As an animal rescuer, one woman often found abandoned animals left outside her property. However, one day she was stunned by what she found tied up to a nearby pole. Because while people knew her for her work with cats, this animal was far from feline.
Margie Morris is the director of Project Purr Animal Rescue, an animal welfare organization in Mobile, Alabama. The project takes in homeless cats or kittens off the streets or from shelters and provides them with a fresh start.
When down-and-out cats first arrive at Project Purr, staff give them the freedom to run around. This concept is termed “free range” on the group’s website, which also states that all animals have access to beds, litter trays and entertainment.
According to the site, the theory is that free-range cats become more social and are better-adjusted pets. Ideally, this translates into a better chance that the 100 or so cats in Project Purr’s care find their forever homes. But in July 2016, the shelter’s laudable approach caused an unexpected problem.
Morris had been in the parking lot behind the shelter when something caught her eye. It appeared that someone had abandoned an animal on the organization’s premises. And while abandonments like this might not have been unusual, this one stunned the animal lover.
That’s because the dumped pet was of the canine variety. And someone had tied it to a telephone pole. However, they hadn’t just left the dog; they’d also deposited a bag of food, a bed and a bowl filled with water. And this led Morris to suspect that the person who had abandoned the pit bull had really cared for him.
As a result, she expressed no animosity towards the person who had left the pooch when speaking to The Dodo in August 2017. “I felt bad for the dog being left behind,” Morris said. “I believe the person who left him really couldn’t keep him but wanted him to get help. He was well fed.”
Understandably, Morris was perplexed. And while she wanted to help the dog, she couldn’t countenance taking him into her shelter, since she already had dozens of cats running around free. “My initial reaction was, ‘Where was I going to keep the dog?’” she explained.
Instead, Project Purr posted an update about the dog – who later became known as Ranger – on its Facebook page. The post explained how the shelter was unable to take Ranger in due to the many cats wandering about uncaged. However, Morris unexpectedly received some backlash.
“We took some heat for not bringing the dog into our building,” Morris explained. “But we seriously have 90 to 100 free-range kitties and nowhere for a dog to go.” So instead, Morris called upon the City of Mobile Police Department and the online community for help.
Eventually, Morris arranged for Ranger’s transfer to the City of Mobile Animal Shelter. However, he wasn’t destined to be at the facility for long. That’s because Project Purr’s original post had already gone viral, and someone had their eye on the dog.
That person was Ginny Leclair, who worked as an independent animal rescuer. Alongside several other women, Leclair came forward to save Ranger. As a result, he soon left shelter life behind him and went to live with Leclair at her Florida home.
Apparently, the animal rescuers wanted to get Ranger as well as possible. So after they picked the pooch up from the shelter, they took him to a veterinary clinic. There, a vet neutered him, vaccinated him against illness and attended to his ringworm infection. After that, Ranger was ready to set off on his new adventure.
But it wasn’t a simple journey from telephone pole to new family. Leclair’s original plan was to house Ranger until a more permanent solution presented itself. However, it quickly became apparent that the pit bull had some potentially serious problems he needed to overcome.
Although Ranger was presumed to be around two years of age, he already appeared to have some behavioral issues, which may have been the result of his previous ordeals. In fact, she found him skittish and aggressive toward other dogs. So it was important for Leclair to ease his nerves.
“I had my doubts at first about his disposition and temperament,” Leclair revealed. “But on the third day, I was like, ‘Wait a minute. He needs a job. He needs to know who’s in charge.” Consequently, she introduced a touch more discipline into his life.
Luckily, that seemed to be just what Ranger needed, and he started to slowly improve. “This is not [a dog] that you can be all cutesy with and baby talk with and feed him and he’ll be fine. Ranger needs to know, ‘Hey, I belong to you. You’re in charge of me. This is what we’re going to do,’” Leclair explained.
Soon, Ranger was acting like a different dog. “He’s doing so much better,” Leclair said. “He can now walk past other dogs without there being a fight. He plays in the yard. He initiates play. I can take a toy from his mouth. I can take away his food dish. I can take away his water while he’s drinking.”
And not only was Ranger better behaved, he also showed himself to be an affectionate pet. Indeed, he appeared attached to not just Leclair but also her family. So Leclair made a decision that would have an effect on not just Ranger but Leclair’s home life as well.
Leclair decided to adopt Ranger herself. She believed that she could give him the security he needed to thrive. “[He] needs to belong,” she explained. “He does his best to please you. And if you know what to ask of him and how to reward him, he’s right there by your side.”