One dog’s journey out of the jaws of death

SOUTH FLORIDA – It takes a village to save a dog.

But first it takes one spark from the one person who plows ahead, heart first….the one who takes the lead, personally takes on the responsibility, puts things in motion even as her stomach churns and she’s wondering how it can be done, how it can be funded, and who will ultimately give this one a forever home.

Let’s start at the beginning….once upon a time, there was a dog with a backstory that no one will ever know. He was running through traffic and was picked up by Animal Care and Control with no collar, tag or microchip. Soon he was in their truck and then a shelter cage, now a ward of the county. He was given the name Buddy and he’d race the clock to be adopted before his time ran out.

Buddy was frightened and he didn’t even know the half of it. He didn’t know that over 50 dogs a day enter that kill facility, every day, and far fewer make it out. But he did know strange smells, too many dogs penned in, too much noise and anxiety here. He was frightened.

Levi needs a home to complete his rescue

So when the public browsed the aisles and passed his cage, he cowered against the dirty walls that smelled like dogs past. Sometimes he growled in self defense at the imagined threat. This was all new and scary and it was not good. He waited. But his demeanor was not lending itself to adoption. Staff said he was becoming ‘snappy’ with them as his allotted days passed. Soon he was on his very last day in this world as his euthanization date had come. Too many dogs, not enough space or funding or adopters….the reality of an animal shelter was upon Buddy.

Enter his spark.

Melissa Wu had this dog in her sights. An animal rescuer and the founder of Animal Matters and Pitbull Racing, she entered the shelter with a friend to rescue Buddy. She didn’t know what she’d do with the dog or even if it might bite her, but she knew she was going to save him. With determination, she opened her heart and her wallet, filled out the paperwork and waited for him to be brought out to her.

In the meantime, the two women watched 5 other animals being relinquished in the lobby. They wanted to save them all. They wanted to grab and shake the couple who turned in a beautiful 1 year old dog they’d had since puppyhood but “just couldn’t keep anymore”. They watched through tear-filled eyes as the couple walked out unaffected and the dog was walked into a building he may never walk back out of. But today was about Buddy. It was all they could do. One dog at a time…..just one. It was Buddy’s day.

Buddy was led out on a leash to Melissa, and he shook with fear as she covered him with the warmth of a big smile and sweet talked him. He would not die today. He was safe.

Buddy was wary but oh-so-lucky as he walked out of that kill shelter. He was given treats in the car, which he took ever so gently. Still without a forever home, he was first taken to be boarded with a dog-savy couple while Melissa and her friends searched for an adopter. He spent a week there and it was learned that Buddy was quite a ladies’ man. He warmed up quickly to the woman as she cooed at him, fed him chicken and rubbed his belly when he offered it to her. He learned to trust the couple.

Boarding was costly so when a two-week foster home was found, Buddy moved there. He was renamed Levi by Melissa. He was leaving his past behind and a new name was more fitting (cycling related..see Pitbull Racing). Another new living situation, but Levi faced it like a champ. He was coming out of his shell now, and he delighted the new foster couple with his silliness, playfulness, athleticism and most of all, his affection. They found him eager to learn and eager to please. He loved nothing more than to drape his 50 pounds across their laps and soak up all the love and belly rubs they’d offer. He licked every face that got close enough and he thought he was a lap dog as he lolled upside down on them with his goofy tongue hanging out. He even enjoyed a boat ride with them. He ran in their yard and did hilarious, huge LEAPS over the walkway. He made them laugh and most of all, he settled. Levi had learned to trust, to run, to play and to be a dog again.

When their foster time was up, Levi again needed new digs. Have A Heart rescue was next in the village to step up. He was moved to their rural-type rescue under the loving care of Rayfield Baisley of Alpha Dog Academy, a trainer with emphasis on behavior.

He has bloomed into a wonderful dog….


I know, you thought it was going to be a happy ending story. It’s almost there, but not quite yet.

This ‘gem-in-the-rough’ of a dog has come so far with the help of his village. He’s been polished and shined and he’s luminous now. Many of Melissa’s friends visited him throughout his various locations, bringing him treats and hugs and as much love as they could squeeze into him. Another friend, Chelsea of Chelsea Erwin Photography, lent her time and talents to take beautiful photos of him to spread his story and find him a home.

From shivering in fear in a cage to romping with other dogs and licking the faces of his village, he’s an amazing boy full of love and appreciation. His story, unfortunately, is not unique. Shelters are full of dogs beaten down by life who just need a chance.

But again, this is Levi’s story.

Just one dog.

Who needs a home.

Who has tons of love to give. Whose village is desperately searching for that special someone to do the final ‘step up’ for this boy. Might it be you? Do you have room in your heart and home for him?

Ask to meet Levi. He’s approximately 1 year old, up to date on his shots, neutered, and the most handsome auburn-colored boy ever, with golden eyes. He may have you at HELLO. Contact Melissa Wu @ Animal Matters, (561) 306-5192.

And now a huge thank you to Levi’s village thus far…..

To learn more about the athletes of Pitbull Racing, and their cause, click here.

For comprehensive dog training with an emphasis on behavior, rehabilitation and obedience, contact Rayfield at Alpha Dog Academy. He’s working with and loving Levi as you read this.

Thanks to Have A Heart, click here for more info and ways you can help, adopt, volunteer or donate.

Please share Levi’s story. You may be the share that finds his forever home. Thanks for reading and please remember to …

Adopt, Tag / Microchip, Spay / Neuter, and Love your pets for Life!

More articles by this Dog Rescue Examiner here, and follow on Facebook. Read and share the articles to raise awareness of dog rescue issues. Thanks!


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