On May 28, 2015 the Charleston Animal Society released a Facebook post describing the horrific abuse of a dog that had arrived in their care the previous day. Later dubbed Caitlyn, the 15-month-old chocolate colored Staffordshire Terrier mix had turned up at a North Charleston, SC home with her muzzle viciously taped shut.
Just one year later, Caitlyn’s dramatic recovery and accomplishments in advocating against animal cruelty are nothing short of astonishing. She will forever wear the scars of her abuse, but Caitlyn has transcended that dark phase of her life to become an ambassador for other animals in need of a voice.
Dr. Lucy Fuller is the Senior Director of Veterinary Care for CAS. One year ago, she described Caitlyn’s prognosis as critical, guarded, and possibly life threatening. The electrical tape was so tightly fastened around her muzzle that her teeth were clamped into her tongue, cutting off the blood supply. Her muzzle was severely swollen and she had gone without food or water for an estimated 48 hours.
Although the excruciating pain likely abated as the blood flow to her muzzle was pinched off, it returned in full force when doctors removed the tape. Aldwin Roman, CAS’s Anti-Cruelty and Outreach Director, said that once free of her bindings, Caitlyn immediately stretched her jaws open and released a heart wrenching scream of agony.
The photo of Caitlyn with her muzzle taped shut went viral on both social media and local news sources, inspiring shock, outrage and support from around the world.
Rescuers seized the worldwide attention and launched a campaign to end animal cruelty. Now, the canine survivor’s mission has spread like wildfire. More than $150,000 was raised in her name – far exceeding what was needed for her veterinary care. The additional funds benefited other pets in need at the Charleston Animal Society.
Her story has prompted cities across the country to work towards strengthening their laws against animal cruelty.
People magazine, the LA Times, USA Today, BBC, CNN, Gawker and dozens of other news outlets have all featured Caitlyn. Some incredibly hunky Charleston firefighters invited her to pose with them for their 2016 calendar – the proceeds of which benefit the Charleston Animal Society’s medical fund. On May 24 she joined her strapping new friends once again to shoot the 2017 calendar.
Her message stretches beyond the bounds of animal cruelty – her transformation has even helped inspire human victims of domestic violence to have courage and faith through their own struggles.
Most recently, she was the guest of honor at an Old Hollywood-themed gala to introduce CAS’s latest initiative – Caitlyn’s Anti-Cruelty Fund. Caitlyn took the stage in her finest pearl necklace, mingled with guests, and ultimately raised more than $75,000 towards the cause. Another $160,000 was raised for the new fund on May 3 during CAS’s Lowcountry Giving Day, thanks in part to Caitlyn’s presence.
When she isn’t out saving the world one pup at a time, fetching tennis balls with Food Network’s Alton Brown, or receiving the ‘Bone to the City” during her BarkPost Dog’s Best Day, Caitlyn is just your average dog. She has been in the care of a loving foster family since last June. They have declined to go public in order to protect their privacy and Caitlyn’s, but they give frequent updates to CAS.
Caitlyn adores romping with the other dogs in the home and cuddling with the children at night. Her foster mom takes her on 3 mile runs every other day – perfect for a rambunctious pooch like Caitlyn! People around Charleston recognize her and she’s always happy to meet and greet with fans.
The cruelty of one man has not stopped Caitlyn from loving and trusting humans. She will be eligible for official adoption once the case against her abuser has been finalized.
Kay Hyman, the Charleston Animal Society’s director of community engagement and dear friend to Caitlyn told The Post & Courier:
Caitlyn is not the first or the last or even the worst animal cruelty case we have seen, but something about her resonated with people. Every abandoned or abused dog around the world has become Caitlyn. She became a beacon of hope for animals around the world, and still is. It created a platform for people to communicate about this around the world.
This is why Caitlyn’s mission is so important. Her story captured the hearts and minds of millions, raising awareness to the plague of animal abuse and inspiring change. By continuing to advocate for the countless voiceless victims of cruelty, Caitlyn’s own suffering gains meaning and purpose.
Her work is far from over, but this incredible pup is certainly up for the challenge!
To see how far Caitlyn’s come in her journey, watch her receive her Best Day Ever:
H/T to The Post & Courier
Featured Image via Charleston Animal Society/Twitter