Photographer Rebecca Rood was walking through Whitfield County Animal Shelter one day when she noticed a dog huddled in the back of his kennel. The dog, Stewart, leaned against the wall, looking like he was trying to make himself as small as possible. From just his body language, it was clear to Rood that this dog had a very rough past.
Rood talked to one of the shelter workers and learned that Stewart had been found tied up in the woods near Dalton, Georgia. He had a thick leather belt around his neck that rubbed uncomfortably against his skin. When shelter workers tried to remove the belt, he growled at them. After all the poor dog had been through, he didn’t trust people.
Stewart also wouldn’t let anyone pet him, or even come close to him. He was completely terrified of everything and everyone.
“It was like he didn’t want to be seen, [as] if by burying himself in the wall maybe we would go away,” Rood told The Dodo. “It was truly heartbreaking to see.”
Rood took a few photos of Stewart, getting as close as he would allow. She posted those photos to her Facebook page, and they attracted the attention of Courtney Bellew, the director of Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation (SNARR).
Bellew pulled Stewart out of the shelter and transferred him to a veterinary clinic. There, they sedated him to neuter him and run a few tests. While he was under sedation, they finally removed the belt from around his neck.
As soon as the belt was gone, Stewart became a whole new dog.
“It was as if that belt around his neck was the burden of his past,” Bellew told The Dodo. “The minute they removed it and he woke up from anesthesia, it was like he opened up. He was playing and wagging his tail.”
Bellew shared a video of Stewart playing to SNARR’S Facebook page. In it, Stewart played with a toy, his tail wagging happily. Stewart seemed to understand that he was in a place where people wanted to help him. He knew that Bellew and the veterinarians were good people.
Rood was amazed to see Stewart’s transformation:
“I cried when [Bellew] sent me the recent videos. The progress is amazing.”
Stewart is doing better, but he still has a long way to go until he’s ready to be adopted. Bellew is now looking for the right foster home for Stewart, a place where he’ll be able to come out of his shell even more and learn how to trust humans again.
“I think that he’s going to need a very patient adopter, and I don’t think he can just go into any home,” Bellew says. “I think he needs somebody with some training experience with fearful dogs. I would love him to go to a quiet, adult-only home, and preferably without other dogs.”
We may never know what happened to Stewart, but one thing is for sure: there are now many good people who are looking out for him. These caring people who will make sure that Stewart ends up in the right forever home.
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