. Heinz Pet Snacks is one of the leading producers of pet snacks in the United States. Heinz Pet Snacks includes the following leading brands: Pup-Peroni, Meaty Bone, Jerky Treats, Pounce, Snausages, Wagwells and Canine Carry Outs. Heinz Pet Products is committed to keeping pets healthy, eating well and building a trust-filled relationship with pet owners.

Attention Television Assignment Editors/Producers: Satellite Newsfeed Notification

Newsfeed includes video of Blue and Ruth Gay, area of attack, alligators and Blue with prizes. Soundbites include Ruth Gay, Albert Gibson and Blue's veterinarian.

Wed., April 3, 2002
1400-1415 ET
Telstar 6 C/11
3920 V (downlink frequency)

Thurs., April 4, 2002
1030-1045 ET
Telstar 4 C/10
3900 H (downlink frequency)

Note: A Photo is available at URL:



Heinz Pet Products
Patti Jo Lambert, 724/869-1769
Michael Mullen, 412/237-3562


Heinz Pet Products
Patti Jo Lambert, 724/869-1769
Michael Mullen, 412/237-3562