When the helpful staff of this local animal shelter discovered a stray dog on their doorstep, they went the extra mile to take care of this stranded pup. This is their inspiring story.
The kind and caring animal shelter that took in and cared for the stray dog is the McKamey Animal Center (MAC). They are located in Chattanooga, Tennessee - and they are no strangers to the business.
They have been helping animals for almost 15 years. In 2022 alone, they gave 5,000 pets a home. Their values of "compassionate care, community engagement, and advocacy for animals" is something all of us can take a lesson from. In January 2023, they made their motto of "Saving animals. Helping people," a reality.
It was a day like any other on January 24th, 2023. The team was busy with their routine when something unusual occurred. There was a delivery at the door, but not just any delivery. It was a dog. Usually, when a stray is brought in, it's by a pet owner or a stranger who found a stray. However, this wasn't the case with this dog.
The woman who had found this stray dog didn't know anything about the dog. She saw it on the street, and being a concerned citizen, she brought it to the shelter. Upon further inspection, the team realized that the dog had a collar on. This made them think the dog wasn't stray and actually had an owner.
Without any questions, the shelter team brought the dog in and immediately began trying to figure out who she belonged to. Unfortunately, they couldn't find a chip or any identification for her. Regardless of that, though, they gave her a bath, fed her, and made sure she was taken care of.
They wanted to help the lovable canine find her home, but they were at a loss for what to do. They had no way of finding out this dog's backstory and how she ended up on their doorstep. If only they could understand barking! They decided to process her into their system. As they were doing so, they noticed something strange...
They saw there was a note attached to the dog's collar. When they removed the note, they noticed that it was all crumbled up and slightly stained. Despite that, though, they were able to read word for word what was on the note. Maybe this would give them a clue as to who the dog belonged to.
The note read, "Please keep my name. My name is Lilo. Please love me." It continued on, "My mom can't keep me and is homeless with 2 kids. She tried her best but can't get help. I cost too much for her. She really loves me & I'm a great dog & love to be loved on. Please don't abuse me."
Making a Tough Call
The owner of the dog clearly had been stuck between a rock and a hard place. She loved her pet dearly but found herself in a tough situation and couldn't figure out an alternative path. The animal shelter was certain of one thing. They needed to find the owner and discuss potential options.
McKamey Animal Center's Director of Advancement, Lauren D. Mann, said, "It really hit us all, especially that last line of 'Please don't abuse me.' So we decided that we were going to take to social media, and hopefully, through the power of Facebook and everyone that's out there, we would hope that we could find her."
Posting on Facebook
After doing a mini-photoshoot of darling Lilo, they wrote a post on their Facebook page. They knew that there was a big chance nothing would come of their efforts, but they knew that they needed to at least try. This was their chance to make things right.
They shared on Facebook, "A note to Lilo's mom. Lilo arrived at MAC a few days ago after a Good Samaritan found her wandering with her leash still attached, likely near where you left her. We are so sorry that you had to make the decision to leave her behind."
"The Very Best Care"
They continued, "We want you to know she is safe, and we will take the very best care of her." They wanted to make sure that if Lilo's owner happened to come upon the post that she would know that her dog was safe and under amazing supervision. That wasn't all they wanted to get across to Lilo's owner.
The note also read, "She will be loved by our staff and volunteers, we will keep her name, and we promise you we will do our best to find her a wonderful new home." They weren't even certain that Lilo's owner would see the note, but they wanted to make it known they would give their absolute all to her.
A Helping Hand
The staff at MAC wanted more than anything to reunite Lilo with her family. However, in the case that wouldn't be possible, they were going to take care of the precious pup themselves until a loving family would adopt her and welcome her into their home. They made a plea in their Facebook post.
"If you are reading this, we hope you will come forward to reclaim her. We will help you with whatever you need to care for her to the best of our ability. Lilo definitely misses you, and we would like nothing more than to see her go back to the family she loves."
Keeping Families Together
"While we understand what and why Lilo's mom did what she did, we wish that she had come to us first for resources and help. We're here to help, and we want to see people and their pets stay together no matter the circumstance." The shelter expressed their understanding and sympathy about Lilo's owner's situation.
The shelter had so many useful resources available for families in tough scenarios. They wrote, "We offer a community pet food pantry for when times are tough, low-cost (and sometimes free!) vaccines, microchips, and spay/neuter services. We also have lots of self-rehoming resources available for situations like these."
It didn't stop there, either! MAC had countless ways to help out pets and their families in the community. They also had partnerships with homeless shelters and rescue animal charities, enabling them to help out in many ways. This was in addition to the items and services available at the shelter.
They continued to write on their Facebook post, "We are well connected with resources and agencies who are ready and willing to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness." Hopefully, the message would get to Lilo's owner because there were numerous ways for MAC to help her out.
