Howling Heroes Winners Announced

Blue was selected as the 2024 Howling Hero.

The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation in 2021 launched a Howling Heroes contest to find an official K-9 Mascot. The contest annually is held in the spring and in April the top three canines for 2024 were announced: Blue Nystrom, Felipe Bassignana and Belle Cunningham.

Owners can nominate their pets by posting a photo, giving a small, suggested donation and then entering on

The Foundation is upfront: votes can be bought $1 = 1 vote. (All money raised goes towards the Canine Therapy Program, the Arson Counter-Terrorism Section and the Urban Search and Rescue team.)

A panel of judges (including Fire Chief Kristin Crowley) evaluated the top 10 contestants and selected the Howling Hero of 2024.


The owner is Kristen Nystrom.

Our beloved Blue was rescued at a very young age (5 weeks) from a house of horrors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She was nursed back to health and immediately assimilated into our family. She quickly became the center of our household and a bright spot during the uncertainty of the pandemic. Blue would safely make ‘housecalls’ to visit with loved ones in an effort to bring a sense of comfort and normalcy during a very trying time.

Following Blue’s heroic emotional support efforts during the pandemic, she now plays a vital role in assisting her firefighter dad and grandpa in decompressing after long and traumatic shifts, and fearlessly protects our family and household. In early 2024, Blue alerted our family to a nefarious individual attempting to scale a fence and enter our backyard. Her courage, strength, and confidence in this situation ultimately protected our family from an intruder.

Felipe took second place in the Howling Hero contest.


The owner is Paola Bassignana.

 Felipe is a hero because of his unconditional love for community and loyalty to his pack! He has served as a volunteer in the northeast valley Homeless Count, and bravely walked and wagged in the Women’s March, Los Angeles and the Pacoima Christmas parade.

Felipe was a rescue pup and is a friendly boy that understands the value of bringing new friends into his pack whenever he goes. When Felipe visited the Special Olympics hosted in Los Angeles, he received a special honor from a young German athlete – she gave him her country pin!  Felipe’s strength is the power of his cuddles of comfort and kisses of kinship. No matter how tough your exterior or indifferent you are about dogs, Felipe finds a way to your heart.

Belle was third in the Howling Hero contest.


The owner is Michael Cunningham.

Belle is our family hero. She was my late Aunt Marcie’s brand-new puppy in 2017. Marcie tragically passed away in her sleep days before my family and I were due to arrive for a visit to her home in Lansing Michigan.

What was a vacation turned into a gathering of family with broken hearts for my aunt’s funeral. Belle was everyone’s emotional support animal during that trying time. My Uncle Dave, Marcie’s husband, expressed that he would like us to take Belle home to California where she could be our family pet. Without hesitation my wife agreed that we would bring her home, suddenly ending an eight-year argument as to whether we would have a dog.

Belle is sweet, affectionate and playful. She is very loyal, loving and obedient. Belle has been an integral member of our family for the last seven years and continues to brighten our lives each and every day. Belle continues to support all of us emotionally as my wife Michelle was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She remains a hero as our support animal and is helping our family through yet another trying time.


This year the first place pooch was featured in a KTLA News Segment, will receive invitations to appear at LAFD special events, including the annual Valor Awards and a pet portrait photography session by and a custom framed 16×20 fine art print

Second and third place winners received a gift basket of LAFD apparel.

Anyone could nominate their dog, by sending a photo, writing why the dog was a hero and making a suggested donation (

To learn more about the LAFD’s canine therapy program, visit

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