Lilo, The Innocent Puppy Who Was Left for the Vultures
Dogs are man’s best friend and they are the best at providing us with unconditional love. Sadly, not all of these furry friends get the same respect in return. Tragically, there are some dog owners who do not take proper care of their sweet puppies. Such is the case of Lilo the Pit Bull puppy. She grew up in a home without enough love, but her story is a fascinating one. Read on to discover Lilo’s fate.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Greensboro, North Carolina is a rural area that is no stranger to all sorts of different wildlife. And in this quaint town rests the Phillips Avenue neighborhood. But one fateful evening there was an ominous presence in the sky that put the residents of the town on edge.
There was a huge flock of vultures that were circling one particular house on the street. Seeing vultures in the residential area was very strange and the community wondered what was making them gather there. It couldn’t be a good thing.
The Ominous Sky Above
Vultures are associated with death since they typically feast on the remains of animals who have died, rather than hunting their own prey. You might remember the vultures in The Lion King. Thus, these scavenger birds have earned a name for themselves as being a very ominous presence; almost an evil one.
While they typically feed on animal carcasses, they will also target sick or wounded animals that cannot defend themselves. The bacteria from weak animals would normally make other birds sick but they have the capacity to handle these different kinds of bacteria. They have immunity due to corrosive stomach acid. So, what were they circling in preparation to eat?
A Horrifying Discovery
The residents were so shocked and concerned by the presence of the birds that one decided to investigate. He traced the birds to where they were circling, which happened to be in his neighbor’s backyard. He was completely taken aback by what he saw there.
There was a small and fragile puppy chained to a tree in the backyard. Obviously, the vultures were zeroing in on the poor pup. There was only a tiny plastic dog house which was barely enough to shelter the small puppy from the harsh winter conditions. The vultures could sense she was weak and were waiting for the perfect time to attack.
A Puppy in Need
The neighbor was absolutely devastated by the sight of the helpless dog. How could someone allow their pet to be in these conditions? They would later find out that the dog was a 8-month-old pit bull puppy named Lilo. She had spent most of her short life chained to this tree.
Lilo was rail thin and clearly malnourished. The neighbor who discovered her didn’t know the owners but knew they couldn’t just leave the poor pup or she wouldn’t make it. They were discussed by the owners of the dog and horrified that anyone could leave a helpless animal in this position. What could be done?
Getting the Authorities Involved
From the looks of it, Lilo was giving up. The dog was laying next to the tree completely unresponsive. Whatever needed to be done had to happen immediately. They were already in the dead of winter and the temperatures were only growing colder each and every night. The vultures had already been circling for about a week. Lilo didn’t have much time left.
The neighbor immediately jumped into action. They called the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as well as animal control. Theyvrep[sorted what they saw and explained the importance that they arrive quickly. They knew Lilo’s time was limited and they were against the clock.
Against the Clock
As the neighbor waited for the authorities they couldn’t help but wait anxiously. Would they even be able to help Lilo once they arrived? Would they be too late? They could hardly stand the sight of the skinny little Lilo laying helplessly in the cold. The vultures were coming closer and closer, adding to the anxiety of the situation.
It would have been a difficult scene for any animal lover to witness, especially for those of us who have dogs that we love and adore. It was made even worse by the fact that they knew she had been there for a long time with love or care.
Can the Team Save Lilo?
By the time the authorities finally arrived, the vultures had grown in numbers and were flying closer to Lilo. There were 2 vultures perched upon her dog house, looking like they were ready to pounce as soon as the puppy drew her last breath. Animal control was shocked and horrified by the scene in front of them. They were glad that the neighbor had investigated and discovered the terrible situation.
It was a good thing that they were there but Lilo was still at risk. It seemed any breath could be her last and they were all nervous. There was a lot more to do to ensure her safety. They jumped into action to do everything in their power to save poor Lilo.
Leaving the Chains and a Note
Animal control wasn’t going to let the eight-month-old puppy die. They made their move and entered the backyard to scare the vultures away. A reporter was also there to document the case and took a photo that would later be instrumental in Lilo’s recovery.
Lilo was severely malnourished. The animal control officers took her away and left behind a note for her owners. The note explained why they had taken her and what animal shelter she would be at for the owners to pick her up.
Safety and Questions
The officers took Lilo to a shelter at Guilford County Animal Control. There she would be cared for, nurtured, and fed. There were still questions, however, about why she was neglected. Who were her owners? Why did they not care for her?
After a few days, the shelter received an unexpected call. It was Lilo’s owners saying they got the note and would come to pick her up in the next few days. They also promised to be more attentive and caring. But could their words be trusted?
The Absent Owners
A few days turned into weeks. There were still no signs of Lilo’s owners coming to pick her up or calling for an update. Considering the traumatic experience Lilo had with them, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.
