Celebrating The Extraordinary Life of Harley Taylor

Aubrie Kavanaugh of Paws4Change has always worked hard as an advocate for animals and as an educator about puppy mills. She wrote the following article four days after Harley passed away:

Photo credit: American Humane Association
Photo credit: American Humane Association

Harley was the 2015 American Hero Dog, one of my ‘clients’ and one of my personal heroes.

Like many who have followed Harley’s story, I am still struggling to process the fact that he no longer walks the Earth. Our sense of community loss simply cannot compare to the loss of Rudi Taylor and Dan Taylor or even those who spent a lot of time with him like Michele Burchfield, Teddy and National Mill Dog Rescue founder Theresa Strader. I mean no offense at all when I say that I’m still getting choked up knowing that he is no longer here. I don’t really have a right to feel that way, but I do.

As I think about how we all came to know Harley, I think we can all agree that the whole sequence of events was extraordinary, if not magical. He was left in a bucket to die. What are the odds that he would be saved? Surely those odds were against him from the start. Mill dogs die each and every day in ways most of us would find criminal. It is a miracle that he was saved at all.

Then when we think about the family who took Harley in and made them their boy, that is also extraordinary. There are a lot of people who love dogs and a lot of people who could have given Harley a charmed life, far removed from his suffering in the mill. Surely the odds were against him crossing paths with the Taylors who we all must admit are extraordinary people. Their incredible work to help educate the public about mills and to help save other mill dogs is just something magical to behold and it is something many of us would not have the strength to endure.

When I think about the success of the Harley to the Rescue campaign, I just have to smile. Who could know that casting Harley and Teddy as little superheros would affect us all so profoundly? Saving mill dogs is dirty, difficult heart-wrenching work, but because of the incredibly positive energy behind the way it was and is handled, we all smiled and cheered every time they set out on a new mission to save more dogs.

Like all of you, I voted every day for Harley to be named the American Humane Association Hero Dog last year and when I heard he had won, my heart swelled with pride not because I had anything to do with it, but because I knew what it meant to his family and to Teddy’s family and to the Straders and to every person who has supported or volunteered with National Mill Dog Rescue. I knew that him being named would change the national discussion about mills and reach so many more people so we can end the mills once and for all. When I watched the ceremony on television, I knew he had already won but I still got all choked up watching the process and hearing Theresa’s voice when his name was announced. I found myself crying with a smile on my face so wide that it made my face hurt.

I will not compare losses with any of you. That would just be selfish. But I will say that life has taught me that no one gets to stay, human or canine. We all have a finite amount of time to live and love and learn and try to make a difference. When I find myself so incredibly sad for the loss of Harley, I am reminding myself how incredibly fortunate we all are that we even knew about him in the first place.

Harley’s life was both extraordinary and magical. I plan to hold that in my heart when I think about him and as I move forward, working to honor his memory with my new projects related to mill dogs and related to National Mill Dog Rescue.

We are all so very blessed. It’s time to get busy to continue Harley’s legacy and to honor his truly extraordinary life. -Aubrie Kavanaugh on March 24, 2016

Please be sure to visit Aubrie’s website/blog and follow Paws4Change on Facebook.

“I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.” -Aubrie Kavanaugh


  1. I too remember how unbelievably proud I was when Harley won Hero Dog of the Year. My pack looked at me as if I had lost my mind as I jumped in the air and screamed! I know all Hero Dog are special but Harley and what he fought for are just extra special. He brought so much attention to the plight of mill dogs, so many of us never know. I smile now as I tear up.


  2. Beautiful words, I think what you said describes how we all feel about Harley, the Taylor’s and Teddy. I feel I know Harley even never having met him. I would share his posts with a friend and even though we both have dogs of our own that we love with all of our being we referred to Harley as “our” boy.

    Run and be pain free sweet Harley your work down here is done. It is now time for us to continue you legacy!


  3. Thank you for sharing this. I have long believed that some animals in our lives serve a higher purpose, whether it is to help make us better people or to help shape our society. I am sure that Harley is one such dog. The circumstances of his life and rescue really were extraordinary and while I still miss the little boy I never met, I know his legacy will be something to behold. I am sad that he could not stay. But our lives are all the richer for having known him and known of him and for that I am grateful.


  4. I don’t think we will ever get to stop crying when we think of Harley. He certainly touched many hearts and still does as he runs free at the Bridge. It gives me comfort knowing that my loved ones are there and having fun with Harley.


  5. Harley, changed my life. I miss him so much. I knew about puppy mills but Harley put a whole new light on the subject. Today I talk about the evils of puppy mills to whom ever will listen. Together thru education and legislation we can put an end to puppy mills!


  6. What an awesome Tribute!! As I begin to read the article I began to tear up! Yes, the Taylor’s are Special People and Harley was more than Special to us, he stood for something that was near and dear to our hearts, our own little fur babies! The Taylor’s shared Harley’s Special Journey with us and we will forever be grateful! He is a Hero to me and always will be!


  7. really sums up how I am sure all of us feel. I thought of Harley this afternoon and I started tearing up – #HarleysDream


  8. I agree with your lovely article! As someone who voted daily I knew a Hero Dog Harley would spread the word about mill dogs. Yes the stars were in alignment regarding Harley. To think a little dog dying in a bucket could leave such a legacy!


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