Dogs earned the nickname “man’s best friend” in part because they’re so trusting and loyal. But one puppy’s misplaced trust almost cost him his life.
Yesterday animal control officer Sharon Norton of Brookhaven, a small city in Mississippi located about 60 miles south of Jackson, responded to a tip about a dog abandoned on the side of a remote road with a recliner chair and tossed TV. As she drove up, she told TODAY, “I felt sick to my stomach.”
She found a 4-month-old puppy who wasn’t lounging — he was starving.
“That poor baby; he’d been a good four or five days without food,” she said. “I mean, he was skinny.”
She believes the pup, possibly a hound/Doberman pinscher mix, was patiently waiting for his owner to return for him and was too terrified to leave.
“He was just too scared because it was a strange area,” she said. “It’s a deserted road. On both sides it was nothing but woods,” she said, adding that a nearby interstate would have been particularly dangerous had he ventured away.
Initially, Norton couldn’t coax him off his chair. But she hand-fed him food and he quickly decided to trust her. As she carried him to her truck, she could feel his tail thumping against her back.
“He was so happy because he knew he was going to get food now,” she said. “He was rescued and safe.”
Norton, who is also a veterinary technician, bathed the pup and got him medical care. She named him La-Z-Boy Gatson in honor of the recliner and road where she found him.
In a post on Facebook, she wrote: "To the person that dumped this chair, your puppy was waiting for you to come back, slowly starving to death because it was afraid to leave the chair to find food. shame on you for doing this to this puppy.. but one day Karma will meet up with you."
Veterinarians and the team at Brookhaven City Shelter are nursing La-Z-Boy Gatson back to health and trying to help him gain weight. Several local families have already expressed interest in adopting him when he’s ready.
Norton hopes someone will recognize the chair and dog and report the former owner to the local authorities or Brookhaven City Shelter. Still, she said the perpetrator would probably only receive about a $50 fine for illegal dumping since dogs are considered property in Mississippi.
“I’m seeing this every day. I used to be a really strong-headed person when I started this job. But seven years of (witnessing) this cruelty — dumping dogs — it just breaks you down,” she said.
She hopes the outcry over La-Z-Boy Gatson’s abandonment will spread awareness that it’s never OK to dump a pet — instead, surrender them to an animal shelter or rescue organization if you cannot care for them.
Some good news has already arrived. After hearing about the dog's story, furniture company La-Z-Boy made a financial donation to the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League and announced plans to donate 50 pet beds to make La-Z-Boy Gatson and other shelter animals more comfortable. The two organizations are also in conversations to name a new outdoor pet bed “The Gatson."
Norton strongly encourages the public to take advantage of free or low-cost spay/neuter clinics to decrease the number of homeless animals.
“I constantly beg people to spay and neuter your pet,” she said. “That’s a big thing and will stop a lot of this dumping business. There are too many unwanted pets.”
To report a tip about the owner or for information about La-Z-Boy Gatson, visit the Brookhaven City Shelter’s Facebook page.
This article was updated June 28, 2019, with news of La-Z-Boy's donation.