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Orphaned no more

Rescued pet finds new owner; others taken by Columbus group


About a month ago, Little Jack’s world was turned upside down.

His only means of love, support and food disappeared, nowhere to be seen.

The Dachshund was one of many dogs, as well as cats, orphaned by the passing of Mike Hailey, a rural Lawrence County animal rescuer.

Little Jack was one of the lucky ones who survived the ordeal, being adopted by the person who first discovered the dire situation.


The situation

Hailey, an Elizabeth Township resident, was found dead in his home late last month.

Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Easterling found Hailey during a well-being check requested by neighbors.

Easterling said he was shocked at what he found at the home on County Road 27.

Hailey, a man in his 60s, was found dead in the upstairs of the house. He had been there at least a couple of weeks.

His dogs had gone without food, except what they could scavenge. His cats met the same fate in a trailer adjacent to the home.

Easterling scattered food for the survivors. He estimated 40 to 50 dogs on site.

The Lawrence County Dog Shelter was called to the scene. Some of the animals were rescued, but many were put down at the residence in following days.

On another trip to the residence, Easterling found Little Jack alone in an enclosure.

A look into the dog’s eyes was all it took to form a special bond.


A happy ending

Little Jack was taken to the dog shelter, but his visit there was short-lived.

Easterling’s wife, Dawn, a dispatcher with the sheriff’s office, said her husband couldn’t stop worrying about that little Dachshund.

“Todd said when that dog looked him in the eye, that just did it,” Dawn said.

Easterling adopted the dog. Hailey had records on each of his animals and it was found that the Dachshund’s name was Little Jack. He was current on vaccinations and neutered.

“Todd felt a whole lot better when he picked him up from the shelter,” Dawn said.

Easterling put Little Jack in the back of his cruiser, but that wouldn’t do, Dawn said.

She said the dog jumped up to the front seat and sat on Easterling’s lap.

“He was running around, and watching out of the side window like he always did,” Dawn said, presuming Little Jack must have had enjoyed car rides before.

Dawn and her husband decided to give Little Jack to her daughter, Cheyanne Rogers, who was going through a difficult time.

“She needed somebody and so did he,” Dawn said. “We’re glad he’s got a home where he’s being taken care of.”


The others

A total of 13 dogs and five cats survived the ordeal.

The Columbus Dog Connection made a trip to Lawrence County to rescue them.

According to director Kelli DiFriscia and vet assistant and volunteer Ron Blake, they had been acquainted with Hailey for about 10 years.

By their count, Hailey had 74 dogs on the property and an untold number of cats.

But Hailey wasn’t a hoarder of animals, they said.

“Mike was a rescuer,” DiFriscia said. “He took in homeless animals, vetted then and most importantly, spayed and neutered them.”

The difference with hoarders, she said, is they allow pets to multiply and are not cared for medically.

Veterinary records indicated each of Hailey’s animals were vaccinated and spayed or neutered. He even had a Petfinder website.

“He took better care of his dogs than he did himself,” said Blake, who volunteered in the rescue efforts. “I don’t know how he did it, but he did.”

Blake’s wife, Cindy, is also a volunteer with the Columbus-based rescue.

“(Hailey) was eccentric and quirky but his heart was in the right place,” she said.”


Mike’s Dog Cabin

DiFriscia said Hailey began his dog rescue in about 2000. In the spring and fall of 2002, the Columbus Dog Connection helped build seven 70-foot by 30-foot runs for the animals as part of its Habitat for Dogmanity program. They also delivered dog houses and shelters and even straw for the dogs.

Volunteers sent holiday baskets. The organization also shared pet food donations with Hailey.

DiFriscia said they felt a connection with Hailey.

“We started off with a very strong and a very good relationship with Mike,” she said.

The group also helped find homes for 290 dogs from Mike’s Dog Cabin and a few cats over the years.

DiFriscia guessed the burden and stress from running a one-man animal rescue played a part in Hailey’s eventual refusal of assistance and lack of contact with other people.

“We are very lucky here in Columbus,” she said. “It’s a good place to be a homeless dog in Ohio. … They have it so much harder in rural areas. Most dogs come from lower income homes. This burden should not have been placed on one person.”

The burden could have been prevented in the first place, DiFriscia said, by keeping animals spayed and neutered.

“No dog should ever leave that county shelter with out being spayed or neutered,” she said. “It’s a waste of taxpayer’s money when dogs leave the shelter unspayed and unneutered.”

DiFriscia said, many times, dogs adopted from shelters become pregnant and the litters end up in the shelters again. Providing more spay and neuter options should fall on the local county commissioners throughout Ohio, she said.

Hailey felt the burden of overpopulation as well, DiFriscia said.

“I know some of his neighbors were guilty of giving him litter after litter after litter.”

“If you want to know what do in your community to prevent this problem, spay and neuter (you pets),” DiFriscia continued. “If you cant afford it, reach out. Look to the humane society. It has to be done.”



Alberta Wise, treasurer with the Lawrence County Humane Society, said the group helped Hailey get all his animals spayed and neutered. Wise said she had known Hailey for his work with the group years before.

“When we had our shelter in 1995, he came in and helped us with some of our animals,” Wise said.

Wise said Hailey was compassionate for the animals and had been known to call them his family.

“We, as a group, have supported him and we felt like the county is going to suffer a loss for losing him,” Wise said.

The Lawrence County Humane Society didn’t only help Hailey with spaying and neutering, but helps the other animals at the county shelter when they are adopted.

With money from donations, the group provides spay/neuter certificates for the shelter’s adopted pets. If there is any addition money, they provide certificates for others in need of financial assistance.

Donations and membership are down, Wise said.

The group meets at 7 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Rax in Ironton.

Wise said anyone interested in learning how to help can attend a meeting, or contact her at 532-6624.