The hearts of Walmart employees opened for a stray dog they named “Wally,” and after months of feeding the feral pup, he is close to finding a permanent home with one of its employees.
Store officials said the puppy and his brother showed up at the store around May in horrible condition. After a while, Wally's brother disappeared, but Wally stayed around the north side of the building. They said he was near death, skinny, with no hair and could barely keep his head up.
Store manager Tina Hutto said the employees started feeding the ailing puppy, hoping to put a little meat on his bones.
“He had whatever we ate for lunch,” Hutto said. “We couldn't sit there and watch … I didn't think he was going to make it. It broke my heart.”
It didn't take long for the pup to become adopted by the store employees and to become known by vendors delivering to the store, and they moved his feeding area to the back to the store where he would be less threatened by traffic.
He now sleeps in the area behind the store and during inclement weather sleeps in drainage units.
Employees said at one point he was captured by the animal shelter, but was released from the cage by a customer. Store officials said they caught the act on camera. She said the store asked the city of Jacksonville animal control to leave him be while they work to socialize Wally.
One employee picked out a name, and another set him up a Facebook page “My name is Wally and I need your help.” The group even bought him food bowls inscribed with his name.
He took a particular liking to Sarita Bolton, who has fed her friend twice a day for three months at 6:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. everyday, including her days off and holidays.
“I was sitting in my car one day and he came and laid beside my car,” she said. “That was it.”
Bolton said Wally learned her car and waits for her every morning. Taking advice from a friend on Wally's Facebook page, she tied up old shirts she has at work and given them to him as toys so he will be used to her scent.
“I laid it by the pole, came back and it was moved,” Bolton said. “The next day he was throwing it around and playing with it.”
Wally will walk beside Bolton and look up when he is called.
“He will not let me touch him,” She said. “I touched him a couple of times and he didn't like it, but he touches me all the time.”
Wally's Facebook page is up to 587 likes from people across the United States, and caught the attention of Kate Robinson, who runs a non-profit in Austin called Straight From the Streets Rescue. Robinson said she specializes in catching and rehabilitating feral dogs and cats and donated her time to help the employees.
“A lot of times people have a feral dog and no experience so I help,” she said. “If I can get Wally off the streets and into a loving home, there is nothing that means more to me.”
Robinson said the original plan for Wally changed.
“I was going to socialize him (in Austin) and find him a home, but his home is right here,” she said.
Bolton said she has two dogs at home, and needs to set up a fence or kennel to separate them until they get used to each other, and said she cannot wait until his accommodations are complete and he can come home.
“(I can't want for) the day I'm able to hug him and kiss him and give him all kinds of lovings,” she said. “I think he's ready and I'm ready for him to come home.”
The store offered to donate a bed for him and other employees are chipping in to buy him a swanky dog house. Wally will need shots, to be neutered and likely has heart worms resulting from his time on the streets. Anyone who wishes to donate to the care of the pup can do so through Wally's Facebook page.
Robinson said Wally is not the only Walmart dog in need of help, and intends to travel to Oklahoma to help a pup named Kicks, who is in a similar situation.
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