Ansel was a stray, but someone must have loved him, because all you had to do was look his way and that tail would wag his whole great big American bulldog body. Everything wagged.

A happy dog-tail is a good thing, but in the narrow confines of the shelter pen that tail whacked itself bloody. The volunteers were concerned. The shelter staff would pull Ansel, clean and bandage his tail, and Ansel would chew the wrapping off. The solution seemed to be to dock his tail.

County Vet Kim said you can’t dock a tail in a mature dog without risking nerve damage, so she shortened Ansel’s tail a few inches. But keeping the dog from messing with his wound was hopeless. A foster placement was needed.

December and Kenny Clark own the Bark Mart in Graniteville, a full-service, locally owned, animal-lover’s paradise. There is not an animal care product you could want that they don’t carry, plus grooming, boarding and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic next door. In the last half year, the Clarks have donated more than 6,200 pounds of high-quality dog food to the county shelter to help keep the dogs healthy.

December agreed to foster Ansel so his tail could heal.

Ansel arrived at the Bark Mart in a muzzle. It was to keep him away from his tail, but as Chief Arthurs handed December Ansel’s leash, she was already deciding to firmly establish herself as “queen” in the big dog’s mind.

She took him on rounds of the property as Ansel’s wiggle grew desperate. He so badly wanted her to like him and to reassure him that he was going to be OK in the new place. December ignored him. Finally, tired and confused, Ansel sat. As soon as his butt hit the floor, December was all over him with loving praise. From that moment on, Ansel was hers to command.

Highly trainable, Ansel learned to sit with a simple motion of the hand. He never messed his kennel, even when tested for endurance, not once. She fed him great food, and he put on good weight. He learned to greet every dog in the boarding kennel politely, and he had toys and treats and even a “blankey” that he toted around.

The family that saw Ansel on Petfinder lived two hours away in Pelzer. December agreed to bring Ansel to meet them. She bathed him, and he buried his big face in her armpit as if he knew he was leaving. December wavered about letting him go. They had become good friends.

The Pelzer family – mom, dad, two girls and a boy – arrived at the shelter 90 minutes early. They passed the time playing with a pitbull named Theodore.

When Ansel arrived, it was love at first sight. They took him for a walk. The dad had always had American bulldogs and pits. “He’s big, but we love him,” one of the girls said. The next weekend, they came back and also adopted Theodore.

The end of this tail is a grand beginning.

FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, contact or visit

Aiken County Animal Shelter: “By the Numbers”

April 15 through 28

Brought in: 90 dogs and 49 cats

Adopted: 24 dogs and NO cats!

Put down: 72 dogs and 60 cats

*All adoption fees include: Spay/Neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip.