DogTime’s top 10 dog news stories in 2012

In countdown format, here are the top 10 news stories that generated the most traffic on DogTime.com in 2012:

10. Dog bites anchor on live TV: It seemed like a great idea: Reunite on live TV an Argentine Mastiff named Max with the man who rescued the dog from an icy lake. Unfortunately, the reunion didn’t go as planned, as the dog bit television newscaster Kyle Dyer in the face when she got too close to the pooch. After spending some time in the hospital for reconstructive surgery, Dyer returned to the airwaves with no regrets; after 10 days in mandatory quarantine, Max returned to his family. The incident lent itself to a meaningful conversation about how dogs verbally and nonverbally communicate to humans.

9. Pit Bull pup burned by acid is in recovery: This year had no shortage of horrific tales of animal abuse, and the story of a Pit Bull pup with acid burns who was found on the streets of South Carolina cemented the unfortunate fact that humans do rotten things. The Noah’s Arks Rescue took the pooch in, named him Freddy, and worked tirelessly to heal and the animal. Freddy’s tale had a happy ending: he had an excellent recovery and was adopted by a loving family.

8. Former Vick dog wins stuffed animal contest: Michael Vick may have found personal vindication from his past misdeeds, but even releasing a tell-all autobiography where he proclaims he’s “finally free” (of what?) can’t undo or justify what took place at his Virginia residence in 2007. In a touch of irony, one of his victims, a Pit Bull named Jonny Justice, received the most votes for Most Beautiful Dog in a poll conducted by the Gund toy company. The pooch then went on to win the Grand Prize, and will be immortalized as a limited edition plush pet. The toy will undoubtedly become a hard-to-find item, fetching top dollar, while Vick’s autobiography will remain unsold, collecting dust on store shelves or in recycling bins.

7. Fire department rescues, then adopts dog: The Hanes City, Fla., Fire Department found an abandoned American Staffordshire Terrier muzzled and tied to a tree, with no food or water. They took the dog back to their station. He never left: the firefighters adopted the pooch, named him Ember, and made him a permanent member of their family. All fire-house dogs don’t have to be Dalmatians.

6. Dog breeds banned from United Airlines: People hate United Airlines for all types of reasons, but what really set the pet-owning community off was when the carrier updated its no-fly dog list. Nine dogs were classified under the heading “Dangerous dog breed restrictions,” sparking a massive petition and boycott threats. After revealing its stereotyping ignorance, the airline relented by changing the policy, but for many it was another reason not to fly the unfriendly skies.

5. Photo of man and 19-year-old dog touches, inspires: An image is worth a thousand words, and the beautiful photo of John Unger comforting his 19-year-old dog, Schoep, in the waters of Lake Superior will probably go down as one of the most remarkable images of the symbiotic relationship between animal and human. Kudos to photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson who captured the image.

4. 500 caged dogs saved from slaughter in China: A truck carrying 500 dogs (packed into 156 cages) destined for slaughter at a food-processing plant in China was stopped by animal lovers. The starving and mistreated animals were unloaded and cared for. But after the police arrived and ordered the animals loaded back on the truck, an unnamed donor paid the driver $10,000 to buy the animals in order to save them.

3. Actor commits suicide after dog is euthanized: Soap opera star Nick Santino (Guiding Light, All My Children) loved his Pit Bull Rocco, and couldn’t bear living without the animal at his side. Although he was able to keep the dog after a no Pit Bull policy was implemented at his apartment complex, harassment from his neighbors forced Santino to put the animal down. Shortly afterward, Santino took his own life with an overdose of sleeping pills. In a suicide note the man wrote, “Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.”

2. What we must do for Lennox: In a travesty of “justice,” a dog named Lennox was put down in Belfast because he resembled what the city council considered to be a dangerous dog. Despite generous offers from Victoria Sitwell and other noteworthy celebrity trainers to take the dog (as in they would pay all expenses and arrange travel), Lennox was euthanized. Thousands of people followed the dog’s story, and DogTimer Leslie Smith summed up her feelings in a poignant and elegant piece on how to take what happened and use it as a force for good.

1. Soldier trades cigarettes for hungry, maimed dog: This year was filled with moments where people saved dogs in other countries, or donated money to help animals in places other than the United States. Anyone who wonders, “Hey, what about the animals in need here in America?” should read Leslie Smith’s piece for some perspective.