In the spring of 2014, Karol Wilcox of CHS-PAWS worked an animal call at the Hayti, Mo. residence of Brian Garner. There she found a young male Pit Bull starved, injured, chained and dying in the tall grass. With the assistance of local authorities Wilcox was able to take possession of the dog and return with him to the shelter to evaluate him. Wilcox named the dog Skelly, short for Skeletor, due to his skeleton like appearance.
Covered in sores from abuse and neglect, improperly healed broken bones, heartworm positive, and with infection throughout his body, there didn’t appear to be much chance of recovery for this poor boy. But such dire situations have never stopped the dedicated crew at CHS-PAWS and they went to work to getting Skelly on his road to recovery.
Skelly’s vet bills soared. His daily care and rehabilitation were taxing. But Wilcox was determined to bring Skelly back to health and find him a home outside of the city limits where they have a breed ban prohibiting the ownership of Pit Bulls. If his health and rehab weren’t challenging enough, finding him a home certainly would be.
At the time of rescue, Skelly appeared to be a pup of no more than seven or eight months old. But the vet discovered Skelly was much older; he was a dog of at least two years of age. The abuse and neglect he had suffered had stunted his growth and as Wilcox was finding out, it had stunted his social development as well. Skelly simply didn’t know how to be a dog.
Weeks passed and Skelly’s body healed as much as it ever would. He was left with scars but had regained good physical health. During Skelly’s recovery, Garner, Skelly’s previous owner, sent many people to the shelter to attempt to adopt Skelly. Wilcox was later able to successfully prosecute Garner for animal abuse and she was wise from the beginning when Garner’s friends were trying to adopt the dog back.
Wilcox, having made Skelly’s rehab her personal mission, worried that she may never find the right home for this special boy. He was sweet and loving, but he was strong, stubborn, and to the average person, a little intimidating. And as Wilcox readily admits, he was at times, more than she was sure she could handle. He didn’t know how to play like other dogs. Even the simplest thing like stairs and interior flooring petrified him. He was leery of almost everyone but Wilcox and other shelter staff. He was overly protective of her and his personal toys. Wilcox shed many tears and spent many sleepless nights worrying about the future of the little Pit Bull she had saved.
Wilcox found herself reaching out to larger animal welfare organizations asking for help. And just about the time she thought that help would never come, she received a call. An organization was interested in taking Skelly into their custody and moving him out of the Bootheel.
The Missouri organization that took Skelly relocated him to one of their branches in New Jersey where he went through behavioral rehab. Skelly worked on his social skills and began learning basic commands. Part of his ongoing rehab was to go into short term foster care with Erin Corcoran in New York City.
Erin knew of Skelly’s past and was impressed with how far he had come since his initial rescue. She worked with him on his socialization and playing skills and his tendency to be nippy and mouth people’s hands during play time. She was amazed that Skelly really didn’t know how to simply be a dog.
Skelly continued to perplex Erin with the average everyday things that he had no clue how to do or react to. Stairs were a big item since Erin lived on the upper floor of her building. For weeks Erin had carried Skelly up and down the stairs to take him out for walks. He’d been around other dogs at the Missouri shelter but really didn’t know how to interact and play with them. Erin’s brother’s dog Murray was a frequent visitor and Skelly followed Murray around like a puppy. When Erin would lay on the couch Skelly would sit and look at her longingly until Erin realized he literally didn’t know how to jump up on the couch or that he would be allowed to stay there.
As time passed, people started applying to adopt Skelly. With each application Erin held her breath, dreading the day when one of the applicants would work out and she would have to part with Skelly. She’d become attached to her ward, as many fosters do, and the thought of him leaving her was heart breaking. She and Skelly had taught each other so much and become so close, Erin felt that Skelly’s true home should be with her.
After careful consideration Erin contacted the organization that had custody of Skelly and told them she had made up her mind and that she wanted to keep Skelly as her own. The paperwork was filled out and signed and with that Skelly was officially a foster failure, and Erin’s forever fur baby.
Skelly has come a long way from life, and almost his death, on a chain in that small town in the Bootheel of Missouri. He’s mastered the stairs and enjoys daily walks in the big city where he meets hundreds of people and animals at a time. He also enjoys his time with Murray who teaches him more and more each day about how to be a dog. Skelly has also made his way into the hearts of Erin’s parents, who at one time had no use for Pit Bull type dogs. Skelly and Erin’s dad are big buddies who enjoy every minute they spend together. The one thing Skelly has mastered is working his way into the heart of everyone he meets.
Erin says that Skelly still hates baths and is protective of his things but he’s never been aggressive and now enjoys his favorite place on the couch for a good snuggle. He’s terrified of the little Pomeranian across the hall but thrives on the frequent visits from children in their building. And while his visible scars are a constant reminder of what he came from they are also a reminder of the good hearts of the people who saved him and all he’s overcome.
Skelly Bean, as Erin calls him, has traveled and had adventures all the way from the Bootheel to the Big Apple and now lives better than most two legged children thanks to a handful of loving and patient people in animal rescue. Skelly enjoys long walks in the park, trips to the dog park, weekend visits to the grandparents, bring your dog to work days with Erin, and has many new friends both two legged and four. This boy who once suffered so greatly now thrives in the loving care of his new mama. He snuggles on the couch, sleeps in mama’s bed, and enjoys adventures with her regularly.
Originally published on Examiner.com
November 1, 2015
Author, Gila Todd