She’d just found out her son had been arrested two weeks before and was going to prison. She found out because she was being contacted to become foster to her grandson that was left behind.

She then realized her son’s house had been uninhabited for ten days — with his two dogs abandoned inside. Even though she and her son had stopped speaking, she loved his dogs and especially Gator, who’d been a member of the family for five years.  williams, leanne mug2

As she trucked through the tall grass and holes in the yard, she heard a familiar bark and breathed a sigh of relief to know that at least he was still alive. When she got the back door open she was greeted miraculously, by two starving, dehydrated dogs who were very happy to see her.

To survive, they had drank the water out of the toilet and raided the cupboards looking for anything they could eat. They even tried to open a bottle of Tobasco!

She tried taking both dogs to her home but her large dominant male dog was not at all hospitable to Gator. She was able to keep the young female dog but, sadly, had to take Gator back to that very hot, un-air conditioned wreck of a house, full of fleas and cockroaches, and leave him there — at least this time with food and water and a promise to return.

His sad face haunted her all the way home. Gator hated being alone. The landlord of the house understandably wanted the dogs removed immediately and the house cleaned out — all of which fell on the shoulders of the poor woman. If she didn’t find a place for Gator to go quickly, authorities would remove him and he’d probably be destroyed. She called Faithful Friends and relayed this whole story to me.

She said Gator was a “sweetheart,” just too good a dog to come to this sad end. She said Gator was an eighty pound, tough looking, American Bulldog/Pit Bull mix which did not surprise me, judging from his name. What did surprise me was he was completely house-trained, mannerly, gentle and loved kids, cats and dogs.

He obeyed several commands, always eager to please. He was loyal, protective and had a very loud “alert bark” but had never harmed anyone. One of his favorite friends was a neighbor’s Chihuahua. Usually, a person like the one she described as her son would have tried to train their dog to be an aggressive guard dog. Gator’s personality did not fit the picture.

Still a bit leery, I told her we’d have to come meet and assess the dog because he’d have to go into a foster home (probably mine). If I didn’t have an appropriate foster, we couldn’t rescue him. Rich was not comfortable with me going on this trip alone.

When we arrived the woman was standing in the driveway of the house. She cautioned us about the holes in the yard and the condition of the house. I scolded myself for not bringing the bug spray to douse our legs before we went in. I could hear a deep booming bark as we got to the door.

I entered a broken back door, bearing tasty dog treats in my hand. This big black and white dog with a black patch over one eye greeted us, still barking but tail wagging. As soon as he smelled the treats his bum hit the floor, hoping he’d be rewarded. Rewarded he was!

Rich and I couldn’t get ourselves and Gator out of there fast enough! The house was a disaster but I couldn’t help but notice the Tobasco bottle among the ruins of grocery items Gator and his pal had sifted through and tried to consume in the kitchen.

We’ve had Gator two weeks now and have to say, all that the woman (Gator’s grandma) told us about him was true, but there is so much more. What an incredibly special dog!

The first few days were rough for a grieving Gator, but his beautiful, loving soul and gentle, sweet, funny personality are fully exposed now.

Rich and I so thankful we didn’t judge this “book” by its cover.

(Leanne Williams is president of Faithful Friends Animal Advocates, Inc., in Newton and McDonald counties. She can be reached by phone at (417) 592-2512 or by email at ffaaneosho@yahoo.com.)

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