For the Stray Rescue of St. Louis shelter, admitting an abandoned dog was nothing new. But when a pup named Shell arrived on the center’s doorstep in the fall of 2018, it was accompanied by a moving note from the dog’s owner, Crystal Chrisp. Then, the shelter’s staff found out what had really happened to the woman who left her pet behind.
The Stray Rescue of St. Louis has had a simple mission since its foundation in 1998. It wants to help create “a compassionate city where every companion animal knows health comfort and affection,” according to shelter’s website.
The shelter also envisions St. Louis as a place where “no stray is euthanized merely because he or she has been abandoned, abused or neglected.” Instead, the Stray Rescue team hits the streets to locate abandoned pets and bring them into the center.
And the Stray Rescue staff have found plenty of animals abandoned on the streets of St. Louis. “Virtually all of the pets we save have been abused and neglected. They’ve been dumped on highways or remote country roads… in public parks, empty house[s] and dark alleys,” the center’s website explains.
“[We’ve] rescued [animals] from the torment of being bait dogs or prize fighters in dog-fighting rings,” the Stray Rescue post continues. “We even save dogs left chained behind buildings and locked in houses after their owners [have] moved away.”
And all of these efforts have paid off – Stray Rescue of St. Louis has reportedly grown into the city’s biggest no-kill shelter. On top of that, staffers are able to reach out to the community’s pet owners to teach them how best to care for their animals, thus preventing more four-legged friends from ending up in the shelter.
And while Stray Rescue’s staff have certainly seen countless heartbreaking cases over their 20 years of service to the St. Louis community, a dog left on their doorstep in the fall of 2018 made international headlines. That was because the little pooch named Shell came with a touching note from her owner, Crystal Chrisp, 46.
“To Stray Rescue,” Chrisp’s note began. “I am writing you [be]cause I need you to take my dog, Shell. My mother adopted Shell from Stray Rescue around 2009-2010… In 2012 she had a massive stroke and now has Alzheimer’s. So in 2012, Shell came to live with me.”
Chrisp then revealed the reason why she, too, had to leave Shell behind. “I’ve been fighting cancer for a few months and if you’re reading this I lost my battle,” she wrote. But as her life was coming to an end, Chrisp wanted to make sure of one thing.
“I need for my baby girl to be tak[en] care of in a home with one person,” Chrisp wrote. And it seemed that Shell had many qualities that people would enjoy. “Shell is a very sweet little girl,” her owner added.
Chrisp did warn that Shell had “been [through] a lot, so she has trouble with trust in the beginning.” But the dog was nonetheless “smart” and independent, her owner maintained. “She loves to cuddle but doesn’t like to be carried,” Chrisp explained.
The note contained more information, apparently, but Stray Rescue of St. Louis only shared that portion on its Facebook page. This was enough to resonate with readers, though – the image subsequently garnered hundreds of reactions.
The media caught on, too, partly because of what happened next. The day after Chrisp surrendered Shell, emergency services fielded a call reporting an apartment fire in the Affton district of St. Louis.
Once inside of the burning property, the first-responders found Chrisp’s body. She had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and authorities later deemed the incident to be a suicide. Nobody was hurt by the fire, thankfully, but the source of the blaze was still to be determined.
Chrisp’s friend Sharon Hyster-Harris informed KMOV 4 that although Shell’s owner had previously overcome breast cancer, the condition had returned in the months prior to Chrisp’s death. “I think she just decided she couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Hyster-Harris explained.
Chrisp had nonetheless looked out for her dog before taking her own life. And her story and letter tugged at the heartstrings of countless readers. People reported that Stray Rescue had received “an onslaught of applications” following the media coverage of the incident.
And from all of the hopeful applicants, Stray Rescue staff found someone they considered to be perfect for the role. The woman they chose had lost her own pet in July of 2018 – a dog named Trenton that she’d also adopted from Stray Rescue.
“She just felt so drawn to [Shell]. Wasting no time, she filled out an application and was here the very next morning,” Stray Rescue’s Facebook post about the adoption stated. “The two of them hit it off, and she knew it was definitely the right time.”
So, the woman took Shell home, and the dog quickly felt at ease in her new surroundings. “She says Shell is already running the house, and that they are inseparable,” Stray Rescue’s post continued, before adding that it was the “happy ending” that everyone had hoped for.
Stray Rescue concluded by stating that it was “honored to have fulfilled the final wish of [Shell’s] mom, who is no longer with us.” The shelter’s final vow to the dog they saved? “We promise she will be spoiled for the rest of her life,” the Facebook post concluded.