ASPCA’s ‘Dog of the Year’ Was the ‘First Gift’ to Two Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing

On April 15, 2013, as runners crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded.

Among the victims were Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a married couple, who were injured during the blast and ultimately each lost a leg. In 2015, Kensky made the difficult decision to have her right leg amputated below the knee as well.

According to the Boston Globe, in the weeks following the bombing, she applied to the service-dog organization NEADS, with the hope that she’d find a companion to help her with daily activities she once took for granted.

In September 2013, the couple received Rescue, a black Labrador, who among helping her through the day, brought laughter and a full night’s sleep back into her life.

“We are just starting to piece some of our life back together,” Kensky told NBC’s “Today.” “This first stage of recovery was quite long, and Rescue has been with us for most of it. I honestly don’t know where we’d be without him.”

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On Saturday, he was honored as ASPCA’s “Dog of the Year” and after translating Rescue’s thank-you speech, Kensky described how much the lab means to her and her husband.

“We lost our apartment, we couldn’t fit our wheelchairs in our car, we couldn’t go to work, we couldn’t walk. All of our plans disappeared,” the Boston Globe reported she told the 550-person gala. “And Rescue was the first gift that came back in our life.”

She added that although Rescue came into their lives as a result of the bombing, the dog doesn’t know that — something she called “the most beautiful thing.”

While Kensky and Downes clearly consider Rescue the dog of the year, they were surprised to learn he’d been named ASPCA’s winner, since they didn’t submit him as a contestant.


According to the Boston Globe, someone submitted Rescue when the ASPCA asked members to propose candidates. The couple only learned he’d been nominated when Cathy Zemaitis, development director at NEADS, called to inform them of his victory.

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