One of Charleston's top celebrities hasn't starred in any movies or reality shows. She doesn't have an Instagram account or a line of merchandise. But she does have a larger-than-life tribute in the form of a giant inflatable likeness.
Three years after surviving cruelty at human hands, Caitlyn the dog is now enjoying the simple life with her owners. In 2015, she made national news when she was found in North Charleston with her muzzle bound shut, raising awareness about animal cruelty as she recovered and inspiring many with her sweet spirit.
Charleston Animal Society Director of Community Engagement Kay Hyman and Anti-Cruelty and Outreach Director Aldwin Roman reflected on her recovery and the lessons they hope the community remembers from Caitlyn's triumph.
Were you surprised by the impact that Caitlyn’s story had here in the Lowcountry and beyond?
We are amazed by the thirst for updates during Caitlyn’s first days and subsequent years after her abuse! To this day we receive questions and comments about her from around the world.
It was really surprising the impact that Caitlyn made on our community and the world. Her pain and suffering and then her triumphant recovery gave hope to people who were hopeless. She gave courage to people in abusive situations that they might escape their abuser.
Where did the name “Caitlyn” come from and who gave it to her?
Caitlyn is the name she was given by one of her first owners. She was spayed/neutered at our spay/neuter clinic when she was a puppy. The name “Caitlyn” was the name registered on the microchip. The family had to re-home Caitlyn and so that name only resurfaced during the investigation.
What inspired you most about Caitlyn from the time you spent with her while she was recovering from her injuries?
Caitlyn inspired us to tell the stories of the animals in our care. She inspired us to think about what they were going through and help the world to see that there is hope for justice. So many animal abuse cases are never resolved and many receive minimal sentences from our court system. It surprised us how much Caitlyn loves people even though she suffered at the hands of a human.
How did the Charleston Animal Society find the right forever home for Caitlyn? How has she adjusted?
Really the perfect home just happened to open up at just the right time. Caitlyn would have been great in just about any home, but we knew we wanted to make sure she would have a chance to just be a normal dog. We really think she has that now. She has adjusted really well. She has a sister dachshund and play dates with other dogs!
What are some of Caitlyn’s favorite activities and spots in the Lowcountry?
Caitlyn loves the beach and just about anywhere she can run and chase a ball! She experienced her first snow last year and visits the beach and local parks often. She has even been known to show up at local craft breweries enjoying dog-friendly patios with her sister!
Caitlyn loves to run, so anywhere she can catch a tennis ball works for her.
What do you hope people learn from Caitlyn’s story?
1. Cruelty is a complex issue. Most who offend have committed other crimes or will go on to commit other, usual violent crimes toward people. Early intervention and prevention is key.
2. Caitlyn is just one dog, and there are countless other animals like her who are abused every single day. We hope that by bringing her story to light we can help garner support for other abused animals like her and also change the way we approach animal cruelty in our country.
3. Never give up!
What can Lowcountry locals do if they suspect an animal is being harmed?
They can call local law enforcement or animal control. For Charleston County, just call 843-743-7200. That is a non-emergency dispatch number for the whole county. The dispatcher can take the call and dispatch the appropriate law enforcement agency.
For other counties, we recommend calling the local police, sheriff’s office or animal control unit. If an animal is in imminent danger, call 911. If you are able to safely capture digital photo and video of the abuse, please do so to help law enforcement in their investigation.