I saw what looked to be a small dog that may have been hit by a car. Its janky legs flopped around in no particular direction, which became a concern with such heavy traffic flowing through. I pulled to the side and noticed a motorcycle, another man who had stopped.
Without words and with gentle steps, we approached this emaciated wreck and hoped for the best. Despite it not looking in the condition to run, a few dodgy steps and it could have been fodder for Main Road's constant stream of cars and trucks. After a small escape attempt, it seemed to just surrender and came over to us. I was able to secure a lead from the kennel nearby thanks to the generosity of the owner. We attached the lead to its mud-soaked collar and, after it seemed to happily trot with us for a moment, stood by my car waiting for animal control. We inspected her and comforted her as much as we could. Her head had some deep cuts, and scabs lined her neck. She was emaciated in a way I had never seen. Her face was swollen and her eyes heavy. With old sores all over, every movement seemed painful. And, interestingly, her belly sagged with no fat underneath the skin. She had given birth before—many times.
Despite her condition, she was a sweetheart.
There's no way to witness something like that in person and not debate scenarios. While I'm not really in the speculative finger-pointing business, it's quite possible that this dog was chained up on concrete and bred over and over for someone to use her pups to fight or become bait dogs. It was most likely dumped off when it ceased being useful for the monster who did that to her.
I mentioned that it had surrendered to us, and later I realized how much it really had. Whether or not she believed in us to help her, she simply had no other option. Where does an animal turn when it is reduced to a husk like that? Where is the respite for a withering shadow of what could have been a loving pet?
People like the gentleman who pulled over on his motorcycle are the balance. He didn't think, "What do I do when I catch it?" before he tried to catch it. This dog didn't happen to bring its own sidecar. He and places like animal welfare societies and no-kill shelters are the counterbalance to that heavy, dark force that drags these animals down. I was late to pick up my girlfriend, but she understood that I wanted to know where this dog was going. I felt helpless past a certain point, but I had to see it through.
And that I did. Unfortunately, due to late-stage liver and kidney failure, she had to be put down. This was my fear from the start. I find solace in the fact she was released from whatever nightmare she had spent her life in and had some semblance of a normal life before her peaceful end.
I struggled for a while trying to figure out how to write about this story. I didn't think Grit readers would feel negatively if I verbally assaulted the people who did this, but at the same time, I don't think those people are Grit readers. I was thinking about expanding it to explain the steps to take when you find a dog on the side of the road, but this wasn't just an average dog. When I got word on the animal's passing, I wanted to give it purpose rather than just have a tragic end to a tragic story. My hope became raising awareness for what Charleston Animal Society has done, and is doing, for the community.
Not every story can end happily, but a lot can—and it takes work. Organizations like Charleston Animal Society make an effort every day to help abused animals and prevent the abuse of countless others. Adversely to this animal’s end, among many others, CAS had a success story in a dog named Toby. Toby is a golden retriever mix that came to CAS with chemical burns over a large portion of his body. Through their help, he was brought back to health and was adopted by a loving family. Information on a fund to help animals like Toby and the one we found can be found here: http://www.charlestonanimalsociety.org/tobys-fund/
It’s imperative for helping these animals and makes a huge difference, as shown in these photos of another one of CAS’s success stories:
As for working on stopping and preventing this when you see it...I realized that I had no idea what I was supposed to do when we secured this animal. I was about to take it to a vet before animal control was suggested. Most vets need someone to pay for treatment, and believe me, if I was a wealthy man I wouldn’t hesitate, but it was not the best option in the situation. After its intake to CAS, I spoke with their Director of Anti-Cruelty & Outreach, Aldwin Roman, about what you can do when you witness animal cruelty or see an animal like we did:
“We recommend calling Charleston County consolidated dispatch at 743-7200 if you suspect or witness animal cruelty. Citizens can request welfare checks for animals they feel are being abused or neglected. If it is an emergency, we recommend people call 911. An emergency would constitute an animal that faces imminent death because of the actions it is being subjected to. Reports can be done anonymously, but it is better to identify yourself so that you can provide a statement or testimony for court. Keeping personal safety as the top priority, I strongly recommend people taking videos and pictures of what they see. Sometimes it comes down to ‘he said, she said’ with cruelty complaints and a video goes a long way in cases like that. I have personally seen cases reach conviction on video evidence alone. Almost everyone carries a smartphone these days and most are capable of taking good quality video. We also urge citizens to keep track of when they call to report something that is a recurring problem. Keep a log of dates and times you called, if an officer came out, and what was done to address the situation. This can help down the road to build a case for that particular situation. If a citizen if having trouble getting a report addressed, you can then call us, or me specifically since I handle anything cruelty related at Charleston Animal Society at 843-329-1545."
By definition this is what cruelty is in the state of South Carolina:
Any person who knowingly or intentionally overloads, overdrives, overworks, or ill-treats an animal, deprives an animal of necessary sustenance or shelter, inflicts unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal, or by omission or commission knowingly or intentionally causes these acts to be done. Any person who tortures, torments, needlessly mutilates, cruelly kills, or inflicts excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal or by omission or commission causes these acts to be done.”
This is what to look for (taken from ASPCA.org):
Charleston has made huge strides in assisting and housing animals, as well as finding homes for them. In Philadelphia, a friend posted a plea to Facebook trying to find a home for a perfectly healthy young dog. The shelter gave it two days to live due to space concerns. Though social media may have given it a chance, that’s a staggeringly small time limit. In contrast, CAS’s “No Kill Charleston 2015” cause is worlds beyond many cities in America, including my hometown. More info can be found here: http://www.charlestonanimalsociety.org/nokill/
While I had hoped to make a success story out of this situation in the first place, that didn’t turn out as planned. As a person who tries to rescue every lost dog I find (whether it be on the side of the highway between Greenville and Columbia or while I’m eating lunch near Philly—stories for another day), I feel like there was a lot to learn from this little dog’s story. In the end, I was left with sadness for this little one, but I’m sure that through hard work, countless more cases like this can be prevented.