Left For Vultures: Watch this Once Neglected Pit Bull Puppy Get a Second Chance At Life
Dogs are affectionate and provide us with unconditional love. But do they always get the same in return? The sad truth is, animal cruelty and owner neglect do exist, like in the case of Lilo the Pit Bull puppy.
She grew up in terrible, almost unimaginable conditions before a pack of vultures brought her situation to the neighbor’s attention. Were the neighbors able to help her? How did the owners react? What is the fate of Lilo the puppy? Keep reading to find out.
An Ominous Sight in the Sky
Surrounded by forest, the Phillips Avenue neighborhood in Greensboro, North Carolina, was familiar to wildlife. However, one wintery day, an ominous sight in the sky made the residents wonder if something bad was afoot.
Slowly circling one of the homes was a flock of vultures, casting a strange silhouette above the streets. The presence of vultures in a residential area was odd, so the sight was unsettling and raised questions. The residents didn’t know what they were doing there, but it probably wasn’t good.
Vultures and Death
People often associate vultures with death, since they can sense when an animal is dying. They are scavenging birds of prey that will circle high above the scene, waiting for an animal to take its last breath.
Although vultures prefer feeding off carcasses, they can also choose to kill sick or wounded animals themselves. They can handle the different bacteria and germs that would normally kill other birds. This immunity is because their stomach acid is very corrosive, allowing them to eat various quality meat. So, what were the vultures circling to feed?
A Shocking Discovery
One of the residents made it a point to find out exactly why the vultures were circling in the sky. He traced the birds’ movements and finally pinpointed their activity to a neighbor’s backyard. The sight he saw was shocking to take in.
Chained to a tree was a small and helpless puppy. The puppy had only a plastic dog house to shelter her from the cold winter snow. The vultures could sense she was dying and were slowly closing in around her, patiently waiting to feast.
A Situation Hard to Ignore
What the neighbors saw was definitely cause for concern and they couldn’t just ignore the puppy’s situation. The puppy was an eight-month-old Pit Bull called Lilo who was lying there, unresponsive. Apparently, she had spent most of her life chained to that tree.
Lilo was very skinny and the vultures were waiting for her to draw her last breath. The neighbors didn’t know if Lilo’s owners knew she was still tied up in their yard. They also didn’t understand how the owners could ignore the circling vultures.
Calling the Authorities
Lilo looked like she was giving up on life. The vultures had been circling above for over a week and the weather was only getting colder. It was time for the neighbors to take action.
The inquisitive neighbors decided to call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). They also called animal control to report a dog chained outside in the middle of winter. Explaining that vultures were surrounding her, waiting to make their move after she dies.
Is Time Running Out?
The authorities were on their way, but would they be able to help Lilo? Could ASPCA act in time to save her? Lilo’s life was hanging by a thread as she laid there in the cold. The vultures made matters worse as they inched closer and closer, waiting for their moment to feast.
Regardless of the animal that vultures are targeting, it is difficult to witness. The situation feels even worse when it’s a helpless eight-month-old puppy in the cold and chained to a tree.
The Rescue Team's Arrival
By the time animal control arrived, an entire flock of vultures had gathered around Lilo. Two of them were perched on the plastic doghouse, so close to where she was chained. Animal control couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
The authorities were there, but Lilo was still dying and had no strength to scare the vultures away. It seemed she had nothing to live for with no one to take care of her. She had a long way to go if she was going to make it safely.
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?