Stewart’s story begins in the woods of rural Georgia where he was discovered chained to a tree with a thick leather belt buckled around his neck. Animal control officers brought the skinny, terrified pooch to the Whitfield County Animal Shelter.
It was there that photographer and shelter volunteer, Rebecca Rood snapped this heartbreaking photo.
Stewart was so terrified he couldn’t even bear to look at the humans outside his kennel. He refused to eat, huddled at the back of his cage, and pressed his head against the wall when spoken to. When rescuers tried to remove the belt from his neck, he growled.
“He didn’t want to be bothered, didn’t want to be touched,” Said Courtney Bellew, founder and director of Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation (SNARR). “He would growl, and then he would just go hide in the corner, and turn his face against the wall. He was totally terrified and shut down.”
The dog was in such a state of severe anxiety, his rescuers decided to give him time to decompress. For four full days, they simply placed food and water in his kennel. They did not attempt to touch him or interact with him.
Knowing Stewart’s chances of rehabilitation were slim at the underfunded county shelter, Rood contacted Courtney Bellew in New York to see if SNARR could help out. Bellew took one look at the photo of Stewart cowering against the wall and agreed to help.
Stewart was transferred to a local veterinary clinic where he was placed under anesthesia to be neutered and given a full physical work-up. At long last, they also removed the belt from his neck.
“It was as if that belt around his neck was the burden of his past,” Bellew said. “The minute they removed it and he woke up from anesthesia, it was like he opened up. He was playing and wagging his tail.”
While Stewart had certainly turned a corner, he was still a long way from rehabilitated. He took to some of the staff, but remained frightened and cautious around most people. It was decided that he would remain at the clinic until an experienced foster home could be found.
Little by little, the dog Bellew describes as “the most shut down dog we have ever come across in seven-and-a-half years of doing rescue,” grew stronger and braver.
“He is slowly but surely coming around and is now enjoying being a dog; something I don’t think he ever was able to do in his past,” Bellew told iHeartDogs.
Almost a year after his initial rescue, Rebecca Rood, the devoted shelter volunteer who facilitated Stewart’s transfer from the shelter into the care of SNARR, posted the following update!
“Some of you may remember Stewart. He was the dog that was completely shut down at a rural animal control. I posted his photo and begged for a rescue to help this poor soul. He literally had a belt as a collar and he wouldn’t lift his head from the corner of the kennel.
Courtney Bellew immediately stepped up for him. He spent months learning to be a dog. I got a message tonight that he has been adopted!! 😍”
“Another example of why rescuers do what we do,” Rood’s post continues. “We save the injured, the broken, the hurt, the sick and nurse them back to health (mentally and physically). Thank you so much, Courtney for helping this sweet boy learn what love is!”
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