DETROIT, Mich. — The one thing that's certain, Buddy, a senior dog, deserved a better life. Buddy didn't deserve to be chained up around the clock in his owner's backyard in southwest Detroit. And Buddy certainly didn't deserve to suffer in the frigid weather and die.
"Michelle was with me doing assessments and said, 'Buddy is frozen dead in his igloo,'" said Gina Freemon, who had just assessed Buddy on January 10 when she and volunteers with C.H.A.I.N.E.D. Inc first visited with the dogs during outreach.
Buddy was found dead Sunday by volunteers with the animal advocacy group. Freemon and the volunteers were crushed and they cried.
A month earlier, when the owner wouldn't bring the dogs inside the house, they gave each dog an igloo that the organization is able to provide through donations. They stuffed the igloos with straw and gave treats to sweet Buddy.
Freemon said they even offered to set up a heater in the igloo which would have required an extension cord to the house.
The owner refused, Freemon said.
It appears Buddy's owner was already in violation of the City of Detroit's anti-tethering ordinance which prohibits people from having a dog continuously tethered outside for more than three hours a day.
The wife at the house said Buddy and their other dog are "outside dogs" that they have for security.
She claimed that they usually do bring the dogs inside the house when it gets really cold but that Sunday they forgot because they were preoccupied with issues with their water heater.
She claimed Buddy and their second dog were outside about 24 hours.
"They can die in two hours. They can die in an hour-and-a-half if it's cold enough," said Dr. Lucretia Greear of Woodhaven Animal Hospital. "If they're wet, if their fur is wet, and they freeze and they end up at a point where they can't physically move because their muscles are frozen and they can't contract anymore. They're stuck."
At that point, unless someone can carry the dog to a warm place, they'll face the possibility of frostbite, hypothermia, and death.
And even if an animal doesn't die, they will suffer.
"If you've ever felt your fingertips get too cold or your toes get too cold, how almost painful it can be. Now, imagine that happening very slowly to an animal," said Dr.Greear.
Some breeds, including huskies, are better able to tolerate the cold, but it's not advised that any pet be left outside for long periods in below-freezing weather.
If an animal is wet, including wet paws, that can accelerate the trouble a pet could run into unless taken to a warm area and dried off.
Cruelty investigators with Michigan Humane (formerly Michigan Humane Society) are now looking into Buddy's death.
This weekend, Dr. Patricia Odette of Animal Resource Funding Foundation (ARFF), along with Jessica Ramirez of Detroiters Helping Each Other and other volunteers, passed out crates to dog owners so that they can bring their pets inside.
A lot of dog owners will not bring them inside the house unless they have a way to contain them, making crates a valuable resource to saving the lives of so many animals.
"We've definitely made a big difference," Odette said.
If you would like to donate a crate to ARFF so that another dog can be brought into a house from the cold, you can drop it off or send it to the Woodhaven Animal Hospital at 20376 Van Horn Road, Woodhaven, Michigan 48183.