Abused, Shot, Neglected: The Story of Pilgrim

I like the way that ordinary dogs, who are extraordinary, sometimes get a happy ending to their torture and neglect.  The legacy of Pilgrim is just one such story.  Pilgrim was rescued by the Darlington, South Carolina Humane Society on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

by Pilgrim Bentz (as told to Bob Bentz)

Pilgrim: My Autobiography

Darlington, SC — Pilgrim wasn’t my original name.  My original name was “Bentley.”

On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2012, I was rescued by the Darlington County Humane Society in South Carolina.  The local newspaper did an article about me and so did the television station.  So, as you can see, I have become somewhat of a celebrity.

For the first two years of my life, I was chained to a tree in the backyard of my house on Trudie Lane in Darlington.  My owner didn’t take very good care of me and kept my puppy collar on me for a long time.  The problem was I kept growing and became too big for the collar and my skin and fur began growing around the collar.  It was like I was being choked by a MMA fighter 24 hours a day.

One day, some people shot me with a 22 caliber gun at least four times!  I couldn’t understand what I had done that was so bad that they would do that, but I guess they had their reasons.


Because of the open wounds around my neck, I didn’t smell very good and the wounds got infected.  One day, I got loose and was able to wander into the house next door.  The owners of the house next door looked at my wounds and notified the Darlington County Humane Society.  I didn’t know it then, but those neighbors were really the first of many people that  helped to save my life.

X-RATED: When I got an x-ray at my new fur-ever home, the vet found 78 pieces of metal inside me.  Each of the dots you see are either buck shot or BB’s.  Guess I won’t be able to go through the metal detector at the airport.  :>)

On November 22, 2012, the people from the Humane Society came to visit me and my owner in South Carolina.  The police that came along nicknamed me “Trooper,” because they said I was one.  When my owner saw them coming, she unchained me and let me run so I ran into the woods to hide, because I didn’t know if these people were my friends or not.  The Humane Society people told my owner that she had to get me some medical care and that they would be back the next day to check me out.  After they left, my owner called me, and I dutifully ran back to her, because I simply didn’t know anything else and didn’t understand what a better world might await me.

My owner promised the Humane Society that she would get me treatment for the embedded collar, but she didn’t do anything to help me.  The next morning (Thanksgiving Eve), before she went to work, my owner took me off the chain in the backyard and let me run loose; maybe she hoped I would just run away, I don’t know.  The police came back to the house and I wasn’t there so nothing was done.

That night, the word spread to the people at the Humane Society that nothing had been done to help me.  They were not happy that I wasn’t there and that the police had not come back a second time to check on me.  So, they began calling the police and they posted my story on Facebook.  They called the sheriff and even the mayor of Darlington!  I couldn’t believe what these nice people did to try to help me when they had never even met me.

On Thanksgiving day, November 24, 2012, the sheriff’s deputies came to my house on Trudie Lane in Darlington.  My neck wounds were worse than ever so they said I had to go with them to the shelter.  They arrested my owner for ill treatment of animals and  I went with them.  Since I was saved on Thanksgiving Day, they re-named me “Pilgrim.”

Animal Abuse - Pilgrim

WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS? A picture of me during one of my operations to remove the embedded collar.

The people there were so nice to me.  In fact, nobody had ever been that nice to me.  A very nice woman let me live in her house where it was warm and the floors were soft.  Then, they took me to the Anderson Animal Hospital to get the medical attention that I needed.

I didn’t know what to expect, but the first thing that I had to do was get an operation to remove the embedded collar that was around my neck.  It took two operations and it really hurt, but the vets and the people at the Humane Society were so nice to me.  After the operation, they let me stay in their house, not in the kennel, so that my wounds could heal and I could get better.  Every day, this nice woman helped to clean my wounds and slowly I began to feel better from the medicine, but also from all the hugs I was getting.  These nice people told me that they loved me and that I would be going to Pennsylvania when I felt better where I would meet my new foster parents.

