By Jamie Stillwachs, McDowell County Chapter Manager
It’s can be hard to comprehend what it’s like for a dog to live life on a chain. Most humans will never experience anything close to that in their lifetime.
Can you imagine what it’s like to stay in the same spot with only a couple feet to move in any direction for 24 hours a day?
Can you imagine staring at the same scene from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep, day after day? Watching the world pass by, while no one seems to notice you’re there?
During the coldest nights and most scorching hot days, only having a barren plastic shell to sleep in? Eating your food off the ground, trying not to get a mouth full of dirt in every bite?
For Charlotte and Itty Bitty, this was their reality before Brother Wolf’s McDowell County chapter was able to rescue them.
The phone call came on a busy day at Brother Wolf. Dee, one of our most dedicated volunteers and foster moms, answered. The caller was pleading for help. A friend of his had had two dogs — a mama dog named Charlotte and her adult pup named Itty Bitty, who had lived inside and got all the training and vet care they needed as beloved family members. But when their caretaker passed away the previous year, they were left with nowhere to go. In McDowell County, the one and only Animal Shelter had less than 8% live release rate at the time — meaning around 92% of all animals who entered the shelter never walked back out alive. The friend couldn’t bear the thought of the dogs ending up there.
With no other resources or ideas for how to help them, he took them to an empty property (owned by someone who allowed the dogs to stay there) and chained them up to the trees.
The mindset of many McDowell County residents had become that it’s better to live chained to a tree than go to the county shelter to die.
The friend and property owners went out when they could to throw food on the ground for the dogs. Everything that Charlotte and Itty knew about life and family was gone. Their world had become a chain and some trees.
While his intentions were to help Charlotte and Itty Bitty, the friend finally realized after more than a year that this was just no life for them at all. He wanted to get them real help — and that’s how he ended up calling us.
Volunteer and Foster Mom, Dee, is one of the most endlessly compassionate people we know and immediately jumped into action after receiving the call by driving to the property to meet the gentleman and the dogs. Over the next three weeks, we worked diligently together to make a plan for the Charlotte and Itty Bitty.
As a foster based Chapter, we can only take in an animal if we have a foster home for them to go to — and sometimes foster homes are in short supply. Dee offered to take in Charlotte, and another foster opened their home to Itty Bitty.
When the time came to remove their chains, no one could contain their tears. There were happy tears for knowing these dogs had been rescued, and also heartbroken tears for knowing what these sweet souls have survived. Charlotte and Itty were so sweet, so gentle and so grateful.
Sadly (but to no one’s surprise), both dogs tested positive for heartworm disease. At 10 years old, life on a chain had been especially rough for Charlotte. The hacking cough she’d developed from advanced heartworm disease was difficult to witness.
Two months after their rescue, Itty Bitty was adopted by a wonderful family with another Brother Wolf McDowell Chapter alumni. Charlotte remains in foster care while she undergoes treatment for heartworm disease and age-related aches and pains.
Both dogs wake up every day in a warm home, to a nice big breakfast, knowing they are loved. Without our dedicated foster parents and supporters who have donated towards their medical care, saving them would have been impossible. Charlotte and Itty Bitty are thankful everyday for the caring people who gave them their life back — and so are we!
If you would like to support the lifesaving work we are doing in McDowell County, please head to www.bwar.org/mcdowell to make a monetary donation. You can also register to foster a dog or cat in need at www.bwar.org/volunteer/foster.