Darlene Blair knows how hard it must have been for Chewy's former owner to leave him in an airport bathroom with this heartbreaking note.
“Hi! I’m Chewy! My owner was in an abusive relationship and couldn’t afford me to get on the flight," the handwritten note read. "She didn’t want to leave me with all her heart but she has NO other option. My ex-boyfriend kicked my dog when we were fighting and he has a big knot on his head. He probably needs a vet. I love Chewy sooo much — please love and take care of him.”
Blair — who is with Connor and Millie's Dog Rescue, the nonprofit caring for Chewy — imagines how anxious the owner must have be, worrying about the fate of the young puppy. She wants the owner, whomever and wherever she is, to know that Chewy is OK.
He's with good people who are taking good care of him.
"I'm trying to get the word out for her to know he's safe," Blair told TODAY.
Chewy was discovered last weekend in a restroom at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
The security guard who found the approximately 3-month-old pup reached out to Connor and Millie's Dog Rescue, which specializes in helping elderly dogs as well as those with severe medical conditions.
The group readily agreed to get Chewy any medical care he would need and to place him in a foster home until he could be adopted.
Due to his history living in an abusive household, Chewy may have trauma to his brain that hasn't yet been detected. But Blair said that Chewy's initial veterinary exams show him to be healthy.
"You can tell he was loved," she said.
As Chewy's story shows, domestic violence affects pets as well as people. Abusers will often target pets in order to control their human victims. Studies show that concern about pets' safety is a major reason why domestic violence victims may not leave. Congress is currently considering a bipartisan bill, the PAWS Act, that would strengthen protections for animal victims of domestic violence.
"No one, especially someone who is already facing abuse, should have to make the heartbreaking decision between their own safety and the safety of their pets, who are truly part of the family," Nathaniel Fields, president of the Urban Resource Institute, said to TODAY in an email.
One major way to help, Fields says, is for more domestic violence shelters to accommodate pets.
The Urban Resource Institute opened New York City's first pet-friendly domestic violence shelter in 2013 – one of the few shelters to accept pets.
"Currently, only a tiny percentage of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets, and there simply are not enough to meet the extremely high need for these resources," Fields said. "By creating more pet-friendly domestic violence shelters, more victims could flee abuse with their whole family, pets included, and heal in shelter together."
Blair, too, would like to see increased efforts to help the victims of domestic violence. "Hopefully this will help someone else," she said. "That's all we can do is keep up the fight. Let women know they're not alone."
Despite the abuse, Chewy is a happy, playful, trusting little puppy with the appetite of a horse, according to Blair. He didn't even get scared on the Fourth of July, but "slept through the fireworks," she said. "He is not fearful of anything."
Chewy will be spending the next month in a loving foster home, until he's ready to go up for adoption. During this time, he will be neutered and vaccinated; he will also be monitored for signs of neurological damage.
His location is being kept secret for security reasons. Because his moving story has spread so far, many people have expressed interest in adopting Chewy once he's ready. The family that is chosen will also remain anonymous.
Despite some people urging her to do so, Blair is not interested in trying to find or identify Chewy's former owner, out of respect for her privacy and protection. Blair just hopes that one of the stories about Chewy will reach her and reassure her that he is out of harm's way.
"He's doing great," Blair said. "We just want her to know."