PEDIGREE Foundation Names 2023 Rescue Dog of the Year

Husky puppy demonstrates the power of compassion, connections and community

On November 2, 2022, PEDIGREE Foundation announced its 2023 Rescue Dog of the Year is Ciri, a husky pup adopted from Charleston Animal Society in South Carolina. Her inspiring story of compassion and community demonstrates the power of coming together to help more dogs find their perfect homes.

A Tail of a Trail Hike – Compassion Leads to Rescue

On a beautiful day in August, Emilie Ascencio headed to Croft State Park in Spartanburg County, South Carolina for a hike with her dog. What she thought would be a quiet day on the trails instead set off a truly incredible chain reaction: a wandering husky, hungry and searching for companionship.

Thinking she may have been lost, Mars employee Emilie looked for a collar and tag to reunite Ciri with her family, but it was a fruitless search. As a pet parent herself, Emilie knew she would be distraught if her puppy was lost so she packed her up, drove her home, and contacted the local shelters about a lost husky pup. With no response, it became clear that Ciri was a stray.

The Power of Connections and Community

Emilie, who had volunteered with PEDIGREE Foundation in the past, then leaned on her network from Mars. She reached out to Deb Fair, Executive Director of PEDIGREE Foundation.

Deb jumped into action, connecting Emilie with Sean Hawkins, chief advancement officer at Charleston Animal Society. Deb had worked with Sean over the years and was familiar with their highly successful adoption programs because of a past PEDIGREE Foundation grant.

When the team at the Animal Society met Ciri, they again tried to locate her original family. Without a tag or microchip, which are highly recommended for all pets, the search changed directions and Ciri was put up for adoption.

According to Will Howell, digital marketing manager at the Animal Society, the husky left her mark on day one at the shelter: “I would definitely describe her as a firecracker. She’s got a hilarious personality. I took pictures of her when she first came in, and it was the most difficult thing to get clear photos of her. She was always wiggling around.”

Will’s efforts paid off. Social media manager Kay Hyman shared a post on the Charleston Animal Society Facebook page advertising “a young, energetic, smart” 6-month-old husky and adding that “If you’ve ever met a husky or know someone who has one, you know they need someone who is ready for the training and routine these types of dogs need.”

Charleston Animal Society’s Facebook post about Ciri

The post garnered hundreds of likes, comments, and shares from interested families. But the Animal Society team knew to proceed with caution. Shelters and rescues often find that large-breed, high-energy dogs have longer stays in shelters than their smaller-breed counterparts, and in Ciri’s case the goal was to ensure that her family would be a good fit for her “eerily smart” husky personality.

Charleston Animal Society relies on a conversation-based adoption process. Whether or not an adopter has children, the kind of home they live in, the lifestyle they maintain, and other factors help guide shelter staff towards the best possible match.

As the Animal Society team pondered these factors, one comment on the Facebook post stood out from the rest: Courtney Boone, a former foster for Charleston Animal Society, already had a female husky at home. Ciri had already touched so many hearts and connected so many people on her journey from stray to shelter pup, and while Courtney wasn’t actively looking for another dog, she truly seemed like the right dog for Courtney at the right time.

A Happy Tail

Will Howell was a part of the initial meeting, and described it as “love at first sight.”

When she met Courtney, “Ciri was, all of a sudden, sitting,” he recalls. “And doing tricks we didn’t know she could do.”

“Charleston Animal Society puts so much effort into finding a home for every animal. Our husky at home can be particular about other dogs, but Ciri fit perfectly into our family – kids, visitors, and all. She loves going on long walks and listening to music,” said Courtney. “She definitely found her family.”

Ciri loves to relax in her new home

“Community is key to helping more shelters increase their adoption efforts,” noted Fair. “Whether you can open up your home to fostering like Courtney did in the past for the Animal Society, adopt, volunteer or donate, your connection and time is critical in helping all of us end pet homelessness where every dog has a loving home.”

As 2023 Rescue Dog of the Year, a commemorative plush dog in Ciri’s honor will be sold by PEDIGREE Foundation throughout 2023. Proceeds support shelter and rescue grants to help more dogs find loving homes. Check out the Ciri plush dog at

You can also join the growing and passionate community of dog lovers who support PEDIGREE Foundation and its ongoing mission to help dogs find loving homes. Click here to sign up for emails from PEDIGREE Foundation and learn how you can help.

If you love dogs, you can help right now.

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