"This year's Humane Awards winners not only exemplify our mission of preventing cruelty to animals, but bring greater awareness to the unique and meaningful bond between humans and their pets," said ASPCA president and CEO Matthew Bershadker. "We're humbled by their achievements and their dedication to the voiceless and vulnerable animals who bring us so much joy."

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ASPCA, Jonny made a special connection with Xena, the Warrior Puppy. // ASPCA, Jonny made a special connection with Xena, the Warrior Puppy.

Dog of the Year

Xena the Warrior Puppy went from being at death's door to changing the life of an autistic 8-year-old boy.

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Xena was a malnourished pit bull puppy when she was found abandoned in a DeKalb County, Ga., backyard in September 2012. Chrissy Kaczynski, one of the founders of Friends of DeKalb Animals, didn’t expect the 4-month-old pup to survive, but Xena pulled through. Two months later, at a party to celebrate Xena’s turnaround, the dog made a special connection with Jonny, who had been diagnosed with autism and rarely communicated with anyone. Everything changed, though, when he met Xena. With her as his faithful companion, Jonny started chatting about the world around him, singing and playing.

“He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years,” said mom Linda Hickey. “These two were destined to be together.”

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Xena and Jonny's story has garnered national attention, and the pair has worked to promote Autism Awareness Month as well as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.

Cat of the Year

A stray cat made all the difference in the life of Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott while he was deployed in southern Afghanistan — and now he’s made all the difference in hers.

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ASPCA, Koshka is enjoying her new life in Oregon, thanks to Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott. // ASPCA, Koshka is enjoying her new life in Oregon, thanks to Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott.

Named Koshka, which is Russian for cat, the kitty was by Knott’s side as he mourned the death of two of his closest friends, who were killed in the bombing of a military convoy.

When Knott’s tour ended, he wanted to bring Koshka back to Oregon with him, but it wasn’t easy. Knott’s pals convinced a daring translator to make a risky trip to Kabul with the feline. From there, the soldier’s parents paid the $3,000 cost to fly Koshka to the U.S. But it was all worth it: Koshka is now living peacefully in Oregon with Knott’s family.

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Read about the Kid of the Year and other honorees here.