As if raising nearly $600,000 toward its animal rescue and protection mission wasn't enough, the Houston SPCA made national history at its gala last month when it became the first organization of its kind to earn Purple Heart honors for its work with combat-wounded veterans.

The surprise recognition came after Valor Medical Service Dogs founder Ernie Rivera—himself a Purple Heart recipient—nominated the local SPCA for the honor. Rivera chose SPCA rescue dogs Emily, Chester, Bear, and Rex as the first canines to train and serve as medical service dogs through the Wins for Warriors "Adopt. Rescue. Heal" Program. Those dogs were presented to Houston veterans with PTSD during a pre-game ceremony at the Astros' spring training.

Members of the local chapter of  the Military Order of the Purple Heart presented the honors to SPCA president and CEO Patricia Mercer in a special ceremony at last month's gala, which saw 400 guests at the new Campus for All Animals.

Precious pups and a miniature horse (!) welcomed guests to the affair, and more furry friends waited inside the Evelyn H. Griffin Adoption Center where party animals had cocktails before the program, emceed by Derrick Shore.

Zane and Brady Carruth and Brittany and Adam Clark co-chaired the event, a glittering evening with a three-course meal from City Kitchen beneath twinkling lights in the Carruth Education Center. Along with the $600,000 raised, the SPCA also received a $1 million pledge from the Carruth Foundation for the Animal Medical Center Campaign.

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