After 16 days of searching, a lab mix is now safely off the streets of Walker County, thanks to the animal rescue community rallying together to save him when a plastic container became caught around his head.
Walker County Humane Society (WCHS) Board Director Susie Vann told to Daily Mountain Eagle of the heartwarming, yet heartbreaking, tale of how "Jughead" came to be rescued Saturday.
When Jughead was abandoned by his owners, who moved away in Empire, a neighbor, Gail Mitchell, started feeding the shy dog that she affectionately called "Dog." Sixteen days ago, as of Saturday, the dog was spotted with a plastic container around his head, similar to the ones filled with cheese balls or pretzels.
Another person's discarded trash on the roadside became the dog's horror, and he couldn't escape the container. To make things more complicated, Vann said the dog ran way when anyone tried to approach.
The Walker County Humane Society, which rescues dogs and cats, became involved in the search for Jughead, along with the Walker County Sheriff's Office and other county animal rescues, including Sasha's Hope and Rescue, Rescuers United for Furbabies (R.U.F.F.) and Forgotten Tails Rescue. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society and their animal control officers even traveled to Empire to help search for the dog, considering time was of the essence.
The rescue groups searched day and night, but the dog had simply disappeared. If he caught any quick glimpses of rescuers, he always ran.
"You would think after, at that time, 15 days, with this on his head, that he would almost be lifeless, but he had enough spark in him that when he would see people he would hit the woods again," Vann said. "We all knew it was getting close to how much longer he could make it. There was a big difference in the way he was carrying himself [Friday], versus the day before."
Early Saturday morning, Vann, along with Mitchell, WCHS board member Dee O'Mary and Vann's sister, Joan Thornton, were making another attempt to catch the dog. Mitchell started banging a spoon in a metal pan, calling for Jughead, and within a few minutes, he appeared.
"If you can imagine the horror of seeing an emaciated dog with a plastic jug on his head, it was just devastating," Vann said.
When the other women approached, the dog tried to run again, but they were eventually able to safely catch him and remove the container from his head.
"It was the best feeling in the world to have your hands on him when that jug came off," Vann said in tears. "It was such a sigh of relief from him, and you could feel it in his body as we were holding on to him.
"All we could say was, 'Thank you, God. Thank you, Lord, so very much.'"
The dog was then taken to Farmstead Veterinary Medical Center, where he received an IV, nutritional supplements, vaccines, flea and tick medication and antibiotics. He also had plenty of fresh water and food and was treated for a gash on his leg.
Jughead did test positive for heartworm disease, but he will begin treatment soon.
Vann said she wants the people who abandoned him to be held accountable.
"We are going to seek cruelty charges and abandonment charges, and we'll trust that will be to the extent of the law," she said.
After he receives heartworm treatment and gains back the weight he has lost, Vann said they will find him a loving, forever home. She said she is incredibly grateful to all who helped in the search and eventual rescue of the dog.
Unfortunately, Vann said abandonment is common in the county, and she said there's no excuse when there are area rescue groups that could help.
Late Saturday morning, Jughead was settled in at Farmstead Veterinary with his own blanket and water bowl. He was a bit camera shy, but was doing well, overall.
"We will do everything we can to rehabilitate him to where he's back 100 percent," Vann said.