TWO Good Dog Gold Medal Winners: Kenna and Kovu

The Big Barker team is happy to recognize amazing dogs doing amazing things in their communities. Meet Kovu and Kenna, two adorable pups, who have been named Big Barker official Good Dog Gold Medal Winners. Get to know more about them and their incredible stories of service below!

The Story of Kenna:

Kenna was found starving in the Everglades of Florida in 2011, when she was estimated to be around one year of age. Despite her pretty bad condition, she had the sweetest temperament, and rescuers began trying to save her. Following many attempts, they were able to gain her trust and bring her in for treatment.

Kenna when she was found in bad condition

After many months of medical treatments (and some good food!) she was ready for adoption. She went to a family that ended up not being able to handle her energy requirements and so after three years of them trying to "make it work," they decided she needed to be rehomed. Thankfully, her current owner, Kim Barbeitos de Sousa, was in a position to take on another dog and welcomed Kenna into her family with loving arms. She wanted to make sure Kenna would have the best life possible, given her rough start.

Kenna paddleboarding

Kenna blossomed once she was with Kim and her other dog Kovu. Kenna loved having another dog to play with, excelled in her training, and passed her Therapy Dog Certification with ease!  She started visiting retirement homes, summer camps for children with disabilities, and even became a member of the Charlotte International Airports Canine Crew, where she visited with passengers that were nervous and just wanted to cuddle up with a pup!

Kenna the therapy dog is at the airport to help assist passengers

Kenna loves everyone she meets, but she especially loves children. If she's on a hike and there are kids around, she's making puppy eyes to go over and say "hi!" She has competed in different AKC (American Kennel Club) events such as obedience, scent work, agility, Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Test), and has been used as a "demonstration" dog at Sousa's training facility due to her good manners.

In 2019, Sousa was accepted into the prestigious Colorado State University's Veterinary Medical program, so they packed up and moved to the Centennial State. Since living in Colorado, she has continued pet therapy visits as much as possible with the COVID pandemic. Kenna most recently visited with Kim's classmates during exam weeks to help them de-stress. On top of Kenna's therapy work, she was also a blood donor with Colorado State, which helped save the lives of ten dogs, before she had to retire from the program due to her age.

Kenna recovers at home following treatment

This past August, Kenna suffered a GDV (gastric dilation volvulus), which meant her stomach "flipped" on itself. This is a very dangerous situation that not all dogs survive. Thankfully, she made it through emergency surgery and she is still here to provide comfort and love to all. Kenna was described by her mom as, "truly a light in my darkness. She's been here for me through some tough times and is very perceptive when I'm in an emotional state where her cuddles are needed."

Kenna receives award for her work as a therapy dog

Kenna has been steadily slowing down with age and spends most of her days sleeping, but still gets excited every time Kim grabs her therapy harness to go meet new people.


The Story of Kovu:

Kovu came to Sousa in 2011, with the hopes of him becoming her medical alert service dog. Not only did he excel at that task, but at many more as well. 

Kovu at work as a medical alert dog

Kovu has been a wonderful canine ambassador for German Shepherds and "big scary dogs" everywhere. He is truly a gentle giant. He weighs 90lbs, but still thinks he is a lap dog. Kim details their relationship stating, "Kovu has saved my life and has touched so many lives. He started doing Pet Therapy at Miami Children's Hospital, where he was one of only eight allowed to participate in pet therapy in the psychiatric unit.

The evaluation process to volunteer in that area of the hospital was not easy - but he passed with flying colors! In fact, he is the reason his sister Kenna was able to get into pet therapy so easily as he paved the road for her."

Kovu works at a children's hospital

He also would visit children in the neurological and gastric units. Often times they would get calls requesting Kovu come to the hospital to visit with a child prior to a scary surgery or procedure, and Kovu was always willing to make an appearance. Sometimes he would do so in costume to make the child laugh. When Kenna joined the family, Kovu was happy to show her the ropes and teach her how to "dog." Mainly the importance of loving balls and playing fetch, but also how to walk calmly on a leash and learn tricks.

Kovu at airport as a therapy dog

Kovu has also volunteered at Charlotte International Airport and still serves as a Therapy Dog at Kim's University during exam weeks. Kovu has also participated in many AKC events winning titles in obedience, CAT, fast CAT, and scent work. Due to Kovu's gentle giant nature, he has been used as a demonstration dog at training facilities and for Kim's classmates when they need to learn "dog handling" skills.

Kovu donates blood

Kovu is currently in some clinical trials at Colorado State (as is Kenna), which provide valuable insight into canine cognitive dysfunction, function and cancer prevention. Sousa says, "Kenna is my moonlight and Kovu is my sunshine. Together they both make sure I am never in the dark."

Kovu enjoys the lake

Thank you to Kim, Kovu and Kenna for the incredible work you are doing to serve your community and make the world a better place. We are honored to present these precious pups and dog heroes with the official Good Dog Gold Medal award!

Kenna and Kovu receive their gold medals

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