When you think of a baby-centric website, pets don’t immediately come to mind, but one such community is full of dog lovers. Earlier this year, BabyCenter member Virginia Henry asked for help with a Pit Bull mix she had found abandoned and chained to a rental home she owns in Houston, Texas. With the help of 14 other BabyCenter member families, Hammy, as the dog was named, found a new home with another BabyCenter member, Nicole, in New Jersey, after a 1,200-mile trip. We spoke with Virginia to get the details on this amazing act of coordination and compassion.
Dogster: What inspired you to go to such great lengths to help Hammy? Some people might have taken the “easy” route and just dumped him at a shelter, which may or may not have been able to adopt him out.
Virginia Henry: My husband and I have always had a soft spot for animals. Unfortunately, our old neighborhood was full of stray animals. I don’t know if people were purposefully abandoning their pets there or if it was simply coincidental. I am not affiliated with any rescue organization. I instead focus my efforts to save strays I run across. We rescued seven stray dogs in the five years we lived there. We either kept or rehomed them. Of the seven we rescued, five actually wandered onto our property, like there was a message amongst the canine population, “Go to Virginia’s house; she’ll take care of you!”
One particularly pulled at our heartstrings: We found her emaciated and near death. She was right next to a Wal-Mart that was by our neighborhood. Countless people drove or walked by her, and it was then I realized that those in our area did not care about these defenseless animals. It was this frame of mind that pushed us to rescue Hammy as well.
When you first found Hammy, was he checked for a microchip?
We took Hammy in for a veterinary exam and vaccines. He was checked for a microchip at the time. Unfortunately, he did not have one.
Your original call for help noted that you had checked with local rescue groups, and they were either full or would not take Pit Bulls. Is that a frequent problem in your area?
Most animal shelters do not accept Pit Bulls/Pit Bull mixes in the Houston area, and those that did were already at full capacity and could not accommodate him. This is frustrating, as the breed has an unfair stereotype of being harmful. That description could easily pertain to any canine breed. The stray Pit Bulls we have rescued turned out to be the most loving and trusting dogs. Dogs are not innately mean or aggressive; they are conditioned by people to become that way.
Was it scary sending Hammy off to live hundreds of miles away? How did you know that you had found the right home?
I am extremely picky about families who wish to adopt our rescues. There are too many ill-intentioned people who desire to use dogs for fighting or breeding purposes. I am a good judge of character and make sure a potential adoptive family will be a good fit.
In the case of Hammy’s new family, I asked many questions and was pleased to hear that his new owners had a plan in place to ease his transition to his new home. They brought up his sleeping, exercise, and play arrangements before I inquired. They also expressed plans to neuter and microchip him. Plus, they posted pictures of the shopping spree they had ahead of his arrival. I could tell they were excited to include him in their family. I wasn’t apprehensive at all. Hammy was heading to a family who wanted him for the right reasons.
The Dogster community is big on spay/neuter; what steps were or have been taken to get Hammy neutered?
Hammy’s new owners expressed strong interest in ensuring he was neutered shortly after his arrival. This one was of the main reasons I decided they would be a good match. His new dad is a former veterinary technician who understand the importance of sterilization.
Did you know any of the BabyCenter members personally outside of the online community?
I had become friends with many members of the BabyCenter community. There have been meet-ups in various regions across the country, including one I hosted in my home in April. I didn’t personally know the members who were involved in Hammy’s journey, though. They just happened to be strangers who became invested in helping an abused and neglected dog reach his new forever home. I am incredibly thankful to these kind individuals who assisted with this amazing operation.
I’m sure finding Hammy tied up at your old house was disheartening, but did your experience finding him a home help restore your faith in humanity?
It certainly was saddening to learn that the plight of neglected animals was still ongoing in our old neighborhood. I’m very angry at the person who tied him up and left him there. It’s crueler than dropping him off on the street to fend for himself. At least in that scenario, he would have had a chance to find food or kind people. I’m very thankful my neighbor, who is a Houston police officer, notified us.
Coming across these wonderful people through the BabyCenter community has certainly lifted my spirits. For a long time, I felt my husband and I were the only ones who cared about the plight of strays. One shelter we approached with a good reputation told us in the past that an animal who wasn’t 100-percent healthy or couldn’t be adopted quickly may be euthanized. Well, there’s no way I’d leave the animal there in good conscience knowing he could be put down. The only no-kill shelter in the area will not accept Pit Bull breeds/Pit Bull mixes.
So, yes, the kind strangers who worked together to transport Hammy to his new home has helped restore (partially) my faith in humanity. It’s unfortunate that many in the world do not share these values, but I’m so grateful that there are still good people left in this world.
Since Hammy’s arrival in New Jersey, his new mom, Nicole, has kept the BabyCenter community updated on his progress. He is in training and seems to be adjusting to his new life well. “He doesn’t seem to like doing dog stuff,” says Nicole. “He likes popping bubbles, running after water balloons, and playing in the sandbox.”
It’s amazing what complete strangers can accomplish when brought together by a common cause. Virginia, Nicole, and all of the BabyCenter members involved with this rescue are true Dogster heroes!
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.