No Judgement Zone
"Either way, please know that we understand, we will not judge, and we are here to help in any way we can. We know many folks are struggling to care for their pets right now," the shelter wrote. They didn't want a fear of being judged for her actions to keep Lilo's owner from reaching out to reclaim her.
They understood how difficult a decision it is to part with a pet. They continued, "We know how hard it must be to give up an animal you so clearly loved because you can't provide the care she needs. We understand." Lilo's owner wasn't the only one in a complex situation.
Price To Pay
Everything was going up in cost. From the rising price of medical bills to pet food, having a pet became incredibly expensive. It was completely understandable why Lilo's owner felt the need to give her up. The economic situation was tough on pet owners across America.
PetKeen.com reported that the amount of money spent in 2022 by pet owners in the United States was $110 billion. A rapid increase in pet food pricing is most likely contributing to this high evaluation. Additionally, the global pet food market's value currently stands at a staggering $22.8 billion.
A Sad Statistic
The folks at MAC knew what was happening in the world around them. Unfortunately, people giving up their pets wasn't anything new. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are 6.5 million dogs, cats, and other pets abandoned or lost and rehomed in shelters annually. How sad!
Once a pet is placed in a shelter, the statistics aren't hopeful. The ASPCA says that only about half of the pets will be adopted, and out of those, many of them end up being returned to the shelter. This situation happens because people think they want a pet without understanding the cost and responsibility that comes with one.
Hoping for an Answer
Once they posted on Facebook, all there was left to do was hope that Lilo's owner would somehow find their message. They knew the odds were not in their favor, but they still held out hope for an answer. They've witnessed social media reach insane lengths before.
The staff at MAC knew that despite the odds, they had to at least try. There was a chance that Lilo's owner no longer lived in the area. There was also the sad reality to deal with that even if they saw the post, they may not return for the adorable canine.
The Public's Reaction
Upon posting, the community sprung to the comment section. They shared their well wishes for a happy ending and their sadness about the situation. One person wrote, "Oh my Lord ...this is breaking my heart. Can someone not help her and her kids and find a way to let her keep this precious dog...God help us."
Another person commented, "I'm crying. I can't even imagine how hard of a decision this was to make. I want this story to have a happy ending so bad." Everyone who saw the post couldn't help but be moved by the story. Someone else penned, "The saddest thing breaks my heart that she didn't ask for help. Poor baby."
An Incoming Call
While messages of support were coming in, there was still no word from Lilo's owner. The MAC team was trying to remain hopeful that they would hear from anyone with any sort of information. But hours went by, and they still had nothing. Then, the phone began to ring.
Lauren Mann told Good Morning America, "We got a phone call from someone that was claiming to be her mom." Could it be true? She continued, "I called them back and asked them questions, and right away, it was very clear that it definitely was her just based off some of the things that were shared with me."
Although Mann felt that this was definitely Lilo's owner, she still had to take the necessary steps to make sure that she was actually who she said she was. They asked the owner to come to the shelter so they could verify her identity and talk to her further.
After they finished completing any necessary paperwork and double-checking that she was indeed Lilo's owner, then they could reunite the sweet dog with her best friend. In the shelter's eyes, the real mark if this woman was actually the owner would be seeing how Lilo reacted to seeing her.
An Emotional Reunion
The woman waited as the staff retrieved Lilo. Everyone at the shelter was wondering the same thing: was she actually the dog's owner, or was she a fraud? There was only one way to find out if she was telling the truth - to bring Lilo into the room and watch her reaction.
They had their answer in seconds. Lilo rushed toward the woman and immediately went into her arms. It was obvious that this woman was Lilo's owner. The emotional reunion was captured on camera, and the shelter posted the photos on its Facebook page. Followers of the story were able to celebrate the happy moment.
Woman's Best Friend
The MAC team was happy to announce to everyone that this was the family that Lilo belonged to. The followers of the story were surely celebrating the good news. Everyone was overjoyed, especially Lilo's owner. The shelter kept the owner's identity hidden for privacy reasons.
Mann told GMA, "It's very clear just by looking at Lilo that she was very well loved and cared for. The times are tough, and people just need kindness more than anything right now. And so we were just hoping that she would come forward." They had their joyous reunion, but what would happen next?
Under One Roof
The main goal was to figure out a way for Lilo to live under the same roof as her family. It is never ideal to separate a pet from its home. It takes time for an animal companion to feel at ease in a new home, and moving around can cause them lots of anxiety and stress.
There are circumstances where it is better for a pet to be rehomed, like if it's being neglected or not being treated well. However, that was certainly not the case with Lilo. She was loved by her family, but they weren't able to keep her because of financial constraints. How could they solve the problem?
