Chris + Elliott

Inspired by one dog’s nature, volunteer goes all in to become leader of animal shelter

Chris + Elliott

As a volunteer at a rural animal shelter, I cleaned cat kennels, took photos and wrote bios for the animals looking to be adopted. I had no idea that writing the adoption bio for Elliott, a dog that had been at the shelter for over a year, would trigger my life’s work in animal rescue.

Elliott was six-week-old when he came to Plaquemines Animal Welfare (PAWS) and was given the name “Little Foot.” He was born with the bones in his left shoulder fused together, which caused his left front leg and paw to atrophy leaving them smaller than the right.

"When he returned, he wasn't the same guy. His spirit seemed broken."

I learned from the staff that, as a puppy, Elliott was adopted quickly, but brought back a few weeks later.

During his time at PAWS, Elliott tried to be invisible to potential adopters. He got good at it and went unnoticed for more than a year. That broke my heart. No animal should spend that long in a shelter. It wasn’t right.

I became his champion. My husband and I fostered him. I wrote his bio, took photos and made a flyer so we could market him to potential adopters. That was the easy part. While he loved anything with four legs, he was terribly uncertain of people. We tried for weeks to find the right family.

Then, we realized that we were the right family for Elliott.

My involvement in finding Elliott a home, which turned out to be our home, helped me to see that I could help other animals at PAWS have a new start at life, too. I dove into volunteering, helped raise funds, handled some adoptions and joined the board. I wanted to learn everything I could to help other animals, like Elliott, have a new start at life.

About a year later, I had the opportunity to become the PAWS Shelter Director. Since joining PAWS, we reduced the euthanasia rate at the municipal shelter by 91%, began providing low-cost spay/neuter services and opened a low-cost community wellness clinic.

This past January, we took over operations at the municipal animal control facility.  Plaquemines is one of the first Parishes in the State of Louisiana to achieve no-kill status.

It’s been five years since we adopted Elliott. He still prefers to be invisible to people. Those who don’t know him well see him as skittish and shy, but we’re lucky. He shows us his big ole’ goofball self every time he runs and does a somersault.

Elliott reminds us daily that every animal has a special spirit inside. We’re glad he chose to share his with us. I’m glad he inspired me to plant my two big feet in animal welfare.

Each year, the Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Chris Beebe won Plaquemines Animal Welfare in Belle Chasse, Louisiana a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.