A loving four-legged companion of the Tifton-Tift County Animal Shelter and a friend to the community has died a happy dog.
Ten years ago on Nov. 10, 2003, then three- or four-year-old Sherman, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was one of seven dogs rescued from his owner who had placed him in a lucrative dog fighting business.
In an interview Monday morning, an emotional Regenia Wells, director of the Tifton-Tift County Animal Shelter, said Sherman was pushing 14 years old when he died. She explained that in 2010, he was the grand marshal in the Christmas parade.
“I knew he didn’t feel good, so the next morning, I called the vet and took him out there,” she said. “They found out that his white blood count and red blood count were real low, and his gums were white and he was really sick. So, he had to stay out there for a week on an IV.”
“He was really mad with me,” she added, chuckling.
Wells said Sherman was put on prednisone and he was also taking thyroid medicine. For the last four weeks, he was on pain pills.
Motioning to a spot in her office, her voice cracking as she tried holding back tears, she said, “He got over there, ate some food and came over here and rubbed up against me and looked at me like, ‘I’m just tired.’”
Sherman died Dec. 10. Wells said that morning, he walked around the backyard, like he normally did.
“He came and laid down. I had to carry him up the stairs. He couldn’t walk up the stairs anymore. He just gave out,” she said.
She said Sherman had cancer. His stomach had swollen, and he weighed 80-plus pounds about three months ago before he got down to 75 pounds.
“He was pretty sick,” Wells said, noting she thinks he was trying to prepare her.
She noted that Sherman had been going to the local Quailwood Animal Hospital for three years.
“He would get real spry sometimes and then kind of lay back,” she said. She noticed the Sunday or Monday before he died that he wasn’t feeling good.
Tears in her eyes, Wells said it’s been hard not having Sherman around anymore at the shelter. She said she sometimes finds herself wanting to call his name when she’s about to leave because he always stayed near her feet while at her desk.
She said many people in the community knew Sherman. He went to a lot of the local schools to help teach young children about abuse and how to protect themselves from dogs chasing them. He also taught them about dog fighting, Wells said.
“It made it interesting. The kids really loved it,” she said, adding that Sherman loved everybody and the kids loved him. She said every person who came into the shelter, Sherman greeted them. She described him as being a “big ol’ baby.”
Recalling when Sherman first came to the shelter, Wells said he wouldn’t eat or take his medicine unless she fed him or gave him his medicine. He attached himself to her because she saved his life.
She ended up adopting Sherman, and he would go to work with her every day and home with her every night. She said when she went camping, he would go with her also. She recalled one day when she took him for a walk on a camping trip and an older lady walking her poodle became afraid when she saw Sherman. Wells assured the woman that Sherman was harmless, and he laid down and let the poodle play all over him. She also commented that he would let young students crawl over him when he visited the schools. He had retired four months ago.
“He just loved everybody,” she said.
When asked what Sherman meant to the community, Wells said, “Sherman was like an ambassador. He talked about abuse. He had battle scars all over him where he had been fought. He taught kids on their bicycle what to do if a dog was chasing them. Also, he talked about dog fighting. Sherman taught a lot to people.”
She said Sherman may not have been at the shelter as long as her, but he was second in command. When she came to the shelter almost 11 years ago, she admitted that she wasn’t a big bulldog fan at first.
“People are scared of bulldogs, but they shouldn’t be because all they want to do is be loved. They are very loyal dogs. It’s how people make them,” Wells said. “They’re just like a part of the family.”
Wells said Sherman has his own Facebook page and former employees at the shelter have expressed how badly he’s going to be missed.
“We miss him around here, because he begs for food and treats,” she said, laughing. “We don’t teach dogs tricks. They teach us tricks.” She said he would bark for treats. His favorite was bacon strips.
“He was spoiled rotten, but he deserved everything he got,” she said, noting that he lived in filth and was abused for three or four years before he was rescued. She said Sherman was a happy dog and was loved.
“Sherman really would like for people to spay and neuter their animals,” she said. “The shelter has a program to assist people.” She said there are two wonderful vets in town — Quailwood and Branch’s Veterinary Clinic PC.
Wells said Hoy, who will be three years old in March and is a deaf bulldog, will be taking Sherman’s place at the shelter. He was found in the middle of the road on South Central looking around.
Wells said one of her employees named him “Hoy” after the famous baseball player, William Ellsworth Hoy, who was deaf and is credited by some sources with causing the establishment of signals for safe and out calls in the late 1800s. She said he’s still spunky and got a lot to learn.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.