By Sue Botos
Watching Daniel “The Miracle Dog” during his recent visit to Magnificat High School, it’s easy to see that the beagle mix has a lot of heart, as he greeted students and staff with a wagging tail.
But it may have literally been his heart that gave Daniel a second chance.
“The vet told us he has an athlete’s heartbeat and that helped, in theory,” said owner Joe Dwyer as he recalled how Daniel came to his New Jersey home and has become a “spokesdog” for outlawing gas chambers in the nation’s animal shelters.
On Oct. 3, 2011, Daniel, then an abandoned 6-month-old pup, was placed in an Alabama shelter’s gas chamber along with 17 other dogs. After about 17 minutes of carbon monoxide exposure, staff members were shocked when they opened the door and Daniel walked out, sick but very much alive. He became an instant celebrity, earning the moniker “Daniel” after the biblical figure who survived the night in a lion’s den.
Daniel’s tale soon got legs. A Japanese news team did a story on him to motivate people to show compassion for animals victimized by that country’s earthquakes. He appeared on Anderson Cooper’s talk show. He even has a Twitter account (@DanielTheBeagle) and a Facebook page (Daniel the Beagle Dwyer).
When Dwyer, a dog trainer, heard of Daniel’s story, he knew the pup had to join his and wife Geralynn’s “pack.”
“We really wanted him in our home with our other dogs,” Dwyer said, adding that the dog met his criteria of being abused or neglected.
Dwyer contacted the group 11th Hour Rescue, with which he had worked before, and Daniel was transported to New Jersey. He quickly became part of the family, which includes Shelby, a pit bull found tied to a fence at a Shell gas station (thus the name Shelby). Dwyer noted that Shelby had the gentle temperament of a therapy dog, and after two reconstructive surgeries to repair her damaged hind legs, she was trained, and now visits hospitals and schools.
While Shelby’s mission is to change people’s conception that all pit bulls are vicious, Daniel’s is to help outlaw what advocates feel is an inhumane method of euthanizing animals. Soon after his rescue, “Daniel’s Law,” which outlaws the gassing of animals, was passed by the Pennsylvania state legislature. Today 22 states (including Alabama and Ohio) have the measure on their books. “We’re hoping to continue the trend we started to ban gas chambers and to encourage adoption, spaying and neutering,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer has even put Daniel’s story into words, writing “Daniel the Miracle Beagle.” Shelby also has her own book, “Shelby’s Grace.”
So, what is the life of a celebrity pooch like? For one thing, it does require a bit of travel. Recently, he made a guest appearance at a South Carolina event to raise money for rescue organizations. “He’s really good on planes and he sits on our laps. We never crate any of our dogs,” Dwyer commented as Daniel made friends with several Magnificat students, especially those sitting down with their lunch bags. “He loves attention. He’s very social,” Dwyer said. At home, he added, Geralynn cooks for all of the dogs.
While 22 states have banned euthanization of animals by gas, there is still more work to do for Daniel and the Dwyers, who are hoping for a total abolishment of gas chambers. “They are not a good reflection on a state,” he said.