A dog's tale: Abandoned pooch transforms into Angel

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

OCEAN ISLE BEACH—“Look at how beautiful she is,” Janie Withers said as she showed off a lively white Pekingese dog that’s been residing at her home for the past two months.

Two months ago, the little dog Withers has named Angel wasn’t so lively or pretty. Found abandoned along a Winnabow roadside, starving, she had a ruptured eye and her fur was severely matted. The dog likely would have died except for a Good Samaritan who rescued her.

A rescue group couldn’t help, so Withers was contacted for help.

Withers, founder/director of Paws-Ability, a nonprofit that supports animal causes and funding needs in Brunswick County, was at the doctor’s office when she got the call from Furever Friends Animal Rescue.

Withers summoned Betty Smith, a retired professional dog groomer, to help. It took them nearly two hours on July 25 to untangle Angel’s fur, which was severely matted close to her skin.

“This is a dog somebody paid a lot of money for,” Withers said as Smith deftly applied an electric clipper to Angel’s fur.

“She’ll be beautiful when [Smith is] finished,” Withers added.

“You just have to get under this mat and keep working,” Smith said.

“These are dogs people pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for,” Withers said, adding, “This is what dogs at the puppy mill look like. [Somebody] threw her away like a piece of yesterday’s garbage.”

The dog was “starving, matted, tangled and sightless in the middle of nowhere,” said Withers, who favors better laws regulating puppy mills in North Carolina. “She’s better off to be euthanized than like this.”

She said that’s what happens all too often when a puppy-mill dog has outgrown its usefulness after giving birth to many litters of puppies. And, she said, Angel was found in an area where puppy mills proliferate, often breeding and offering for sale smaller-breed dogs.

“She’s the kind of dog that would come from a puppy mill,” Withers explained.

Angel was rescued just a week before a Leland couple who operated a puppy mill, Andrew and Amelia Millis, were arrested and charged on 24 counts each of misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

“I know, baby, I know, it’s hard for you,” Withers said as the dog struggled as Smith clipped her fur.

Periodically, Smith had to stop and clean the clipper because it was getting so clogged up with the dog’s fur, it wouldn’t cut.

Withers said the dog was covered in cockleburs and sandspurs and was hard to hold.

She summed it up as an emergency situation.

“Oh, look at you now, Angel,” Withers said after Smith was finished and a mass of Angel’s dirty, matted fur was piled on the table.

That day Withers said she planned to take Angel under her foster-care wing, to her own home in Ocean Isle Beach where she would bathe her and feed her.

The next day, Withers planned to take Angel to a local veterinarian for shots and an overall assessment.


Two months later

Last Friday, Withers showed off the larger, livelier Angel who is still residing at her house with two other dogs.

The vet determined Angel is blind in both her eyes because of eye injuries and neglect. She’s been relying on her acute canine sense of smell and hearing to get around just fine, Withers said.

“She only barks when she has to pee-pee or eat,” said Withers, who for the first two-and-a-half weeks fed the little dog six meals a day consisting of chicken and rice—“like you would if you had the flu,” she said.

“She was emaciated,” Withers said. “She was just bones with skin on it. There was no muscle to her at all.”

She said Angel has gained a pound and a half and is now eating regularly two times a day.

Withers describes Angel as “more like a kitty-cat” because she loves to cuddle in her lap.

She said Angel is cautious when she’s outside.

Withers said she’ll keep caring for Angel until she finds the right home for her.

It has to be a special home, she said, because Angel is a special-needs dog.

“She obviously had not been cared for for a long time,” Withers said, estimating Angel may have gone for two years un-groomed and unloved.

Once she was freed of her matted fur, “she just rolled back and forth like this is heaven,” Withers said. “She wanted to be touched and rubbed.”

In two months, “she’s come a long way,” Withers said. “She’s able to walk on a leash. And she doesn’t mind being groomed.”

For information about Paws-Ability, log onto its website at Paws-Ability.org, pawsability.blogspot.com or its Facebook page.


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