She didn’t stand much of a chance — in fact she couldn’t hardly stand at all. The runt of her litter, Faith was one of 4,000 dogs living in an overcrowded shelter in Ankara, Turkey, when a kind family decided to take the dying puppy home with them.
They figured it would be better for Faith and her three sick siblings to know love for just a few days than to never know it at all. The other pups — Hope, Chance, and Grace — passed away as expected, but somehow, little Faith turned out to be the survivor.
Three years after she was saved from the shelter, Faith is getting ready for another big move: She’s headed to America with the family who saved her life. Meanwhile, thanks to the power of YouTube, Faith’s story is spreading around the world and shining a spotlight on the international problem of dog overpopulation.
“There’s so many dogs,” Mary Bryant-Carucci tells Dogster from her temporary home in Turkey’s capital city. “They are all over the place.”
Bryant-Carucci moved to Turkey with her husband, three daughters, and three Chihuahuas four years ago and was instantly struck by the plight of the numerous street dogs there. She started caring for strays in her neighborhood, and when a friend’s children asked for dog food for shelter dogs in lieu of party gifts, Bryant-Carucci and her girls were introduced to the harsh reality of the Ankara’s overwhelmed animal shelters.
“It is a huge outside area, enormous, for 4,000 dogs — and that’s just one shelter. They’re makeshift cages — not nice cages or kennels or runs,” she explains. According to Bryant-Carucci, it’s not uncommon to find dead dogs or dead rats in cages that typical house at least 20 dogs.
Despite the depressing conditions, Bryant-Carucci and her children began volunteering at the shelter every Saturday. It was a familiar pastime for the family, who had previously helped homeless animals back in the United States.
“I have some really good girls, and we’ve just always gone to the humane society to play with the dogs and cats. They always donated their money,” Bryant-Carucci explains. “We’ve always been animal lovers, but nothing like this.”
The family knew they were needed at the shelter, but the bleak conditions began to wear on Bryant-Carucci and her girls.
“I was so overwhelmed. I felt helpless — I mean, when you’re walking through 4,000 dogs, and you have these dogs just crying for you to feed them,” she says, adding that bread and chicken bones are a typical meal when dog food is in short supply. “Not every dog gets a meal every day — you can’t. It killed us.”
On the Saturday when Faith’s life was saved, Bryant-Carucci had brought her customary six bags of dog food to the shelter, and she was using her van to help shelter workers deliver dinner to the dogs when she heard her oldest daughter, Abby, calling for her repeatedly. Abby was visiting a cage that housed a litter of puppies and countless adult dogs when she spotted Faith and her siblings and felt compelled to do something for the sick pups.
“[Faith] was so malnourished, she could not walk,” says Bryant-Carucci, who quickly realized why her daughter kept calling for her. “[Faith] would just sit in the back of the cage, and any time the big dogs would come, they would trample her.”
After watching little Faith try to drag herself around on her elbows, Bryant-Carucci decided she would be taking this puppy — and her siblings — out of the shelter.
“I knew they would die,” says the experienced dog rescuer. She had also provided hospice to other sick Turkish street dogs, including one who died of parvo. She figured Faith would be the same — but this little puppy held on.
“Once we took her out of there and took her to our vet, they started care for the distemper. Once she was eating regularly, she just started improving, and we took her home.”
Faith had the all-clear from the vet to move in with her new family, but because of her history of distemper, she still needed to be quarantined away from Bryant-Carucci’s three Chihuahuas. Even though all the dogs had been vaccinated, the virus could still be dangerous.
“She was in my daughter’s bedroom for the first month, probably, that she was home,” Bryant-Carucci explains, noting that she would allow the Chihuahuas to sniff the bedroom door — something that helped them get used to little Faith — before she transitioned to living in the rest of the house.
When the big day came and Faith was allowed to leave the bedroom, the Chihuahuas were quick to adjust — first sniffing around her kennel before eventually welcoming her into the pack. Faith had made great progress since her shelter days, but she still needed to learn how to be a dog — she’d never yet felt grass beneath her paws.
“The girls would take her outside, and she would just kind of stand around,” her rescuer recalls.
These days, Faith is no longer standing still. Three years after being pulled from the shelter, she is busy playing with the newest addition to her family — a rescued street pup named Kara, who was born six months ago to one of the neighborhood dogs Bryant-Carucci looks after. Like Faith, Kara will be going to America when her new family returns home this summer. Bryant-Carucci is currently looking after anywhere from 25 to 75 street dogs, but having Faith and Kara helps keep her from feeling overwhelmed.
“You can’t help every single animal who’s suffering,” she explains, “but for the ones that you can, you make a difference. That’s how I look at it — and that’s how my girls look at it.”