It started in Salem, Missouri, with Charlotte, an overweight, ten-year-old chocolate lab, but the adoption of one dog caused ripples that spanned the country — from Beverly Hills to New York.
Charlotte was at the Dent County Animal Welfare Society (DCAWS). After having been passed from family to family and bred for her puppies, the last family decided they didn’t want her anymore. They couldn’t be bothered to take her to the shelter, so they called animal control and asked them to pick Charlotte up. When Charlotte was x-rayed by a veterinarian, the x-rays showed bullet remnants in Charlotte’s body. Tragically, this is not unusual in dogs rescued from rural areas.
Charlotte was sweet and gentle with everyone, so she was allowed to roam around as the “office dog.” As Charlotte settled in, a family in Beverly Hills, CA had been searching for a dog to join their family (with their two male labs). They wanted to help a special needs dog or one who might have difficulty getting adopted.
The adopter told Shelter Me, “We always want a third dog with serious issues; a hard-to-adopt dog. We have the ability to help those kinds of dogs. Our Lab who passed away in March was that kind of dog.”
The adopter and her husband looked for five months, but most of the dogs they saw were Labs who would very likely be taken by other homes. Charlotte, though, was obese and not spayed. At the time, it was thought that she was heartworm positive (it was determined to be a false positive reading later). She was not a dog that would be adopted quickly, if ever. The couple found Charlotte on Petfinder, and when they saw her story, they knew they wanted to meet her.
Charlotte holds no grudges for her past mistreatment. The adopter mentioned her husband, who didn’t grow up with dogs, but was willing to get up at 6:00 am to fly to St. Louis and drive three hours to the very rural shelter. “We didn’t arrive until 6:00 that night,” she commented. “And now Charlotte is his favorite dog — he is deeply in love with her.”
It must be a mutual love affair. Charlotte has gone from a living as a neglected, uncared-for, unwanted dog in rural Missouri to a life filled with lots of love, lots of healthy food, and the medical treatment she needs. She is their tenth Lab and their third senior/medical rescue.
DCAWS posted Charlotte’s story on their Facebook page:
“On November the 11th, a date I shall never forget, on Sunday night, the shelter director (also named Charlotte) took me to meet a man and a woman who had come all the way from California just to meet me after they saw me on PetFinder. They like Labs and usually had three, but one died, so they had been looking for another, had met at least 30 but nothing seemed to click with them. They spent quite a bit of time with me and I knew right away I really liked them and was sure hoping they felt the same way. And they did!”
Charlotte loves her brothers, swims in their pool, and even swims in the ocean. She has lost weight, stolen food, and slept comfortably on the bed in the guest room with her new brother. Instead of being used for breeding and sleeping outside, she is a treasured member of the family.
The adopter explained that visiting the shelter opened their eyes about shelter dogs and the conditions at a shelter. She said that she had no idea most shelter dogs slept on concrete floors. Visiting the shelter was also an education about how the kennels are hosed down daily to keep them clean. Blankets and towels can be impractical in a shelter.
The adopting couple were impressed with the small shelter that accomplished so much on a small budget. “They have great dogs and do wonderful things with what they have. The dogs are happy.” The shelter is a no-kill shelter.
And while she was hesitant to talk publicly about their wonderful senior rescue, she wanted to make public the story of this small shelter with a big heart. “Some great dogs have been there four and five years,” she lamented. “They need volunteers and adopters.”
The couple also decided that the shelter needed beds for all the dogs (and cats), so they generously donated Kuranda beds so that every dog at the shelter now has a comfortable bed off the concrete floor and a fleece cover to make it even better. They arranged for the beds to be assembled and delivered to the shelter — an amazingly generous gift.
The adopter also spoke about donating beds to a shelter: “One thing you can do is buy a bed for a shelter dog – one night not going out to dinner can buy a bed for a dog.”
The founder of Dent County Animal Welfare Society, Charlotte White, who single-handedly started the shelter in 1990, spoke with Shelter Me about starting to rescue. “I was at a crossroads in my life. My children were grown and I realized that except for friends and family, I had never done anything to improve the world. Two women were fostering animals, so I offered to help.”
One thing led to another, and by the time the two women left town, White was left rescuing the town’s dogs and cats. She started placing them in foster homes. She described the start of the shelter: “I started writing grants, and we’d get some. One was a matching grant. We got enough money to build the first shelter. The city would bring all the animals to us.”
Where do the animals at the shelter come from? It’s the same sad story that every shelter hears. “People find them abandoned, people are moving, people are getting a divorce, grandma died and no one wants the pet. We get them from the city and the public.”
The shelter is no-kill, but not because of public pressure — in fact the opposite. White reflected on the change, “We weren’t (no kill) initially, and I just couldn’t handle it. I cried myself to sleep one night and said I’m not going to do this anymore.” The two exceptions are humane ones: if the animal is so sick or injured that it can’t be helped or if it’s so vicious that it’s a danger to others.
The shelter needs more adoptions. That’s what every shelter across the country needs. But no matter where you live, you can help this particular shelter. White said they also need exercise equipment for the dogs. They have an outside yard where the dogs can play in nice weather. Any large toys are great, including basketballs. Dog treats, towels, and cleaning supplies are also appreciated. Visit the shelter’s website for information about where to send donations.
There are wonderful long-term residents of the shelter. One is Sissy. A Facebook post says, “But meet Sissy. 6 year resident of the shelter for various reasons, none of her own. She was used as a bait dog (hence her fear of other dogs and need to be the only animal). There is a pit bull ban in this city which makes the hopes of her finding a home difficult. She is an absolute angel and sweetheart. She’s goofy and happy despite her hardships. Gave me 1,000 kisses and hugs. Just wants to be loved and to love someone.”
Spike is another long-time resident of the shelter. He’s probably a hound/Akita mix, according to White. “He’s a good looking dog. A little picky about what other dogs he likes, but he’s kenneled with another dog. He’s very strong — almost more than I can handle. I always say that they are waiting for the right person, but he’s waited a long time.”
To donate to the DCAWS, visit their page and click on the “donate” link. In addition to committed volunteers, the shelter needs a commercial washer and dryer, an endowment for current and future veterinary bills, and help completing a new building. Most of all, they need loving homes for some of their long-term residents. Transport can be worked out.
Please note: All the cat beds and cat towers were donated by Kuranda.com. All photos except for the photos of Charlotte are courtesy of Matt and Julie Ambrose.