In May 2015, an abused dog dubbed “Caitlyn,” was discovered in the Chicora Cherokee neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina. Caitlyn’s muzzle had been tightly bound in electrical tape which severely injured her snout and tongue tissue. The images of the young, chocolate colored Staffordshire terrier mix’s grotesquely swollen face were shared widely and they quickly broke hearts across the nation (and beyond).
As Caitlyn was nurtured back to health, her story of triumph in the face of adversity began to take on a life of its own. Thousands of people following the abuse case eagerly waited for details of Caitlyn’s progress to be released; in short order, the former cruelty victim became an unlikely internet sensation who wound herself tightly around the hearts of her adoring fans. In the blink of an eye, Caitlyn fondly became known as “America’s Dog.”
With the help of the Charleston Animal Society, which took the abused dog under its wing, Caitlyn physically recovered from her abusive past, and earlier this week, those following the case had reason to celebrate when 42-year-old William Leonard Dodson, the man facing a felony charge of ill treatment of animals for abusing Caitlyn, pleaded guilty, reported the Post and Courier. Dodson, the former owner of Caitlyn (formerly known as Diamond) could face up to five years in prison for the crime.
Charleston Animal Society Director of Anti-Cruelty and Outreach Aldwin Roman commented on Dodson’s guilty plea:
“Today’s plea shows progress, but cruelty laws in South Carolina still lag behind the rest of the country and are in great need of improvement. We are committed to working with lawmakers, police and prosecutors to make sure justice is done for all animals who are abused like Caitlyn.”
Caitlyn’s story of resilience and strength has proved to be a source of inspiration to many people, especially those who have been subjected to abuse themselves. In fact, Caitlin’s facial scars, remnants of her painful past, do not mar her beauty – rather, they have become a beacon of hope. Kay Hyman, director of community engagement at the Charleston Animal Society, told FIDO Friendly Magazine:
“For me, the most important thing is that the country and the world literally has embraced Caitlyn and her story. It’s catapulting other cruelty cases to the forefront. Her scars are her badge of courage, a symbol of beauty that resonates with children and adults with scarring. Victims of domestic abuse have found courage in her story of survival. I have received numerous emails from women who say that her escaping from her abuser has given them hope that they too can escape their abuser.”
Caitlyn is living with a foster family and according to Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore, she will live there for the remainder of her life. Elmore told the Post and Courier, “Our number one priority is Caitlyn’s health and well-being, and we are attending to special needs she has and will continue to do so.”
(Photos Charleston Animal Society)