Keeping Their Promise
The McKamey Animal Center made a promise to Lilo's family when they started their search for them, and they were keeping it. Mann told GMA, "We are working with some different partnering agencies in town and different nonprofits now to try and get them set up into a pet-friendly shelter and get them back on their feet."
They told their followers on Facebook, "While we can't share a lot of the details with you yet, we are actively working with the family to set them up with a safe haven, shelter, and resources to stay together and tackle homelessness." It was a heartwarming update.
A Round of Applause
If the Facebook comments section was a theater, there would have been a resounding round of applause for the shelter. Those who had been following Lilo's journey were ecstatic about the good news. They flooded the comments section with their praises and well-wishes.
"Great News. Such a heartwarming ending," one person wrote. Another commented, "Thanks for everyone involved with helping Lilo and her family!" A different poster shared, "Oh, My Goodness! What wonderful News! Look how happy Lilo is!!!" Yet another posted, "So grateful for this News. Thank you for all that y'all do."
Lending a Hand
The comments weren't the only thing the people in the community were sharing. They also wanted to lend a helping hand to Lilo and her family. One community member commented, "I would like to help this family also. I have clothes/shoes/blankets/food etc. if I knew what ages the children are and sizes."
Someone else asked, "How can I help? I said I would provide food for several months (what brand ?), what about donations for the family?" Another person wrote, "Is there a way to reach out to Mom so we can help her with whatever she needs? Let's lift this family up, so they're never faced with this again."
A Newsworthy Story
A heartwarming story like this was bound to get attention. While it already had a mass of followers from the Facebook posts, it was also getting noticed by media outlets and newspapers. They were captivated by the story of a lost dog being reunited with its owner, who was forced to give her up.
All of the press the animal shelter was receiving was welcomed with open arms! Getting exposure from the media gave MAC opportunities to spread their message to viewers everywhere and gain more support. This buzz would help them with their mission of saving animals and helping people.
Creating a Fund
While Lilo had a happy ending, the team at MAC wanted to ensure that was the case for other families, so they created a fund. They wrote, "In honor of Lilo and her family, MAC has decided to establish a fund dedicated to preventing as many families as possible from being separated from their beloved pets."
They continued, "Donations made to this new fund, tentatively called The MAC Cares Fund, will help people and their pets stay together when homelessness and financial hardship loom by providing things like pet deposits for housing, temporary boarding of animals, food, supplies, and essential veterinary care, and more."
Pets for Everyone
Pets are more than companions for a family, they are part of the community. The people at MAC believe that everyone is deserving to have a loving pet in their lives, so no one should be discriminated against adopting one. Everyone who has a big heart and is ready to welcome a furry friend into their home should be able to do so.
The team at MAC wrote, "We want Chattanooga to be a community where pets are truly family, not just for the economically privileged but for everyone. We are amazed at the outpouring of support. It truly takes a community, and you all have certainly shown us how powerful ours is."
How To Help
Since they were receiving so many requests from people asking how they could help, MAC let them know exactly how they could be of assistance. They instructed, "Reaching out a hand of support to your neighbors, donating to emergency care funds like MAC's Angel Fund, and spreading the word about low-cost and free services."
They continued, "supporting the lifesaving work MAC and other local organizations are doing every day." In addition, they also requested, "Please understand that as hard as we try, MAC cannot do it all alone, we need the community's support -- we need your support."
Choosing a Rescue Pet
There was one more suggestion that MAC gave to the community and the general public. They asked everyone to consider adopting a rescue pet instead of buying one from a breeder. They wrote, "If Lilo's story moved you, please consider being a hero for a homeless animal (or family!) in your local community."
Lastly, they reminded people of the importance of Lilo's story. "Please do NOT abandon your pet! Abandoning an animal is illegal, but more importantly, it should never have to be an option." Instead, they offered an alternative, "If you need help with your pet, please call us or visit our website for resources."
Breaking Down the Stigma
When Lauren Mann sat down with Good Morning America, she asked viewers to realize and understand that "homeless can really happen to anyone." She also said, "There's a lot of stigma and assumptions that come with cases like these, but you really never know who you're going to encounter and what they're dealing with."
So, instead, the people at MAC are choosing to break down the stigma that surrounds the issue of homelessness. They promise there will be no judgment involved if a family seeks assistance from them. They also encourage people in their communities to refrain from judging others who are experiencing homelessness.
The Story Continues...
"We're not the only shelter in town or even in the country that offers pet food pantries and assistance with programs," Mann said on Good Morning America. She emphasized that there is help everywhere. There are many places similar to MAC around the States.
Mann also noted, "If you're a pet owner that is experiencing hardship and needs assistance with your pet, reach out to your local animal shelter and see what they can do and what they can offer to help you." There are many animal shelters that are doing incredible work like MAC is.