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One year later, Caitlyn the dog enjoys new home, new life - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

One year later, Caitlyn the dog enjoys new home, new life

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Caitlyn during the firefighter calendar photo shoot. (Source: Charleston Animal Society) Caitlyn during the firefighter calendar photo shoot. (Source: Charleston Animal Society)
Caitlyn resting in her foster home, a month after plastic surgery on her muzzle. (Source: Charleston Animal Society) Caitlyn resting in her foster home, a month after plastic surgery on her muzzle. (Source: Charleston Animal Society)
Caitlyn on the day she was brought in, her muzzle swollen after electrical tape was removed. (Source: Charleston Animal Society) Caitlyn on the day she was brought in, her muzzle swollen after electrical tape was removed. (Source: Charleston Animal Society)
Dr. Henri Bianucci of Veterinary Specialty Care - SC was the amazing surgeon who performed the plastic surgery procedures on Caitlyn's lip and cheek. (Source: Charleston Animal Society) Dr. Henri Bianucci of Veterinary Specialty Care - SC was the amazing surgeon who performed the plastic surgery procedures on Caitlyn's lip and cheek. (Source: Charleston Animal Society)
Source: Charleston Animal Society Source: Charleston Animal Society
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

It has been one year since a Staffordshire Terrior mix known as Caitlyn was found wandering the streets in North Charleston with electrical tape wrapped around her muzzle.

But in one year's time, her life has changed for the better in ways few who saw her the day she was brought in could have imagined.

"She has such a life," Charleston Animal Society spokesperson Kay Hyman says of Caitlyn's foster family, who has housed the dog for approximately eight months now. 

MOBILE USERS: Click here for photos of Caitlyn then and now.

The two-and-a-half-year-old mixed breed has two foster "brothers" and a foster sister named Oreo. At night, Oreo sleeps on one of her foster family's children's beds and Caitlyn sleeps on the other.

Caitlyn's foster "mom" is a runner and at first, Caitlyn would only run along for about half a mile before lying down to take a rest. Just this past weekend, Caitlyn and her foster mom ran six-and-a-half miles, Hyman said.

Though her physical wounds are healed, Hyman says the mental wounds are still a work-in-progress.

"She has fear of some men and fear of the unknown," she says. Socialization is the key to helping Caitlyn become more comfortable around people she doesn't know.

Caitlyn is expected to be officially adopted by her foster family some time in July, after the court case against the man accused of taping the dog's mouth shut is wrapped up.

The legal proceedings will bring to an end a case that has made a star out of the dog some feared might not survive her predicament in May of last year.

Dog's discovery sent shockwaves throughout the community, social media

When Caitlyn wandered onto the porch of a North Charleston home, electrical tape was wrapped so tightly that her tongue had become trapped between her teeth, cutting off circulation. It was initially feared much of her tongue would have to be amputated.

At the time she was found, veterinarians said she would soon have died of starvation if she had not been brought in.

Caitlyn's original owner had taken part in a free spay/neuter event held by the Charleston Animal Society, which meant staffers had some initial information about the dog, including its age -- one-and-a-half years old -- at the time she was brought in. From there, investigators were able to reach the family that had brought her in for the spay procedure, who told them they had sold the dog to a different owner who was later accused of taping her muzzle allegedly because the dog would not stop barking.

Dr. Henri Bianucci of Veterinary Specialty Care in Mount Pleasant performed surgery on the dog and called her recovery "really amazing."

Among the procedures Caitlyn's recovery required were plastic surgery to repair damage to her cheek, multiple laser surgeries to heal facial scars, surgery on a salivary gland that was damaged and multiple hyperbaric oxygen treatments, Hyman said.

After multiple treatments, Caitlyn's tongue recovered better than anticipated. In a statement during the course of her recovery, Bianucci said Caitlyn's tongue had sloughed a small area of dead tissue and said the combination of [hyperbaric oxygen therapy] and cold laser therapy "reduced the tissue loss from the tongue to an absolute minimum."

Those treatments began racking up a big bill, but the community came to the pup's financial rescue, donating enough money to cover the immediate treatments and more.

"Enough to cover all of her medical expenses and enough to care for her for the rest of her life has already been raised," Hyman said.

In fact, once it became clear that donations to Caitlyn's medical fund exceeded the target goal, the Charleston Animal Society began emailing donors explaining that Caitlyn's bills had been covered prior to their donation and asking if the donor would mind if their donation was moved to Toby's Fund, a medical fund to treat injured, abused and abandoned animals.

"Not one person objected," Hyman said.

Abused dog becomes canine celebrity

The dog's story quickly gained worldwide attention on social media as veterinarians estimated it would cost thousands of dollars to treat all of her wounds.

More than 100 people expressed interest in adopting her. Actor/singer Rick Springfield and Food Network's Alton Brown both asked to meet Caitlyn during their visits to the Lowcountry after seeing her story online.

When she was first brought in, veterinarians labeled her an American Staffordshire Terrier, or "Staffie" mix. A DNA test performed to determine a more accurate picture of her makeup revealed a dozen different breeds, Hyman said. The breeds that make up Caitlyn's DNA ranged from Terrior to Boxer to German Shepherd to Australian Shepherd, she said. 

She was featured in a Charleston Animal Society's annual firefighter calendar, posing with Josh Allen, a firefighter with the St. Andrews Fire Department. Allen visited with Caitlyn a couple of days before the shoot and spent ample time bonding with her so she would feel completely comfortable around him.

Just last week, Hyman says, she was photographed again with Dustin Ford, last year's firefighter cover model.

New fund established to fight animal cruelty

The Charleston Animal Society created Caitlyn's Anti-Cruelty Fund in hopes of preventing future abuse cases of animals, which research suggests could lead to a greater chance of abuse of people.

"People whoa re doing this to animals are going to do it to people if they haven't already," Hyman says.

The fund pays for rewards for information that leads to arrests, anti-cruelty outreach programs in the community to educate people about animal abuse and training for animal control officers on collecting evidence that could lead to prosecution of abusers.

To donate to Caitlyn's Anti-Cruelty Fund, visit the Charleston Animal Society's website.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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