This beautiful girl is Caitlyn and while she might look like just another dog, her incredible story of survival, heartbreak, and love has caught the attention of global media and inspired people around the globe.
Although this story begins with a devastatingly abused Caitlyn; where this story ends will warm your heart.
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On May 27, 2015, calls flooded into the North Charleston Police Department when several people made a gruesome discovery regarding a stray dog. Police arrived on the scene to discover this brave little dog they would later be named Caitlyn.
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The dog, an American Staffordshire Terrier mix, had apparently broken free after being chained up. However, it is what she endured while chained up that will break your heart.
The female dog’s muzzle was bound with electrical tape. It has been wrapped nine times. Her mouth was clamped shut so that she could not open it at all, not even to eat or drink, but that wasn’t the worst of it.
When her mouth was bound, her tongue had been caught between her teeth and was protruding out of her clamped, swollen muzzle. The end had begun to turn black as the blood supply was cut off.
Her muzzle was so swollen around the tape, emergency veterinarians had a difficult time freeing her. When they finally cut through the tape and she was free, she began to wail in the pain she’d silently endured for what doctors believe to be days.
The staff at Charleston Animal Society named the dog Caitlyn. As she recovered, they found that underneath the pain and fear was a sweet, loving, playful girl who loved people.
Still, watching Caitlyn endure her medical treatments, seeing her fearfulness and anxiety, and knowing the pain she’d experienced both mentally and physically, animal shelter staffers as well as the public began to call for Justice for Caitlyn.
The person who did this should have to answer for their crimes. But where do they start?
Fortunately, Caitlyn’s original owners had participated in a free spay/neuter event sponsored by Charleston Animal Society. This meant that that the shelter staff had access to some information on her.
Investigators reached out to the original owners of the 1 ½ year old dog who had brought her in for the spay event. They said they had sold her to someone else.
Police tracked down Caitlyn’s owner, 42-year-old William Leonard Dodson of North Charleston who claimed he taped the dog’s mouth shut because she would not stop barking.
Friends of Dodson said that he laughed as he told them the story of how he applied electrical tape to clamp the dogs mouth shut.
It is incredible that at this point his friends did not call police and turn him in. Animal abuse is a crime and the decent thing to do would have been to call the police to investigate.
Doctors were concerned that Caitlyn wouldn’t survive, that her injuries were too extensive, the damage too great. While they worked to try and save her, they silently prepared themselves for the worst.
Caitlyn had to undergo plastic surgery to repair her cheek which was damaged. She also endured multiple laser surgeries for the scars on her face as well as numerous hyperbaric oxygen treatments and surgery on one of her salivary glands that was damaged by the abuse.
Dr. Henri Bianucci, a veterinarian with Veterinary Specialty Care located in Mount Pleasant was responsible for Caitlyn’s treatment and surgeries. He was called her response to the treatment and recovery “really amazing.”
As news of Caitlyn’s story spread, along with the huge bill that would come with all her treatments, donations began pouring in – and also lots of pats and scratches behind the ears.
Before long, enough money had been raised to not only cover Caitlyn’s medical expenses – ALL of them – but also enough to care for her for the rest of her life.
Once the Charleston Animal Society were certain that Caitlyn’s medical fund had well surpassed its target goal, they reached out to donors to let them know that all of her bills and expenses had been taken care of prior to their donation. They then asked if they could move the donations to Toby’s Fund, a special medical fund that is used to treat animals that have been abandoned, abused, and injured.
Every single donor said yes!
Animal lovers aren’t the only ones who should be concerned with how our legal system handles animal abuse cases. According to Kay Hyman, Charleston Animal Society’s Director of Community Engagement, many studies have been done that directly link animal abuse and violence against humans.
While Caitlyn’s abuser was being investigated, Caitlyn continued to heal. The scars on her face began to fade and her tongue, which doctors initially feared would have to be amputated, healed much better than anyone expected.
In August 2016, Dodson pled guilty to a felony charge of ill treatment of an animal. He will be sentenced at a later date, but many involved in the case are hoping for the maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Caitlyn’s heartbreaking ordeal has brought to light the weak laws regarding animal abuse cases in South Carolina – some of the weakest in the country, ranking 45th according to the Humans Society of the United States.
The Charleston Animal Society is taking aggressive steps to prevent animal abuse cases by setting up Caitlyn’s Anti-Cruelty Fund.
The fund pays for rewards for information that leads to the arrest of people who abuse animals and funds anti-cruelty outreach programs in the North Charleston area and throughout the Low country. These programs are designed to educate the public on animal abuse as well as provide training to animal control officers on how to collect vital evidence that could aid in prosecuting animal abusers.
On a larger scale, Caitlyn’s story has prompted many people to reach out to their congressmen and women, calling for tougher laws and harsher penalties regarding animal abuse.
Caitlyn’s plight has put a very real face to the crime of animal abuse, something that touches every single community in the entire world. It is not just a South Carolina issue. Nor is it a United States issue. It is a GLOBAL issue!
Caitlyn’s story has been shared across social media, in People Magazine, on the BBC, and on various news stations, local, national, and global.
On social media sites the hashtag #IamCaitlyn has come to represent the millions of animals all over the world who are abused every day. It has put a much needed spot light on some of our society’s most vulnerable, silent victims of abuse.
And how does Caitlyn’s story end? She is currently in a very loving foster home with her foster brothers and a foster sister named Oreo. Every night she sleeps at the foot of the bed of one of her foster family’s children.
She loves to play ball – tennis balls are her favorite. To celebrate her rescue, the Charleston Animal Society staff gave her a huge box of them along with tons of toys and treats.
Best of all, Caitlyn’s friends were invited to join in the fun! They each received toys, treats, and even extra cozy blankets to keep them warm.
She also received a bone to the city and was treated to a special Starbucks treat just for her.
As a final very special treat on Caitlyn’s very special day, she was made an honorary fire dog for the day.
For Caitlyn, the best part was getting to spend time with one of her favorite humans, firefighter Josh Allen.
While Caitlyn’s body has mostly healed, her heart is taking a little more time. She is still afraid of some men and is anxious sometimes especially in unknown situations, but she is getting better every day.
If you are interested in learning more about Caitlyn’s Anti-Cruelty Fund and Toby’s Fund can visit the websites to get information, make a donation, and to read more about Caitlyn as well as other awesome, inspiring animals that have overcome abuse and persevered over evil at the hands of humans.