Homeless No More

By Helen Ravenel Hammond

Photos By Jeanne Taylor

Tears were flowing as Bronx saw his Daddy for the first time in more than four months. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Adam Gibson, as he was reunited with Bronx, his 4-year-old Staffordshire mix.

The public reunion took place on May 17 inside a play yard at Charleston Animal Society—but the road to get there was long and difficult for Gibson and his fiancée Michelle Walker. Late last year, both found themselves homeless, living in the woods in West Ashley with Bronx.

Help was available through Charleston’s Homeless Shelter One80 Place, but the shelter is unable to accept animals—and Gibson was committed to never giving up on Bronx.

“We often see homeless people who are struggling to make ends meet, with a pet dog or cat by their side,” said Stacey Denaux, CEO of One80 Place. “We knew we could help Adam, if we could find a way to keep Bronx safe until Adam was back on his feet.”

Enter Charleston Animal Society

One80 Place reached out to Charleston Animal Society and their Senior Director of Anti-Cruelty and Outreach, Aldwin Roman, agreed to help in any way he could. The problem was, Gibson was hesitant to turn Bronx over to anyone. It was a separation he wasn’t sure he could handle.

“I didn’t press Adam anymore. I could tell there was no swaying him,” Roman said. “I made sure he had my number and told him our offer stands, just call me when you need us. “He continued, “Adam would rather sleep in a tent in the woods than risk losing his dog. Bronx was family and family sticks together.”

Time marched on and a snowstorm in January really wore Gibson down. Although hesitant, he finally called Roman, ready to go with the plan. “He couldn’t do right by his dog if he didn’t get back on his feet. He was doing this for Bronx and for himself, in that order,” said Roman.


Life Among Cats

On January 16, Gibson handed over Bronx’s leash to Conor Thompson, one of the shelter’s outreach specialists. “It was very emotional for him and we had to reassure him that we would take good care of Bronx,” said Thompson.

An immediate challenge for Charleston Animal Society’s staff was that Bronx was not used to being in an indoor pen and was very stressed at the shelter. The solution? Life among cats.

Roman facilitated Bronx going to Feline Freedom Sanctuary, the outdoor facility for cats run by Charleston Animal Society, where Bronx would have a large yard to run around in. Christine Brugge, manager at Feline Freedom Sanctuary, said that there was only one other dog there and the staff loved doting on Bronx.


Moving Forward

As he focused on getting his life together with the help of One80 Place, there were several times Gibson wanted to come get his dog. He worried that Bronx would not remember him, or worse, he would be given away. Roman reassured Gibson with weekly photos. “I told him it’s beyond clear how much this dog means to you. He isn’t going anywhere as long as he is with us. He’s safe until he’s back with you,” said Roman.

To give Gibson one less thing to worry about, Bronx, who was heartworm positive, was treated for heartworms. Gibson said that when he was struggling to make it through his eight-hour shift at work, Bronx was always an inspiration in the back of his mind.


The Reunion

It was a picture-perfect day as staff from Charleston Animal Society surrounded the main play yard. Inside, media from across Charleston crowded into the play yard to get photos and video of Bronx, who was excited about the attention, but wasn’t sure what all the fuss was all about.

Then, through the double gates of the play yard, came a familiar voice calling Bronx’s name. Suddenly it seemed as though time stopped and there was only Bronx and Gibson. Bronx ran to greet his daddy and there were lots of hugs. Around the edge of the play yard, the staff of Charleston Animal Society and One80 Place couldn’t hold back tears of happiness for this amazing reunion.

A few days after the reunion, Gibson and his fiancée moved into their own place with a yard for Bronx. “Some family members said you can always get another dog. But that boy is my heart,” Gibson admitted.

“There was no doubt that Bronx was Adam’s biggest motivator,” said Roman. “Adam and Bronx inspire me every day. Charleston Animal Society is so fortunate to have had the opportunity to help this wonderful family.”