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Pet Partners Pet of the Year 2024: Darby the Miniature Horse

Chelsea Glick
darby the mini horse
darby the mini horse

The third annual Pet Partners Pet of the Year event raised thousands to support therapy animal teams and brought hundreds of participants and supporters together to celebrate the amazing animals in our lives.  

During this six-week competition, which was held February 5 – March 18, 2024, pet candidates (with help from their favorite humans) raised vital funds to support Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Program. With 76 pet candidates representing five different species and 132 human fundraisers, this year drew the biggest participation yet! The pet candidates’ teams competed to raise the most funds by the end of the competition and be crowned Pet Partners Pet of the Year.  

Our amazing candidates went above and beyond by emailing their friends and family, posting on social media, holding bake sales, auctions, and hosting other creative and fun events to raise donations. Collectively, they raised over $73,500! The dedication of our supporters and their communities is inspiring, and we are very grateful.   

And the Pet of the Year is…

darby the mini horse

Announced in a special Spotlight Celebration event on Facebook Live, is Darby the Miniature Horse 

Darby, with the help of his human fundraiser Lynn, raised close to $17,000! He is the only Pet Partners therapy horse on the Big Island of Hawa’ii and gained tons of supporters through his media interviews and creative fundraising events. During the six weeks, Darby worked hard by hosting events like a Pizza, Pints, and Pony night and delivering Valentine’s Day cards to the staff at their local hospital. 

As this year’s winner, Darby not only takes home the national title of 2024 Pet Partners Pet of the Year, but also thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes . Darby will take part in a professional photoshoot, be featured on the Oh Behave! Show on Pet Life Radio and Four Legged Life Podcast hosted by America’s Pet Edu-Tainer, Arden Moore, have his likeness incorporated into the artwork for Pet Partners’ 2024 national signature t-shirt campaign, and many more fabulous pet-oriented prizes generously donated by many supportive sponsors.  

Therapy Dog Runner-Up 

The runner-up is Tara Waggybottom, a Pet Partners registered therapy dog from Redmond, Washington. Tara, a large and loving English mastiff, raised more than $8,900 as a candidate. Tara and her human companion Jane sold tickets to an exclusive tea party and auction hosted by Tara and got their local University they regularly visit at to donate to their fundraising campaign.  

In third-place is Hooey the Hoosier Doodle from Cumberland, Indiana. With the help of her human Jennifer and their Elanco Animal Health community, Hooey raised over $6,300. While still a spunky puppy, Hooey plans on registering as a Pet Partners therapy dog in the future.  

Additional Shoutouts  

We are so grateful to every pet candidate, supporter, donor, and fundraiser involved in the competition. Catch up on all our award recipients by browsing our Spotlight Award winners and our honorable mentions.   

There were also a handful Rainbow Bridge candidates whose human nominated and fundraised in their memory. We’d like to say a special thank you to these wonderful animals whose legacy continues to make such a difference in people’s lives.  

  • Dexter Panaro 
  • Feisty Mae Madison 
  • Roo Hammond 
  • Vincent the Therapy Rat 

You are not forgotten, and we are so thankful that you’re forever a part of the Pet Partners community. 

Prize Sponsors 

We also want to express our gratitude to our wonderful prize sponsors, who provided the prizes awarded to our winner and runner-up. Their generosity was a big part of the success of this event, and we thank them whole-heartedly.  

The Ultimate Winner: the Human-Animal Bond 

This event isn’t just about the funds raised. It’s also about the profound effect of the human-animal bond. 

The bond the pet candidates have with their humans who’ve inspired them to take part in this competition. The bond between therapy animal handlers, their therapy animal, and the clients they visit inspire people to give and participate. These bonds are the driving force behind Pet of the Year, and we are humbled and grateful by the response.  

All funds raised through this event support our Therapy Animal Program, helping us register more therapy animal teams and bring the joy and comfort of therapy animal visits to people in need. The true winner of this event is each person who benefits from the impact of the human-animal bond. We are so grateful for the pets in our lives, and in yours.  

Mark Your Calendars 

We hope to see you participating in or supporting next years’ Pet of the Year competition! Nominations open November 24, 2024, and the competition starts February 3, 2025. We’ll see you then!