A dog shelter is still not a place suitable for an eight-month-old puppy to grow. Lilo deserved a forever home with people who would take care of her and provide her with love. But, finding such a home can be a challenge in itself.
The Stigma Around Pit Bulls
An undeserving stigma haunts Pit Bulls as a breed. They have a reputation for being violent and problematic dogs because people often abuse them to train them for illegal dogfighting.
The truth is, Pit Bulls are simply high-energy, active dogs. They don’t have violent predispositions. When raised in a caring environment by loving people, they are actually amazing, loving, and well-behaved pets. Although the stigma around them is not true, people still believe it, making it hard to arrange adoptions for them.
Will Lilo Face Death Once Again?
Many shelters have strict policies regarding Pit Bulls. They have a rule that people cannot adopt Pit Bulls. The shelter Lilo was at has this same policy. So, if her owners didn’t come to claim her, nobody could adopt her. Instead, the shelter would have to euthanize her.
Even if Lilo could be adopted, the stigma around Pit Bulls often makes it nearly impossible. Lilo’s situation appeared to be as dire as when she was facing the vultures. Her clock was still ticking.
Finding Another Option
Lilo had been at the shelter for weeks now and the shelter may have to resort to life ending measures. But is there really nothing that anyone can do? Lilo’s chance of surviving hung on a thread of one last option.
There are organizations that exist for the sole purpose of saving dogs from being put down in shelters. Most of these organizations specialize in high-risk dogs such as Pit Bulls. Perhaps Lilo’s story could gain attention from one of these organizations to come and save her from this grim situation.
The Turning Point from Tragedy
The photo from the reporter on the day of Lilo’s rescue played an important role in her life. An organization called the Merit Pit Bull Foundation saw the image of Lilo with the vultures and arrived at the shelter.
The Merit Pit Bull Foundation saves dogs from county shelters and educates communities on the beloved Pit Bull breed. They took Lilo from the shelter and intended to find her a safe home. Lilo’s tragic story reached a turning point here to become a story of hope and love.
A Safe Foster Home
The Merit Pit Bull Foundation was able to find a foster home for Lilo. Thanks to them, Lilo was out of looming danger. A local couple, Kaena Lynch and Travis Henley, saw Lilo’s photo in the paper and decided to foster her.
Fostering Lilo means they would provide her with a temporary place to stay until the Foundation found a forever family for Lilo. Although just a temporary home, Lilo would be able to breathe easier with the couple. They could give her the love, care, and attention she needed.
When Kaena and Travis came to get Lilo, it was love at first sight. Not long after taking her in, they realized they didn’t want to be just a temporary home for her. They wanted Lilo to become a permanent family member.
Lilo would have human parents and two other dog siblings to play with: a Pit Bull and terrier mix, Gemma, and a Maltese dog, Gypsy. Lilo quickly bonded with Gemma and Gypsy. She became an important part of the family.
Adjusting to New Surroundings
Finally finding a forever family was great news for Lilo. However, this new life didn’t come without some challenges. Lilo had a traumatic past and was used to being chained outdoors all her life.
Lilo was very shy and nervous at first. Kaena told local reporters, “She had no clue what to do in the house. She was not house-trained and she didn’t really know what to do with toys.” However, Gemma and Gypsy helped Lilo adjust to her new home and Lilo finally started showing signs of recovery.
Will Training be Safe?
After Lilo spent some time recovering, Kaena and Travis decided it was time for her to receive training. Although they believed it was best for her, they also knew it came with additional risks.
Training is a lengthy process and, since Lilo had a troubled past, the training program could accidentally trigger some traumatic memories. The trigger could lead to an unexpected violent response. However, Lilo showed great signs of healing and improvement, so Kaena and Travis trusted she would be okay.
Lilo's Cuddly Personality Shines
Lilo’s traumatic past didn’t get in the way of her training! She took to it well and was incredibly well-behaved. After a year of recovery, Kaena and Travis said that her face seems like she is always smiling when you look at her.
Kaena and Travis also call her the “cuddle monster” and explain she always wants to be close to people. Kaena continued to explain to local reporters that Lilo, “has such a great personality — she’s always happy, always giving kisses.” But is her past truly behind her?
Is Her Recovery Truly Complete?
Lilo has transformed from a malnourished, neglected puppy to a happy, healthy puppy with a loving family, including two dog friends. Kaena and Travis try to make up for her traumatic past and give her plenty of attention.
While Lilo’s recovery appears complete with her successful training and cuddly ways, her past trauma still haunts her. Sometimes it rears its head in certain situations that remind her of the previous neglect. It’s clear Lilo still has signs of the trauma she endured.
