by: Sarah Lively, web producer Updated:
GASTONIA - What a difference a month can make. Meet Buddy, a German shepherd/Plott hound mix. Buddy is now a healthy dog, but the first year of his life was an unhealthy, drastic contrast.
“[The dog] is currently tied to a tree and is wet and cold. The neighbor has been sneaking food to him when she can. I’m scared he might freeze to death with the temperature dropping over the next few nights.”
This was a post shared on Project Helping Animals Live On’s Facebook page on Jan. 2. Project HALO is a nonprofit, no-kill animal rescue and sanctuary in Charlotte. The next night’s, Jan. 3, temperature was expected to drop to seven degrees. Denise Hixson read the post and sprang into action. She had been thinking about fostering a dog and this was her opportunity.
Hixson and her husband went to the house where Buddy was chained. His current owner called him “Boss.” They spoke with the owner and asked if they could take the dog. He agreed, and they took the dog home. Because he was friendly they decided to name him Buddy. They initially thought they would keep him for one or two nights, but that turned into several weeks.
“Once we unhooked that chain we became his family,” said Hixson. “Buddy wasn’t going anywhere.”
Malnourished and suffering from hook worm, Hixson knew she would have to rehabilitate Buddy before he could reach the point of adoption. She created a Facebook page called “Buddy’s Journey off the Chain,” to show his progress.
“I wanted to show other people you can do this, you can help,” Hixson said.
Through the page, she hoped someone would take interest in adopting Buddy.
After posting photos, statuses and videos of Buddy’s progress, an out-of-state friend contacted her asking about him. The friend, who wished to be identified only as Angie, had another dog and an elementary school-aged son and wanted to know how Buddy would get along with them. Buddy got along well with Hixson’s two dogs and two cats, so she did not see it being a problem. Angie also asked about Buddy’s behavior, training, and food aggression.
After weeks of communicating, Angie’s family decided to adopt Buddy. They met at a state park near the North Carolina and Virginia state line. Buddy spent half an hour chasing Angie’s son and playing with their dog, Lambeau.
Sunday will mark one week that Buddy has been living in his new home.
“Rescues come with their own baggage. But with Buddy it’s like he’s always been here,” Angie said. Buddy watches Angie’s son get on his school bus and follows the bus with his eyes until it disappears. When he hears the bus in the afternoon he begins jumping around and gets excited.
Angie has vowed to continue Buddy’s “Journey off the Chain” Facebook page, as several people have taken interest in his story. A follower wrote to her, saying “I bet you didn’t realize you were going to have to share him with all of us.”
Hixson is adjusting to Buddy no longer being in her home. She says this experience proved to her she is ready to become a foster parent to other rescues. She will be taking an iFoster training class through the Humane Society of Charlotte in March. The organization offers the class on the third Saturday of each month.
“Not all dogs that start out in a terrible place are lost,” Angie said.
Angie and her family members are Green Bay Packers fans. They had initially thought about changing Buddy’s name to Nitschke, in honor of Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke. She says Buddy seems more fitting for now.
To learn more about pet adoptions in our area, visit Go Carolinas’ animal adoption page.