The week before Christmas, Sandra, a regular FOTAS volunteer, found a boney black lab mix curled against the back wall of his cage at the County Shelter. No amount of coaxing would get him to come out.


She didn’t learn Dudley’s history, but it could not have included enough to eat or positive associations with humans.


“He curled into smallest ball imaginable,” Sandra said. “If you got near him, he would try to squeeze himself even smaller.”


It did no good to put a leash on him. He wouldn’t move. In a way, it was lucky that Dudley was so underweight, at only 32 pounds. Sandra picked him up and carried him outdoors.


“In the beginning, I didn’t even try to take him out to the play yard. I just carried him out to the bench and sat with him.”


When she carried him back to his cage, she gave him extra food because he was so thin.


Each time Sandra went to walk the shelter dogs that week, Dudley had to be carried out and carried in.


When Sandra did take him down the hill to the play yard, Dudley seemed lost. He did not play, or even interact. He would walk around as if he didn’t know why he was there.


Dudley originally had a cage-mate who was also very timid, and when that dog was pulled by a rescue group, a slight change came over Dudley. When Sandra arrived at his cage, Dudley was standing. And when she opened the cage door, he took a step towards her.


He allowed her to attach the leash, and he followed her cautiously to the building exit but no further. “That was it,” she said, “I had to carry him from there to the play yard.”


Sandra can’t explain it, but she has a special love for the black lab mixes. They are very common at the shelter, and are often overlooked for adoption.


During the weeks before and after Christmas, Sandra was at the County Shelter walking the dogs twelve of fourteen days, including Sunday and Christmas Day. It paid off.


Dudley began approaching the cage gate and walking to the outside door on his own, but he still needed to be carried to the play yard.


Then one day, Sandra arrived at Dudley’s cage, and there he was up and ready. She attached the leash and out he walked: to the door, through the door and straight to the play yard.


The transformation continued. Dudley would allow anyone to walk him to the play yard, and when he got there he would run, play with other dogs and chase a ball.


“He was a happy, happy, affectionate dog,” Sandra said, the pride and satisfaction clear in her voice. “We didn’t know the dog that was in him,” she said, “We went and found him.”


In January, Dudley was transferred to New England and quickly adopted to a good home.


Volunteers make a difference, sometimes one dog at a time.


FOTAS Volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, contact “info@fotasaiken.org” or visit FOTAS on line at www.fotasaiken.org.