A 'ruff' life, with a tail-wagging ending; Letty finds a forever-home after a nightmarish past | KItsap Week

Letty and her new adopted family. - Erin Jennings
Letty and her new adopted family.
— image credit: Erin Jennings

Danielle and Randy Durham are proud parents.

They oohed and ahhed over their new baby, Letty. After their first night together, the couple bragged how Letty slept through the night (something most new parents cannot claim.) Apparently, she was also a bed hog.

In celebration of her new adoption, the Durhams dressed Letty in pink ruffles.

With her sleek black and white fur and pink tongue, Letty pranced around healthy and content, greeting people and wanting love.

“Today is a happy day,” said Stacey Price, Kitsap Humane Society’s animal welfare director. "The tears when she came in were heartbreaking, but the tears today are different. It justifies why we are here."

Letty, a pit bull, hasn't had an easy life.

She was brought to KHS in 2010 as a stray. With her spirited personality, she quickly became a staff favorite. But last August, she was stolen from the shelter.

Price said typically one or two dogs are stolen each year. The taken dogs are usually swiped by owners who don't want to pay the impound fee. Because she was a stray and because her breed is notorious for being powerful, KHS feared the worst.

They feared she was stolen for dog fighting.

“The situation with Letty hit home for us,” Price said. “We had suspected (dog fighting) when other dogs have come in, but you never want to believe it's in your community.”

In December, a good Samaritan found Letty tied to a tree near Forest Lawn Cemetery in Bremerton. Letty was brought back to KHS, weighing only 28 pounds, about half of her targeted weight. The veterinarians at KHS believed she was on the brink of death.

She was a pile of skin and bones and almost unrecognizable. It took three staff members to verify that it was indeed Letty.

Dogs used for fighting are often starved in order to make them aggressive. Her teeth had been filed down, which Price said is typical for fighting dogs if the dog is used as “bait” — dogs used to test another dog's fighting instincts.

Security is now tighter at KHS than when Letty was stolen. Ironically, cameras had been scheduled for installation the day after she was taken. Her animal cruelty case is still under investigation.

If you ever suspect animal abuse or neglect, Animal Control Officer Tyrus Edwards said, “If you feel like something is not right, call us and we will come check it out.”

In the past, concerned parties were asked to call KHS directly. Now, under a new system in place, callers should dial 911 for any domestic animal concern.

“Some callers are hesitant to call 911 but they shouldn’t be,” Price said. “I think having 911 incorporated with Animal Control shows the severity of the problem and how serious we are taking cruelty and neglect welfare checks.”

Because Letty had been a resident at KHS, staff members were able to spot the differences in her personality. Before, she played with and enjoyed other dogs. After her return, she cowered and fled from canines.

With love and care from the staff at KHS, Letty regained her strength and spark. Rather than returning to the kennels to wait out adoption, Letty was placed in foster care to continue recovery in a less stressful situation. Her foster mom showered her with love and designed a “Handbook for Letty,” in order to teach prospective adopters about her. (She likes belly rubs and napping, and doesn’t like being out in the rain.) And although Letty didn’t reside at the shelter, her foster mom dropped her off for visits and Letty “worked” the front desk and met prospective adopters.

KHS was determined to find the perfect forever home for Letty. Because of her unique situation, stipulations were put in place: the new adopters had to agree to periodic visits from animal control officers and be willing to work with KHS’s animal behaviorist.

The Durhams went to KHS seeking a dog they had read about online. But when they met Letty at her front desk post, it was “love at first sight. We knew she had to be part of the family,” Danielle said.

As a surprise to the new parents, Letty’s adoption fee was paid for with donations. And if the veterinarian deems it necessary, future dental work to repair her teeth will be funded by donations as well. KHS doesn’t want to place the financial burden on the Durhams.

But for now, Letty is doing well. The Durhams remarked on Letty's gentleness, especially given her background.

“She’s an amazing dog,” Danielle said. And by what can only be described as a cooing mom voice, Danielle turned to Letty and said, “Who’s the amazing baby? You are. It’s our new baby girl.”

Letty’s tail wagged rapidly at the attention, whacking it against a KHS staff member. “Her tail,” Danielle said, “is the most dangerous part of her.”



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