By Erin Clark Frost
Last year, a friend of mine was looking to adopt a dog. To meet this pup, he made arrangements with Melanie Sartore-Baldwin, who runs a local volunteer group called Mutt Strutters out of the Pitt County Animal Shelter. This amazing group of people walks dogs at the shelter every week to help the dogs get exercise and regain their confidence.
I didn’t realize in that time that I needed the same things as the dogs, but I had a blood clot extending from my hip to my calf. I’d left the hospital the previous December with a walker and after several months graduated to a cane. Even after coming off the cane, my leg wasn’t right. I knew exercise would help, but it was painful and not fun like it had once been. I had been able-bodied all my life, and my new limitations were a real challenge for me.
When I arrived at the Pitt County Animal Shelter with my friend, I had already warmed up to reduce my limp and my compression gear was hidden under my pants—so I looked like a capable thirty-something woman.
They gave me Champ.
This beautiful dog didn’t even look up at me—he just wanted to go! Champ was a black-and-white pittie mix who had a LOT of energy. His lop-sided grin was likely from some past trauma, but it was so endearing, and he had the most beautiful gray spots on his face. I wrapped the leash around my wrist and hung on for dear life. Champ’s exuberance overwhelmed and delighted me.
The next chance I got, I went back to the shelter to walk Champ again.
Eventually, Champ noticed me there on the other end of the leash. He wanted pets and loves and treats in addition to his walks. We graduated to running, which I hadn’t imagined I’d do again for a very long time. But Champ needed to run, and I couldn’t tell him no! I became proud of my ability to wear Champ out and get him the stimulation he needed. Another volunteer (a great guy with a ton of patience) worked with Champ on his leash skills. And Champ and I both improved with every walk.
I started posting on Facebook, following the lead of Melanie and other volunteers, hoping to help Champ find a home. But in December, Champ had still not found his forever family. High-energy dogs are often hard to place, especially if they have any pit bull in them. (This breed is so falsely maligned—to know a pittie is to love a pittie!) I started to worry. Champ’s adoption fee was reduced. Then it was reduced again. When I left to travel out-of-state for Christmas, I didn’t know how much time Champ had left. I was terrified.
Happily, Champ found his forever family! His name is Chance now, and he has a great life.
Champ and the other shelter dogs saved me. I’m so grateful to all the humans who help save them back.
For more information about Mutt Strutters, contact Melanie Sartore-Baldwin. For more information on Pitt County Animal Services and all the good work they do, visit their website. You can help by walking dogs, assisting with a doggie play group, or signing up for a Doggy Day Out field trip! You can also follow Pitt County Animal Services on Facebook or Instagram—liking and sharing their posts helps a lot to increase the exposure of their adoptable dogs and cats!