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Dog Story: A life transformed

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

This is the story of a dog—a small red tick hound who, along with a lot of other dogs, strayed from home and wound up on adoption row at the Brunswick County Animal Shelter.

It’s also the story of Janie Withers and Gail Colwell, two members of Paws-Ability, a nonprofit group devoted to raising money for assorted animal causes in Brunswick County.

Withers, of Ocean Isle Beach and a founder of the group, frequently visits the shelter and has rescued a few animals in her lifetime.

It was no different a few weeks ago when Withers was strolling through the kennels at the shelter on Green Swamp Road and spotted the red-and-white dog cowering in her cage.

“She was so skinny, and she was so scared to come to you,” Withers said, adding it was an indication the dog, whom shelter officials estimate is about 2 years old, had been abused.

Brunswick County Animal Services Director Richard Cooper said the hound had been at the shelter since Dec. 12, the day an animal control officer was summoned to pick her up as a stray reported running at large in the Winnabow area. He said they also posted the dog’s picture via the county department’s Web site and petfinder.com.

Withers extended a hand and heart to the dog, whose time was running out. Cooper said the shelter is required to hold animals for five days and will put them on adoption row if they’re adoptable.

“If we have the room we place them on adoption row for approximately two weeks,” Cooper said, adding it also depends on their health.

The scared hound melted Withers’ heart.

“Don’t worry,” she promised the homeless dog. “I’ll be back to get you out of here.”

True to her word, Withers knew her friend Gail Colwell had been looking for a new dog, a female to go with her springer spaniel, Jack, at their home in Brunswick Plantation.

At Withers’ urging, Colwell went to the shelter and immediately took up with the friendly pound hound with captivating brown eyes. She was soon torn between adopting this one or Shelby, another homeless chow/Lab mix dog from Southport Oak Island Animal Rescue.

The manager at SOAR advised Colwell to adopt the shelter dog, whose days were numbered. The other dog at SOAR, a no-kill facility, would still be safe and have other chances for eventually finding a home, he said.

On Dec. 20, Colwell arrived at the shelter to bring her new red tick hound home.

“Her tail was wagging, and she just got down on the ground and dug and she was not going back inside that building,” said Colwell, who named the dog Jill to go with her springer spaniel named Jack. “From the door, one step outside, she was a whole different dog. And she is just a little snuggle bunny.”

“She will take her paws and wrap around you like she’s holding onto you,” Withers said. “She’s claiming you. It’s like holding your hand with her paws.”

Jill, they said, has acclimated well to her new home and new “sibling,” Jack.

“Jack and I were on the couch, and she wanted some attention,” Colwell said. “So she came flying through the air and jumped right in my lap. And I picked her up and put her back down on the floor, and she came and crawled up to my shoulder.”

Jill, they said, also wants to be the dominant alpha dog.

“So I’m making very sure that Jack gets all the attention he needs to get, and he has his king-of-the-hill couch,” Colwell said.

Jill, Withers said, also took Jack’s rawhide bone, “so suddenly Jill had two and Jack had none.”

“You have to give Jack credit, because he is 9 years old, and he’s been an only child his entire life,” Withers said. “Now he’s sharing his home and his domain with Jill.”

“He’s very patient,” Colwell said.

Withers said Colwell’s new addition to the family is proof shelter dogs make the best pets.

“I always say, rescue dogs know they’ve been rescued,” she said. “You become their savior. And they treat you like their savior. They will die for you.”

In the future, they said they hope shelter officials will consider allowing volunteers to come in and assist with dog-walking and other matters that will make more of the animals adoptable.

“The dog they’re walking has a 100 percent better chance of being adopted, because now it’s got this person who walked it today, and cleaned it up and washed its eyes out,” Withers said.

And the volunteer, she added, will go out and tell five people about the dog, “and they’ll tell somebody else, and that dog is going to be adopted. But sitting in the shelter with no access to a volunteer to spread the word about it, that dog’s not going to be adopted. His time’s going to be up, and they’re going to be euthanized.”

But Cooper said right now it isn’t feasible to allow volunteers to come in and handle animals at the shelter without getting a rabies shot, just like shelter employees have to do.

For now, Withers said she’s happy to have had a role in saving one more dog’s life.

“It’s a success story for the shelter,” she said.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at llewis@brunswickbeacon.com