Happy ending for gas station rescue dog

By Jill Clair Gentry / Baldwin People editor people@gulfcoastnewspapers.com
Posted 8/7/13

The Baldwin County Humane Society (BARC) usually works with local animals, but Clara's story is different.

Clara was found at a gas station in Thomasville, three hours north of Baldwin County. Someone posted about her on BARC's Facebook page, and …

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Happy ending for gas station rescue dog


The Baldwin County Humane Society (BARC) usually works with local animals, but Clara's story is different.

Clara was found at a gas station in Thomasville, three hours north of Baldwin County. Someone posted about her on BARC's Facebook page, and the BARC staff couldn't just leave her — her skin was covered in scabs, she was emaciated and no one could catch her. She was running across a busy road on a regular basis and eating scraps to survive.

So BARC began posting about the dog's plight, and its followers fell in love with her. People donated more than $1,200 to help with Clara's rescue and veterinary bills. One woman volunteered to go pick her up. Unfortunately, she couldn't catch the dog.

After the unsuccessful rescue attempt, the owner of the gas station agreed to set a humane trap, and the next day, adoption coordinator Deneen Balistere drove to pick up the dog that captured Baldwin County's heart.

“She was petrified,” Balistere says. “A lady told us she seemed aggressive.” But Balistere says most neglected dogs who seem aggressive just need some time to feel safe before they open up.

“When we got her back here, I opened up the crate, and five or 10 minutes later, she crawled into my lap and started licking my face, and I just thought, 'This dog is so sweet,'” she says. “It was like I could feel her saying thank you. She knew she was safe.”

But Clara was still facing an uphill battle.

“The best way to describe how she felt, it was like trying to pet a giant scab,” Balistere says. “And she smelled like gasoline — someone at the station told us someone had poured gasoline on her.”

Clara was diagnosed with demodectic mange, which fortunately is non-contagious. Over the past three months, she has been treated with medicated baths, and her fur has grown back. She has also returned to a healthy weight, and a family has promised to adopt her — Balistere, who is also a dog trainer, is trying to help Clara learn to play nice around other dogs before she goes to her new home.

“I think wherever she goes she is going to be happy, but I really want her to know and understand people aren't mean,” Balistere says. “Obviously before she got here, people didn't show her that.”

Balistere says stories like Clara's are why she started working with BARC.

“It's for dogs like Clara,” she says. “Watching a dog go from sick and emaciated and shivering in the back of a kennel and full of fear to happy, healthy and bouncing around in a home where they are getting the love and attention they deserve is so rewarding.”

But not all stories end like Clara's.

“Rescue is a great job and a horrible job at the same time,” Balistere says.

BARC adopted out 225 dogs last year, but the need in Baldwin County is far higher than what BARC and all of the other rescue organizations can handle.

“What is so difficult here is the lack of regulation and animal cruelty laws,” Balistere says. “It's almost like it's OK to do whatever you want to a dog. I think if there were tougher regulations, licensing and stricter laws about cruelty and abuse, there would be a decline in the amount of abandoned animals that need homes.”

Balistere says the best way to prevent animal suffering is to have your pet spayed or neutered. One unspayed female dog can produce 10 puppies, and those 10 puppies will have 10 more each — stray dogs multiply quickly.

Also, she advises people to think seriously about getting a pet. Many of BARC's rescue dogs are surrendered or dumped by owners who didn't realize the financial and time commitment a dog would be for their family.

“It's a living, breathing thing,” Balistere says. “If you can't afford it, don't get it.”

But of course, if you're looking for a dog, Balistere hopes you consider adopting a rescue — if taken care of, they will be forever grateful.

Did you know?

  • Large black dogs are usually the last to be adopted.

  • BARC's adoption fee is $100, and all animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, tested for heartworms and microchipped.

  • You can be a foster parent. Fostering is the best way to get a dog ready for its forever home. Contact BARC at 251-928-4585 for more information.

  • While there is a home inspection to adopt from BARC and most other rescues, the requirements are not strict. Balistere says when she does home visits, she simply looks to see that other animals are treated well and that the dog will be a good fit in the home — very few are turned down for adoption.