It can be tough for animal rescue groups to find homes for older animals. And a senior dog with plenty of health problems does not often get a second look.
But when volunteers posted the above picture of Hank Williams at the Smyth County, Virginia Animal Shelter, a woman across the state took notice.
“That photo is about when I fell in love,” said Gracie Cardwell of Richmond.
It was September of 2015. A short time later, Gracie was making the 6-hour drive to Marion, Virginia and the mountains where she was born and raised. People were not lined up to take Hank home; he came with a past.
“He has so many war scars and health issues from either abuse or a hard hunting life,” said Gracie. “He was so misshapen, with shoulders that protruded well beyond his rib cage, and his head was two sizes too big.”
This seemingly broken doggie was about to begin the healing process…the healing of Gracie’s broken heart. She had lost her beloved father only a few months earlier and Hank was the answer to getting past the pain – he reminded Gracie of her dad’s old dog.
“My Dad was a lifelong and avid coon hunter,” recalled Gracie. “One of his favorite dogs was a beautiful Walker female named Maggie.”
Gracie’s dad always had a hound by his side.
“Hank was my tribute and homage to all those wonderful dogs and Daddy’s hunting legacy,” said Gracie. “So many are dumped when they get sick, cannot raise a litter, or can no longer hunt.”
Hank was in bad shape.
“He had a six-hour trip ahead of him, and was so weak he could not get up into my truck,” said Gracie. “It took us two days to get home.”
When the shelter posted pictures of Hank, he was going by the name Andrew, aka Sawbones.
“On the trip home, I tried my best to call him Andrew to give him continuity and calm,” said Gracie. “It just didn’t work. I found myself calling him Hank. I asked him if it was alright to have a new name … by the time Andrew and I got to his (vet) appointment the day after we got back, it was decided he really was a Hank Williams after all. He barely weighed 45 pound on his check-in, was having bloody stools, was lethargic and was not interested in food – just grass. He was tolerating me.”
And then came the messes.
“We quickly learned this 12-year-old was not house broken,” said Gracie. “Ugh!!”
That was the least of Hank’s issues. Gracie’s other dog, Delilah, kept a close watch over Hank Williams as he was now being treated for cancer and undergoing oral surgery.
“Spay and neuter are so important,” said Gracie. “If Hank had this done as a young dog, he would not have been at risk for cancer and all the complications it brings. It also helps keep them from roaming as much, as well as lowers the unwanted pet population.”
Thankfully, Hank’s procedures were successful.
“He did great,” said Gracie. “Little did we know that when he returned for suture removal ten days later, Doc Rick would declare we had successfully wound back the clock and Hank looked more like a seven-year-old in body condition. Way to go, Hankie!”
This salty old hound’s future was beginning to look brighter.
“Hank Williams started putting on weight, but was still really skittish when I approached him,” said Gracie. “Was it my hat? My boots? My voice? We had a lot of work to do to assure him we were the good people. He escaped once in January and once in May. Maybe he was just having senior moments. He did howl happy yodels when we visited the mountains… familiar territory?”
Gracie has wanted to move back to southwest Virginia for years but it just hasn’t been in the cards.
“Hank Williams has saved me,” she said. “I have a little piece of the mountains with me every day, lying beside my bed at night – snoring or wagging his tail in his sleep. I can’t have Daddy back … he is safe now, pain free, and part of that Great Cloud of Witnesses spoken of in the Bible, but I can hug this big lug, run and play with him in the yard, walk him in our woods, and listen to his howly “Yowl” yodel and it takes me back to Daddy’s dogs…a time when he was an active hunter, a healthy young man, and my hero.”
Gracie’s farm has become home for Hank Williams.
“Delilah and Hank are the best bed buddies,” she said. “He is now completely housebroken and such a gentleman to be around. He does sass me some when it’s supper time, but what southern boy isn’t a stickler for grub?”
Hank’s coat is looking healthier and he’s even gained 30 pounds, all thanks to a kind-hearted woman who saw his potential from nearly 300 miles away.
“He still has health issues and has recovered from a few more,” said Gracie. “He wears the scars of a tough, pre-me life – but we are in it for the long haul.”
Gracie would like to say a special thank you to Madelyn Blevins and Robin Frye Meadows with the Smyth County Humane Society. Would you like to help the volunteers who saved Hank Williams’ life?
Shop Fetching-Apparel.com through February 28th and use coupon code SMYTH to show your support. We’ll donate 40% of profits to this dedicated group, and we’ll give you free shipping!