Working to keep families together

Dear friend,

I’m writing to expose an absurd campaign of lies and deceit from a few bad actors in our community. The story is a bit long, but there are some very good, timely lessons in it, so I hope you’ll read this through.

Last December, we rescued a sweet, sad dog named Callie from the McDowell County Animal Shelter. We had told the shelter manager there that we wanted to rescue Callie if she didn’t go back to her original home.

Her owner, we’ll call her “Jenny,” had been in jail (for a misdemeanor) the three weeks leading up to last Christmas. Jenny got out of jail on Christmas eve, and when she arrived home, she found her house had been ransacked. The front door had been knocked off its hinges, the house vandalized, and all the family’s Christmas presents stolen. They even stole her space heaters!

Jenny’s dog, Callie, escaped the break-in, fled the house, and was eventually picked up by animal control and brought to the county shelter.

Over the next several days, while the rest of us enjoyed our holidays, Jenny was struggling to put her life and home back together. On her behalf, Jenny’s elderly mother had been in contact with the shelter, letting them know they would get Callie soon as they could get the house repaired and move everyone back in.

We didn’t know the whole story at the time, but as Callie’s hold time approached, we had made clear to the shelter manager that we wanted to rescue Callie if she wasn’t returned to her owner. And that’s what happened– we rescued Callie, moved her into one of our foster homes and began promoting her for adoption on our social media.

Soon after, we got a message from Callie’s original owner, Jenny.

She said that she’d seen our Facebook post on Callie and was eager to see if/how she could get Callie back home. We explained that since Callie had been legally released to our care, we would have to interview Jenny and visit her home. Jenny was respectful and cooperative– and what happened next was… well, you be the judge…

When we let folks know that Callie’s mom had contacted us, and that we would do the requisite follow-up interview with her, a few bad actors began a vicious campaign of lies and misinformation to disparage her. They made horrible, hateful comments, calling her “White Trash”, “Crack W….”, and worse! It’s not the first time I had seen animal rescuers put themselves on a pedestal, looking down at folks who did not meet their stereotype of the “perfect home.”

But this was just too much.

I was so ashamed that anyone affiliated with Brother Wolf would stoop to such despicable behavior. It brought me to tears. At one point, I had to “fire” one of the volunteers, as she was in such desperate violation of our core values.

We followed through on the interview process and home visit with Jenny. The woman we met was a young, single mother who had indeed had troubles in the past. But she had beaten a tough drug addiction, seven years sober now. And she was raising a young child with severe autism, all on her own- her patience with him was amazing.

Jenny said Callie was like a sister to her. She and Callie snuggle on the couch and watch TV together. Callie sleeps in the bed with Jenny, and they share the same pillow. She said Callie “snores loud, like an old man snores,” and is a very deep sleeper.

She also said that Callie was the only friend her five year-old autistic child had ever known. He asks about her every day, and they all wanted her back home…

We inspected the house and yard, and other than a few problems with the fence, we agreed the right thing to do was to trust and believe in this family, and return Callie home. We drafted an agreement with Jenny which permitted us monthly check-ins over the next year, which Jenny was happy to sign.

Jenny, her son, and especially Callie were all delighted to be united. If you missed the reunion video last month, you can watch it here. It was a beautiful moment we can all be proud of- and assured us that we got this exactly right.

A month into Callie’s return home, we visited the family to do our first check-in. We learned that Callie had managed to dig two new areas under the fence, where she could escape. Jenny had begun walking Callie on leash, and said she’d continue to do so till we could get back to repair the fence the following week.

During that time, Jenny and her child had gotten a severe case of the flu. For a three-day period, instead of walking Callie, Jenny tethered her in the yard to get some outside time and do her business. Later, when we found out, Jenny explained that it only happened over that three-day period when they were sick, only two to three times per day, and for never more than an hour at each outing.

I can assure you that Brother Wolf does not EVER condone tethering a dog, or ANY other such abuse or neglect of ANY animal. We explained this to Jenny, and asked her to reach out to us if she ever got in a bind and needed help pet sitting– that we’d be happy to help. The look on her face would melt your heart– this was a woman who hadn’t seen much kindness in her life, and she wanted and needed to believe in us.

Of course, right on cue, the witch hunt on Facebook started up again. There was plenty more of the name-calling, and various other absurd accusations. No need to repeat it all here, but the lies and exaggerations were whoppers! One claim was was that “ten people got pictures of Callie chained in her yard over a three week period.” It’s completely untrue. But what if it were? Why so desperate to vilify someone? Why not just stop their car, get out from behind the “rush” of their surveillance buzz, go knock on the door, and see if there is something they could do to help?

Could it be that some of these folks are just distracting themselves from their own misgivings? Indeed, I know for certain that a few have been fired from their jobs for such behavior, been homeless, in debt, and can’t (or won’t) pay their creditors; some have done jail time, too. It would be laughable, if it weren’t so misguided.

Of course, it’s not laughable– it’s just sad. Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone needs help from time to time. As Paula Dicks, one of our wonderful volunteers who helped repair Callie’s fence this week said,

“…we’re called to show love, not judgement of one another… we’re one big family, and we all need to help take care of each other.”

You can watch the video update above of Paula and the other staff and volunteers who helped with the fence repair last week. It’ll warm you heart, I promise! And when you see how happy Callie is to be back home, you’ll understand like I do, that we got this exactly right, for her and her sweet family.

Please know that we will never foster and adopt our way to No Kill– there simply aren’t enough homes for them all. It is only through changing/evolving hearts and minds in our community over time that we will ever achieve sustainable No Kill. And along the way, we are helping strengthen the bonds in our community, rather than further separating us.

Yours for a kinder, better world,

Denise Bitz
President and Founder
Brother Wolf Animal Rescue

P.S. As it turns out, we’ve had a huge increase this week in inquiries about our NeighborCorps program! If you’re interested, just email me back, and I’ll forward info on how you can get involved.


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