She had driven those roads looking for strays many times before and had varying degrees of success. Sometimes, tragically, the dogs she found were no longer alive. But this time, something moving on the grass verge caught her eye, so she stopped to investigate.
Judy Obregon is no stranger to saving animals. In fact, she founded a rescue group called The Abandoned Ones (TAO) in 2010. Since then, she has been devoted to getting stray dogs off the streets and finding them forever homes.
The group doesn’t have a shelter itself. Instead, its rescued dogs are supported by foster families. It does, however, have a base of operations in Fort Worth Park, Texas. Unfortunately, the area is infamous locally for a practice that will horrify animal lovers.
As well as being home to TAO, Fort Worth Park has received media attention for far less positive reasons. Indeed, the area has become known as a mass dumping ground for abused and unwanted animals, and the problem seems to be at its worst in downtown Echo Lake Park.
It was only natural, then, that Obregon would make Echo Lake Park the main focus of her attentions. She told NBC News that she visits the area twice a day, six times a week. During that time, she has saved and rehomed more than 200 dogs.
In October 2016 Obregon explained to NBC that she sticks rigidly to the routine. “Even if I miss a day, I visualize [an] animal just sitting on the corner,” she said. “[They’re] waiting for somebody to come save [them]. And typically, I’m right.”
Despite her best efforts, Obregon sadly cannot always be there in time. Indeed, it’s not unusual for the dogs to be dead before she reaches them. So perhaps she thought history was repeating itself when she drove around Echo Lake Park on March 26, 2017.
Obregon would certainly be forgiven for thinking that because there, at the side of the road, were two bags. Inside were the remains of several dead animals, discarded like trash. Among the carcasses, though, something caught Obregon’s eye. Yes, a slight movement suggested that all was not lost.
Among the dead, something lived, and it watched Obergon as she approached. When the animal lover got closer, she realized it was a dog that was peering back at her. It had lifted up its head as her car approached and seemed desperate to get to her.
And although it seemed to have trouble walking, the dog couldn’t wait to greet Obregon. The pooch did its best to dash towards her, and as it got closer, it began to whine. It was almost as if the little dog was telling the rescuer its story.
Despite everything that the dog must have been through, it was still a sweet and affectionate pooch. In fact, it wandered up to Obregon and planted its head right in her outstretched hand. It appeared to be a signal that the dog was ready to be rescued.
She took the dog – a girl who would later be called Callie – to her car. And that was when Obregon saw something unusual. “I didn’t notice what [Callie] had around her neck until I put her in my vehicle,” she told The Dodo in March 2017.
It would seem that whoever had abandoned little Callie had tied her up to a nearby fence post. The cruel perpetrators had used what looked like a shoelace to stop her escaping. It was likely, then, that Callie’s initial pained walk was the result of her escape from the shackle.
“The saddest part is that even when she broke free of the string, she still stayed in the same spot,” Obregon recalled. “[It was] as if [she was] waiting for the people who left her there.” Words which conjured up a heart-breaking scene.
Equally tear-jerking was the poignant look on Callie’s face as she watched Echo Lake Park fade away in the distance. Perhaps she couldn’t understand why she had been abandoned by her former owner. Regardless, she seemed to know that she was headed for a better life.
In fact, as soon as the disgusting dumping ground was behind her, Callie gave Obregon a big kiss on the cheek. With the dog’s head resting on her shoulder, Obregon took Callie for the first health check-up on her new life. Unsurprisingly, Callie didn’t have a microchip.
There was one small shock, though: Callie was completely healthy. Yes, a thorough examination and tests for heartworm hadn’t highlighted any issues with the pooch. Of course, there were still the emotional scars. But Callie’s loving nature was stronger than her pain, and her heart was bigger than that of her abuser’s.
Obregon told The Dodo that time and love are a good healer for past pain. “[Callie’s] coming around to the point that she doesn’t give a damn about what happened […] before,” she said. “Her past is behind her.” What’s more, Callie had already found a foster home.
She had two, in fact. TAO’s Facebook thanked both big-hearted animal rescuers – her emergency foster mommy, Tracey, and her longer term foster daddy, Chris. Callie will be staying with him while she’s waiting to be adopted, but until then she is being showered with love and affection.
Before she finds her forever home, though, Callie is resting up from her ordeal. “We would like to give her some time to decompress and acclimate into her new environment,” TAO wrote on Facebook. And we have no doubt that thanks to Obregon, loving Callie won’t have a problem finding a new home.