My Pilgrim-Age North

Some of the dogs that go north go by airplane with volunteer pilots, but I went in a large caravan of vans that were taking lots of dogs and cats to where they would be adopted.  I was in a cage for most of the trip, but it wasn’t too bad, at least not when compared to the operations I had just had.  We got out a few times to go to the bathroom and play and all the people that met me were really nice to me too.

I was fostered by the Bentz family who live near Philadelphia.  They had been active in fostering other dogs like me through the Almost Home Dog Rescue (Doylestown, PA).  You basically stay in their house for a while until you find a family that wants to adopt you permanently — your “fur-ever” home.

Finding My Fur-Ever Home

The nice family took me for walks and threw the ball for me.  They fed me every day and I got to sleep inside the house on a really soft bed.  I had a fenced in back yard and a doggie door so I could go inside or outside whenever I wanted to.  Usually, I had another foster dog to play with at the house.  Best of all: I never had to wear a chain again.

HIRED HELP:  To earn my keep, I even helped my owners paint the house.

I wish I could have told them how much I appreciated their adopting me, but I couldn’t speak English to tell them everything about what I had been through.  Slowly, however, they started to learn more about me from the people that took care of me in South Carolina.  And, then one day, they said to me:

“Pilgrim, you’ve been through so much.  I promise you that nobody will ever harm you again.  Would you like to live here as your fur-ever home?”

“Are you kidding me?  I jumped so high, I almost hit the roof!”

Rescue dog Pilgrim

I guess some things are just meant to be.  The Bentz family was actually considering permanently adopting another golden retriever at the time and they always had given their dogs “B” names.  Would you believe that they were planning on naming the new golden retriever puppy Bentley?  My original name!  They wisely decided, however, that I needed a completely new lease on life and continued to call me Pilgrim out of respect for the kind people that took care of me and named me that in South Carolina.

My life has changed so much for the better.  Here is a video of me playing in the snow shortly after being adopted.  Here’s another video of me chasing a ball inside.

In January, my old owner had her trial and dozens of people showed up at the courthouse wearing green to support me.  Many of the people that showed up to support me had never even met me, but had heard my story.  My owner was found guilty of ill treatment of animals.  You would think that I’d be happy about that, but I’m not really.  I’m certainly not going back, but I do forgive her.  I’ve found my fur-ever home and I’m really happy here.

A few months ago, my owners got another dog from the Darlington Humane Society — Hope.  Hope was just a little puppy and was found living with her deceased siblings in a drainage pipe.  Apparently, somebody thought that would be a good place to dispose of their unwanted puppies.  Hope was the only puppy that was still alive.

The people in Darlington thought that Hope looked like me and that I may be her Daddy (I’m not going to confirm nor deny).  Hope has an equally sad story, but is much happier now.  She drives me crazy sometimes, but whatever, I’m glad she got out of her bad situation too.

Pilgrim and Ryley Bentz

Please Help Other Doggies Like Me

PILGRIM TODAY:  My super nice cousin Ryley gave me the nickname “Barney.”  How could I not be smiling when playing with her?

So many people helped save my life — the neighbors, the Darlington Police, the sheriff and deputies, the vets, and the lady that took care of me and helped heal my wounds.  I will always be indebted to the great people at the Darlington Humane Society and the Almost Home Dog Rescue.  If you’d like to donate money to sponsor a dog like me at the Darlington County Humane Society, click here.  To learn more about the Almost Home Dog Rescue, visit their Facebook page here.

Editor’s Note — Pilgrim’s story is just one of many similar stories around our country that has more dogs than good people to take care of them.  Before choosing a pet at a pet shop, please consider adopting a rescue dog. There are many great dogs like Pilgrim waiting to be adopted and quite frankly, if they don’t find a fur-ever or foster home, consider their alternative.

Around our house, we call Pilgrim the “Nelson Mandela of dogs.”  That’s quite an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest man of my lifetime.  Pilgrim should be filled with hate of humans, but has none of it.  Pilgrim should distrust humans, but has none of it.  Pilgrim should be aggressive, but has none of it.  Pilgrim should hate his tormentors, but I believe if he were to ever meet his previous abuser/owner, he would be happy to see her. 

That’s why we call Pilgrim the Nelson Mandela of dogs.

Rescue dogs