November 16th, 2009 by Christy Griffin
Grady, a Mastiff mix, spent months in the Winona Animal Shelter, in Winona, Mississippi, a prisoner of a five-run outdoor facility, with one barrel in each run and constantly running water, leaving him and the rest of his kennel mates always cold and wet—a purgatory for captive dogs. He had mange, a bacterial infection, and was undernourished. Doll Stanley had seen the miserable dog on a number of occasions, but there was no room for him at the Project Hope sanctuary, and she had to stay focused on getting the mothers and puppies out so the puppies wouldn’t die. And, finally, the day came when she was able to take Grady, and then immediately boarded him at Veterinary Associates in Grenada, where the staff fell in love with him and revivified his physical state and spirit to the point where he was able to go the sanctuary. “Rescue takes time. Unlike ‘Animal Planet,’ there are months of rehab, expenses, and the search for a home worthy of them.”
After Doll started to work with the City Council in Winona, the newspaper editor founded a humane society of which she will be president and is raising money for the new shelter. In the meantime, before there is a more humane facility, Doll does the best she can to help out. In the last year, she saved dozens of dogs from that wretched place. The animal control officer, Charlie Brown—who possesses the heart and, unfortunately, bad luck of the legendary cartoon character—is required to pick up animals all over the area and he doesn’t want to kill them so Project Hope steps in. Grady is one of the chosen.
Doll called me and asked if I knew anyone who might want this well-balanced and handsome prince of a dog, with his now shiny, thick, dark brindle coat. Everyone who asked about him down South wanted to put him on a chain and make him a guard dog. One man wanted to chain him on a property he didn’t even live on to keep coyotes and burglars away. Doll says it so commonplace. “Every animal is unique. There are different circumstances. When you have chosen to help them, you go the extra mile.” And that meant Grady moving elsewhere.
An ad on Any Dog Rescue’s site led to interest from Judy Appel and Alison Bernstein, residents of Berkeley, California, who were attracted to Grady’s noble look and heart-seizing story. Until recently, the couple lived with Sharpie, a Pit Bull mix, who died a few months ago, and were ready to save another life. Plans happened quickly: Continental Airlines was selected as Grady’s ride in the sky because it boasts the best safety record—the airlines moves 110,000 animals per year, and 80 percent go though Houston, which is the connecting flight from New Orleans, Grady’s departure point. Houston operates 14 dedicated PetSafe vans with staffing/runners who specifically bid those shifts because they are animal-besotted and want to make sure everything is perfect for their guests. It is all they do—pick up, drop off, care the animals. Doll drove Grady the six hours from Project Hope to New Orleans (he pouted a little on the way—all the animals pout a little leaving Doll), where he boarded the plane for Houston, connected for his flight to San Francisco, and arrived a little after 8 PM, exhausted and groggy. Judy and Alison brought their two kids, son Kobi, eleven, and daughter Talia, eight, for the big homecoming.
Grady needed a little coaxing to emerge from his crate—the cargo facility at SFO didn’t look like the South anymore, and suddenly in the grip of a thrilling and wild elsewhere, he walked out to the rapturous joy of the family and a huge gushing of oohs and aahs. Within a few days of his arrival, he’s been to all the best East Bay parks. He’s also fallen for the kids’ stuffed animals and is particularly enamored of a gray elephant. He’s been sleeping on a bed downstairs where he can sprawl out just because he can.