ASPCA Names Cat and Dog of the Year

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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals held its annual Humane Awards luncheon on Thursday, during which the organization recognized its cat and dog of the year for 2013: Koshka the cat and Xena the dog.

Koshka was an injured stray cat in southern Afghanistan when he met Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott. Knott took a shine to the cat and nursed him back to health, but he didn't foresee that having a new pet by his side would help him through a tragedy. Two of Knott's closest friends were killed in a suicide bombing, and Knott sunk into a depression. Koshka kept Knott's chin up.

"Just the bit of compassion and love that cat showed me is what it took to remind me to stay strong," Knott said.

When Knott came home to Oregon, he jumped through a lot of hoops to bring Koshka with him. The cat could not travel with Knott by military convoy, so Knott arranged to have Koshka shipped separately, costing $3,000.

At 4 months old, Xena the Staffordshire Terrier mix weighed less than 5 pounds when she was found collapsed and almost dead in someone's yard in Dekalb County, Ga. Xena was brought to an emergency veterinarian who saved her life after she had been, according to the vet's estimation, kept in a cage and starved nearly to death before being abandoned.

After Xena was brought to health, she gave back some love of her own. Adopted by the Hickeys, a family with a young, autistic son named Johnny, Xena quickly became the boy's constant companion and de facto therapy dog, drawing him out of his shell.

"He is the happiest child that I've ever seen him be in eight years," Johnny's mother, Linda Hickey, told Today.

While Xena traveled to New York yesterday to attend the ASPCA's award ceremony, attendance wasn't in the cards for her feline counterpart, Koshka.

"I would love to bring him," Knott said, "but ... after traveling from Hutal to Kandahar, then to Kabul, on to Islamabad, from there to New York, and finally to Portland, Oregon, Koshka's patience and desire to travel has been pushed well past its max."


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