Pets of the Year: The Most Amazing Rescues, Hilarious Animals and Wild Stories of 2019
Top Role Model
Piglet — this 6-lb., deaf-blind puppy — may be small, but he's setting a big example. When the 3-year-old dachshund-Chihuahua mix was rescued in 2017 by a veterinarian in Connecticut, he suffered from severe anxiety, but his life was destined for something bigger. Today, Piglet's story of overcoming his handicaps is the subject of a downloadable curriculum called the Piglet Mindset, which teaches kids about acceptance and compassion.
It's hard enough to get one pet to sit still for a photo — let alone 16 ... all at once. But Liam Beach, from Rhondda, South Wales, pulled it off in just eight minutes after a friend bet him a box of chocolates.
"I literally grabbed them, squeezed a squeaky tennis ball to get their attention and clicked away," says the 19-year-old.
Most Surprising Surrogate
Jane Whitton of Kent, England, wasn't sure how her year-old beagle Daisy would react to two new kittens. But she instantly bonded with the babies — and even started nursing the duo.
Best Wedding Crasher
Sarina and Cory Brewer had just tied the knot in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Sept. 2, when a real party animal showed up — and took a stroll down the aisle. The Brewers' wedding photographer managed to snap a few shots of the bear before the furry photobomber wandered back into the woods.
Best Big Screen Debut
Dallas Zoo lion cub Bahati, now 3, made her film debut this summer — sort of — as the model for young Simba in Disney's remake of The Lion King. Animators reviewed video of Bahati's first steps, first meal and other milestones from her infancy to create the movie's Simba.
From donuts to avocados, Harlso can balance just about anything on his head. When the now-5-year-old dachshund was a pup, "I set his toy chicken on his head," says owner Paul Lavery, 30, "and he didn't shake it off." Harlso's unwavering talents have since earned him more than 200,000 followers on social media.
Most Shocking Road Trip
Coco, a young Shiba Inu from upstate New York, went for the ride of her life in October after she was accidentally hit by a car and got wedged in the front bumper. The unwitting driver drove for 45 minutes before realizing the dog was stuck. Thankfully, she suffered only minor injuries.
Best Field Trip
In January, Elijah, a service-dog-in-training with Canine Companions for Independence, became Internet-famous after a field trip to California's Disneyland, where the 2-year-old Labrador retriever posed with fans like Pluto and Winnie the Pooh.
World's Cutest Rescue Dog
Kasey, a 6-year-old Keeshond from Riverton, New Hersey, won PEOPLE's World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest this year — triumphing over nearly 7,000 canine candidates. The adorable pooch is a puppy mill rescue who, at first, couldn't relax enough to lie down. But thanks to patience and love, she now approaches strangers and loves attention.
Best Best Man
When Aaron Benitez got married in September, there was no question whom he'd choose to be his best man: It had to be Prince Michael — his feline sidekick on Aaron's Animals, Benitez's YouTube account with more than 2 million subscribers. Prince Michael had no trouble fulfilling his wedding day duties.
Top Hero Hound
Sully, George H.W. Bush's beloved service dog, earned the ASPCA's Public Service Award this year for bringing assistance, love and joy to the former President, and for his continued service following Bush's November 2018 death. The 3-year-old Lab now helps veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Best Happy Ending
Miracle has earned his name. In October, the dog was found buried under rubble in the Abaco Islands, Bahamas, three weeks after Hurricane Dorian demolished the area. Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Florida nursed the emaciated pup back to health, and on Nov. 12 he was adopted by a Florida family.
Most Reluctant Exerciser
Cinderblock won plenty of hearts after a video of the 21-lb. cat refusing to use an underwater treadmill went viral. Since then, she's been adjusting to the fitness equipment at the Northshore Veterinary Hospital in Bellingham, Washington, where staff memebrs are hoping to help Cinderblock safely lose weight.
Most Artful Accessory
For Gus, a year-old golden retriever from Toronto, wearing the cone of shame after neuter surgery made him an Internet star. His owner transformed the cone into a variety of costumes, including a basketball hoop and a martini glass.