In Bell County, when a dog receives a rabies vaccination, the owner also receives a tag with a number, date and the name and phone number of the clinic where the vaccination was received. The intent is for the tag to be placed on the dog’s collar.

For Denna the Papillon, the tag saved her life.

One Friday afternoon, a call came in from Dekalb County, Ga., to Amy

Smith, a local breeder of Papillons.

“The pound called and said a homeless lady turned in three dogs, but the rabies tag on one was in my name,” Smith said. “They couldn’t euthanize the dog because you can’t turn in your neighbor’s dog to be put to sleep.”

The Dekalb County Animal Shelter used the tag to backtrack to Belton Veterinary Clinic, which issued the tag. The clinic provided the shelter with Smith’s contact information, and the shelter contacted Smith and asked her permission to find the dog, Denna, a home.

“I looked on their website, saw how bad she looked and I said, no,” Smith said. “Then I called back and talked to someone else who told me that since she was owner-surrendered they wanted to euthanize her. I said no, I would come get her.”

saving denna

Denna’s journey began about six months ago when Smith re-homed her to a Killeen woman. Through a series of text messages, Smith learned the woman had fallen into some bad luck and was moving to Georgia.

What Smith didn’t know, until she received the call from the DeKalb Animal Shelter, was Denna’s adoptive owner became homeless after she returned to Georgia and was forced to give Denna and several other dogs to the shelter.

Denna was starving and did not appear to be in good health. Upon seeing her photos, Smith and her daughter, Trisha, drove 900 miles to Georgia to retrieve her.

“I was hoping she wasn’t food aggressive or hadn’t gotten hurt in the pound,” Trisha Smith said. “In the long run, (the drive) was definitely worth it.”

When the Smiths returned from Georgia, they took Denna for a check-up at the Belton clinic.

Nikole Hill, a front desk technician who knows the Smith family from previous visits, saw them at check-in. “I’m not a veterinarian, but Denna looked skinny,” Hill said.

Suffering from malnutrition and numerous scratches, Denna was otherwise given a clean bill of health by Dr. Matt Wright and has since settled in comfortably back home in Nolanville.

Herald/ Kathryn Leisinger

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