Donna Lawrence & Susie – A Partnership of Second Chances and Hope Wins HERO Dog Award

For a story to have a happy ending, sometimes its beginning is one of sadness and desperation. Such is the story of Susie, a pit bull mix dog, whose story began when, at eight weeks old she was beaten, burned and left for dead by her owner in Greenfield Park, Greensboro, NC. Her injuries were life threatening, with unbearable suffering, but a good Samaritan called animal control and Susie was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter. For weeks Susie endured daily treatments for her burns, as well as healing from a broken jaw and having her teeth knocked out. As Susie healed, a local woman, Donna Lawrence, began helping with fostering the puppy. It wasn’t long before Susie had won Donna’s heart, even though a neglected and abused dog had attacked Donna a year earlier, which left her scarred physically and psychologically. Susie and Donna were on a path to make a difference in not only each other’s lives, but in the cruelty laws of North Carolina, as well as to touch the lives of burn victims and share their story, bringing an understanding of what hope and forgiveness look like in this world.

A Long Road That Led to a Stroll on the Red Carpet
As Susie’s healing continued, the man that hurt her was arrested, but because of the law at the time in North Carolina, his sentence was only eight months of probation – no jail time for first offenders. “Because Susie’s story had gotten the attention of the media, the citizens of North Carolina were outraged and we began a campaign, rallying support, to change the law to a class H felony which allows judges in our state to impose an active sentence on people convicted of animal cruelty, increasing the penalties to a maximum 10 month jail sentence. This law was named ‘Susie’s Law’ and Susie’s paw print is on the law signed by then Governor Perdue, going into effect on December 1, 2010, just two years after Susie’s journey began,” recalled Donna.

But Susie’s story didn’t end there. Susie became a certified therapy dog, visiting hospitals, schools and churches with Donna, sharing their message of being kind to animals, treating animals with respect, and how forgiveness can change a life forever. As Donna said recently, “Susie greets everyone with a wag and a smile, never thinking back to what a human did to her. She lives in the moment, showing that forgiveness and grace are the greatest gifts.” It would be a wonderful and inspiring story if it ended there, but there was much more ahead for Donna and Susie.

76-SusiesHope-SFW‘Susie’s Hope’
The inspiring story of Susie led Donna Lawrence to write a series of children’s books, and to an award-winning movie, ‘Susie’s Hope.’ “The movie ‘Susie’s Hope’ recounts the story from me being attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull that I was caring for due to neglect on the owner’s behalf, to Susie’s burning, healing and adoption by me and my husband, Roy, to the passing of Susie’s Law. The movie is one of unexpected second chances and compassion and of how Susie and I both suffered from vicious attacks, hers from a human, mine from a pit bull, facing our mutual fears and learning to conquer them together,” Donna commented. From the movie, Susie’s story literally took on a life of its own and she was nominated this year for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog award. The movie is available for purchase online at Walmart, Best Buy, and Family Video.

A Simple Little Dog Takes on Hollywood
After an online voting campaign, as well as voting from a combination of a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges, Susie won recognition in her category of Therapy Dog and landed in the top eight. Ultimately, Susie won the overall top prize and was named American Hero Dog at the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, a star-studded event at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. “I’m just blown away by this honor. There were so many amazing dogs with great stories and when they called Susie as the winner, I just wanted to cry,” Donna told after learning that her dog had won. Bedecked in pearls and a purple tutu, Susie received a standing ovation on September 27, 2014, taking it all in stride – but now taking the subject of stronger animal cruelty laws to a national stage. In the end Susie and Donna’s story is pretty simple if you think back to a little puppy set aside as trash. “You see, Susie and I shared something in common. We both were healing from attacks we didn’t bring on ourselves. We were miracles, overcoming our fears, finding each other. Susie and I went from being victims to living a victorious life and now we are inspiring others with the power of love, hope and forgiveness. More important, we want everyone to know that one person or even one dog can make a difference in this world,” stated Donna.


For more information on Susie or Susie’s Hope, visit or the nonprofit website, The Hallmark Channel will air the awards show on Oct. 30, 2014 at 8 pm ET.