How Lilo's Trauma Still Haunts Her
Kaena has explained that Lilo still has issues. “I cannot leave her in the backyard by herself, she comes to the door and cries. She really just wants to be with you,” Kaena said. This reaction is understandable since Lilo spent so much time neglected and chained alone in a backyard before.
Kaena also explained that Lilo “loves and appreciates what you do for her. She’s a sweet baby.” Her traumatic past could be why she appreciates her family since she knows how tough it can be without them.
Her Pampering Preferences
Despite Lilo’s previous traumatic experiences, Kaena says, “She has never held a grudge for her past and loves everyone she meets.” Lilo has recovered to be a happy-go-lucky dog that savors life. She is also kind-hearted, caring, loving, a little quirky, and loves to be pampered!
“She prefers to be held like a baby and snuggled with any chance she can get. Over the past year, Lilo has become a healthy, vibrant girl with all kinds of funny behaviors,” explained Kaena. However, Lilo’s remarkable story doesn’t end with her recovery.
Educating Others to Help Pit Bulls
Since Animal Control rescued her, Lilo has also started to help other dogs recover and get back on their feet. She has become an ambassador for at-risk Pit Bulls all around the world. Kaena and Lilo travel the country to different schools in order to change the stigma around Pit Bulls.
They teach children that Pit Bulls aren’t violent but actually cuddly and loveable. The kids learn that Pit Bulls simply need patience, love, and a responsible trainer to become amazing pets. The kids also get to play with Lilo – something Lilo loves!
Becoming a Therapy Dog
Lilo’s great recovery has also led her to train to become a therapy dog, similar to her sister Gemma. Therapy dogs provide emotional assistance to people in retirement homes, hospitals, schools, and disaster areas. They support rehabilitation by giving comfort and unconditional love in a way that only dogs can uniquely do.
Lilo is also a Read Education Assistance Dog that helps young children read and develop communication skills. This work helps promote literacy. And how Lilo helps others doesn’t stop here!
The Merit Pit Bull Foundation
Lilo has also been helping The Merit Pit Foundation and its mission. Founded in 2012, the Foundation aims to “improve the lives of bully-type dogs and the people who love them.” The Foundation educates the public about Pit Bulls, rescues Pit Bulls, and helps provide placements for at-risk Pit Bulls.
With Lilo’s help, the Foundation teaches new Pit Bull owners how to be responsible owners of the special breed. They also do work regarding breed-specific legislation. However, the good work they do doesn’t stop here.
Let's Adopt, Not Buy
The Merit Foundation is also an advocate for adopting dogs instead of buying them from pet stores. Why is this important? Firstly, shelters across the United States euthanize tens of thousands of dogs each year because they can’t find homes for them.
Adopting dogs from animal rescue organizations and shelters can also help prevent animal cruelty because most dogs in pet shops come from puppy farms. There are few laws in the United States to regulate the breeding of animals, so puppy farms can end up being terrible places.
What Are Puppy Farms?
People who breed dogs and sell them to pet stores have few regulations to prevent them from operating an unethical business. For this reason, puppy farms often exist. One definition of a puppy farm is “a dog breeding operation in which the dogs’ health is disregarded to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”
To get the most profits, puppy farms often have limited space, so the animals suffer from overcrowding. They also force pregnancies and provide low living standards.
No More Animal Cruelty
To understand just how bad puppy farms can be, here’s an example from 2014. Authorities saved over 100 dogs from a puppy farm in Tennessee, and all the dogs were suffering from various painful and untreated conditions. The rescue spokesman said the dogs had “eye infections, respiratory conditions, dental issues, severe matting that limited their mobility and vision, and urine-soaked, feces-caked fur.”
To prevent such animal cruelty from existing, organizations like the ASPCA aim to help dogs transfer from neglectful situations to a safe and loving home.
How a Photo Can Change Lives
Despite the countless animals facing cruelty and neglect, stories like Lilo’s still exist to remind us that lives can be saved. Kaena is grateful the photo of Lilo and the vultures was taken so that Lilo could be rescued.
Kaena said, “I’m thankful that the News & Record photographer took that photo. He changed her life.” Without the photo, Lilo may never have been adopted, found a loving home, gone on to help other Pit Bulls, or gone on to help those she has worked with as a therapy dog.
Let's Do Our Part
By sharing the valuable lesson about Pit Bulls in schools and alongside the Merit Pit Bull Foundation, Kaena and Travis hope it’ll save other dogs in the future. Dogs are known as “man’s best friend.” However, being best friends is not a one-way street. As much love and affection that dogs provide us, they deserve just as much in return!
Lilo’s story shows that, even with a difficult start, support from human friends can turn any dog in need’s life around. How will you do your part to help today?