- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Harley, a one-eyed Chihuahua with a bad heart, rotting teeth, fused spine, deformed legs and broken tail because of 10 years spent caged in a Midwestern puppy mill, has died, his owners and fans said Monday.

The 15-year-old dog became the oldest and smallest winner of the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog contest in 2015.

“In March, we bid farewell to one of America’s bravest heroes,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the AHA.

Rudi and Dan Taylor of Berthoud, Colorado, adopted Harley, giving him a home and a forum for his cause at 10 years old.

Rudi Taylor set up a Facebook page for the battered pup. His story inspired a campaign called “Harley to the Rescue” and was credited by the National Mill Dog Rescue with raising enough money to save and provide medical treatment for hundreds of dogs from puppy mills, said rescue founder Theresa Strader.

Harley was a fighter in every sense of the word until his very last day on March 10, Strader said.

Harley taught thousands of people, of all ages, about the need to stop these kinds of abuses and treat animals humanely, Ganzert said.

He made public appearances at events and schools.

“His grizzled appearance was a testament to the care and nurturing that he had never received,” she said.

She said AHA members saw Harley and the Taylors in Palm Beach at the beginning of March and they had just finished a multi-state rescue mission in which they saved another 150 dogs from puppy mills.

As a final tribute to him, the AHA dedicated the first round of voting for the 2016 Hero Dog Awards last week to the memory of Harley, “a little hero with a big dream.”

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