Picnics, Pythons and Heroes ... Oh My! Golden Retriever Recognized as Kibbles 'N Bits 49th Dog Hero of the Year; Courageous Canine Rescues Young Girl From Escaped Python

While taking a break from protecting the family from python snakes, Sundance, the Kibbles 'n Bits 49th Dog Hero of the Year winner, poses with the Passalacqua girls - Kaila (7) and Sara (3) - at their home in Farmingville, New York. (Photo: Business Wire)

SAN FRANCISCO--()--July 7, 2004--For nearly 50 years, canines of all shapes and sizes have been honored for their acts of heroism through the Dog Hero of the Year award. This year is no different. Del Monte Foods, maker of Kibbles 'n Bits(R) dog food today announced that it is bestowing its annual Kibbles 'n Bits Dog Hero of the Year Award to a Golden Retriever from New York named Sundance who exemplifies the spirit of canine heroism celebrated since 1954.

"Kibbles 'n Bits brand is proud to sponsor the Dog Hero of the Year Award and showcase the extraordinary and heroic acts dogs perform everyday," said Krista Sahnd, senior brand manager of Del Monte Pet Products. "This award spotlights the unique and special relationship between owners and their dogs."

While the deeds performed by these daring dogs are all different, the owners can agree on one thing: Kibbles 'n Bits dog food helps their dog achieve great things. Whether its providing great taste or 100 percent of the complete and balanced nutrition they need, Kibbles 'n Bits dog food helps every dog be a hero.

Sundance's Story

It was a warm, sunny August afternoon and Michelle Passalacqua of Farmingville, NY, ran inside her kitchen to pour her two daughters, Kaila (7) and Sara (3), a drink for their backyard picnic. Kaila followed her mother inside to help, leaving Sara to play in their new toy ball pit. Seconds later, Passalacqua heard a scream and then crying. She ran outside and found their pet Golden Retriever, Sundance, barking at a large, strange-looking snake dead on the ground and Sara crying on top of the picnic table.

Passalacqua quickly checked her daughter for bites, but found nothing. Sundance had saved the day. The large, eight-foot snake - a ball python - had made the Passalacqua's ball pit its home and when Sara jumped in, it became agitated and started to slither toward her. Sundance, recognizing the danger, began to bark loudly at the reptile and eventually killed it to protect his young owner.

"When I heard that Sunny had won the Dog Hero of the Year Award, I almost broke into tears," said Passalacqua. "Sundance needs an operation to remove a few tumors from the back of his shoulders and we didn't have enough money to schedule the surgery. Now, we are going to use the prize money for his operation. He has done so much for us, now it's our turn to help him."

For his heroic act, Sundance will receive these 49th Dog Hero of the Year Award prizes:

-- One year's supply of Kibbles 'n Bits dog food;

-- $500 cash;

-- $100 grooming gift certificate; and a

-- Specially engraved Dog Hero food bowl.

Other Top Dogs

Two other dogs also were recognized for their heroic acts in 2003. Each received $200 and a certificate of merit.

Smokey Joe, a mix of Blue Heeler, Aussie and Border Collie, from Winnett, MT, rescued his owner, a cattle rancher named Susan Stone, from an enraged cow. A devoted companion and helper on the farm, Smokey Joe realized that Stone was in danger one morning when he heard a commotion in the barn. Smokey Joe, who was not permitted in the corral, sensed danger and raced into the gated area. There he found Stone lying on the ground after an angry heifer attacked and knocked her to the floor. She laid there, knowing that she was seriously injured, and watched as Smokey Joe attacked the cow. Luckily, Stone was able to slip out of the barn without further injury and called 911 for medical help. Thanks to Smokey Joe, Stone was able to get to the hospital and has since recovered from all of her injuries. To this day, Smokey Joe won't let a cow get within 10-feet of his beloved owner.

Bear, a Pomeranian, saved his family from a fire. In December 2003, lightning had struck the Cherry residence in Rison, AR. The fire department arrived at the house to ensure that nothing had caught fire and declared that it was safe for the family of four to remain at the house. Randy Cherry, however, decided to stay awake to ensure the safety of his family, just in case anything caught on fire later in the night. At approximately 4:30 in the morning, Bear began barking loudly in the Cherry kitchen. Randy, who had dozed off, quickly jumped up and ran to Bear. There, the track lighting under that kitchen cabinet had caught fire. Randy quickly put the small fire out and avoided any major damages or injuries. If Bear had not been on high alert, the Cherry's house would have went up in flames.

"It was a difficult decision selecting a winner from the 125 entries this year," said Sahnd. "We wanted to present this year's Dog Hero of the Year Awards to dogs that exhibited an amazing amount of courage, devotion and fortitude while performing a heroic deed, and I think we found these traits in Sundance, Smokey Joe and Bear."

The Kibbles 'n Bits 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, TX, 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 49 years include canines that alerted owners to 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 www.delmontedoghero.com.

Kibbles 'n Bits(R)

This summer, Kibbles 'n Bits(R) introduces a new wet dog food to its line of quality products, which include Kibbles 'n Bits(R) Original, Kibbles 'n Bits Burgers 'n Cheez(R), Kibbles 'n Bits Mini Bits(R), Kibbles 'n Bits(R) Lean, Kibbles 'n Bits Beefy Bits(R) and last year's newest addition - Kibbles 'n Bits(R) HomeStyle, complete with tender, meaty pieces that look like they were carved right off the bone, crunchy kibbles and wholesome vegetables.

The new Kibbles 'n Bits wet dog food boasts intensely aromatic, hearty cuts made with real beef and chicken along with wholesome vegetable chunks and for added convenience, the product features an easy-open lid. It also lets owners give their dogs the kind of food they'll love while providing all the nutrition they need - it meets AAFCO standards for 100 percent complete and balanced nutrition. The product is available in eight great tasting flavors, including Burger Dinner with Real Bacon and Cheese Bits in Gravy; Tender Slices with Real Beef and Vegetables in Gravy; Hearty Cuts with Real Beef, Chicken and Vegetables in Gravy; Tender Cuts with Real Turkey, Bacon and Vegetables in Gravy; Tender Cuts with Real Beef and Vegetables in Gravy; Tender Cuts with Real Lamb, Rice and Vegetables in Gravy; Tender Slices with Real Beef, Chicken and Vegetables in Gravy; and Ground Dinner with Real Beef Chunks and Vegetables. Kibbles 'n Bits wet dog food is available in 13.2-ounce cans that retail for around $.69-.79 and 22-ounce cans that retail for around $1.09-$1.19. The 13.2-ounce can size is also available in a convenient 12-can variety pack.

Del Monte Foods is one of the country's largest and most well-known producers, distributors and marketers of premium quality, branded and private label food and pet products for the U.S. retail market, generating over $3 billion in pro forma net sales in fiscal 2003. With a powerful portfolio of brands including Del Monte(R), Contadina(R), StarKist(R), S&W(R), Nature's Goodness(TM), College Inn(R), 9Lives(R), Kibbles 'n Bits(R), Pup-Peroni(R), Snausages(R) and NawSomes!(R). Del Monte products are found in nine out of 10 American households. For more information on Del Monte Foods Company, visit the Company's Web site at www.delmonte.com.

Contacts

Del Monte Foods
Melissa Murphy, 412/222-8713
or
Ketchum
Amie Ley, 412/456-3553

Contacts

Del Monte Foods
Melissa Murphy, 412/222-8713
or
Ketchum
Amie Ley, 412/456-3553