A mixed-breed dog was neglectfully chained beside a house on Highway 41 for several years until Hurricane Dorian set her free this September. Her name is now Xena "The Warrior Princess" and she's in much more able hands.
Xena's traumatic journey was tear jerking enough to garner the attention of local dog lovers. Mount Pleasant Police Chief 's wife, Vickey Ritchie and the Mount Pleasant Mayor's wife Suzette Haynie teamed up with Xena's rescuer Debbie McLawhorn of Southern Paws Animal Rescue (SPAR).
McLawhorn, Xena's new owner, was a Mount Pleasant Police Department officer for 28 years prior to founding SPAR in 2017. She shared a close friendship with Ritchie and an even closer compassion for dogs.
The two brainstormed more ways to help comfort dogs and better their living situations, particularly ones with cases like Xena's. Ritchie then sprouted an idea that would physically help many local rescues.
Once Hurricane Dorian subsided, Ritchie reached out to Haynie who is a fifth grade teacher at Jennie Moore Elementary. Ritchie proposed to Haynie that Jennie Moore's student council hold a blanket and towel drive for local rescue organizations. The school's drive was the first of its kind for Charleston County School District.
After a flurry of phone calls and flyers, the drive rapidly developed from a fifth grade class of 180 students to a school-wide initiative all the way down to kindergartners.
"It's not something I'm promoting as the chief's wife. The rescues are very close and dear to my heart and this is something I knew we could collect and it wouldn't cost a penny," Ritchie said.
After raising awareness from Oct. 15-23, students at Jennie Moore folded and bagged a total of approximately 500 blankets and towels into more than 50 trash bags. The mountainous load was divided and crammed into three vans to be donated to SPAR, Libby & Maces and Palmetto Paws.
"This is not a money raising event. That's what the great thing was," Ritchie said. "It was just donating used towels and blankets."
Haynie said the majority of the blankets and towels came from students' households. Some students even supplied used dog beds and comforters to the collection.
"In the beginning I was just hoping that we would have enough towels because we just committed to three different rescue organizations," Haynie said. "And wow, (the school) just really came through for us.
Ritchie and Haynie both contributed donations to the drive and is involved with several other rescue relief operations. Haynie is also the proud owner of a rescue.
McLawhorn said she cried tears of joy watching how happy the students were to volunteer. She estimated hundreds of dogs will be benefited by the abundance of bedding material.
"The best dog in the whole world is a rescue dog because they have so much love to give," McLawhorn said. "They're forgiving and no matter how much they've been abused they just want to be loved."
As for Xena, she's doing much better now under McLawhorn's care.