Hannah Cook’s eyes lit up as her newest furry friend scampered in her direction.
The senior Alabama women’s basketball player crouched on the sidewalk outside of Foster Auditorium and stretched out her arms with a smile on her face. Keller, the one-eyed dog from Callie’s Place, a no-kill animal shelter in West Alabama, was excited to meet her, too.
In fact, Keller was lucky to be alive.
In December, the mixed-breed miracle dog survived three gunshot wounds that crushed his jaw, severely injured his eye, and punctured his front-left and back-right legs. In a last-chance effort to save his life, the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter used a Facebook post to raise $4,360 for his veterinary expenses. When it came time for Keller to rehab, Tracey Robertson, the owner of Callie’s Place, was happy to take him.
Georgia at Alabama
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Georgia 22-5 (10-4 SEC), Alabama 17-10 (7-7 SEC)
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“Our motivation at Callie’s Place is to make our community better,” Robertson said. “Callie’s Place is our passion, and through it, we are able to make the world better by placing dogs and cats in loving, forever homes. We both reduce the animal’s suffering and make families very happy in the process.”
And Keller is not the only one. Callie’s Place is home to dogs and cats of all breeds and ages.
Pet lovers themselves, the Alabama women’s basketball players and coaches have rallied behind Robertson’s mission. The Crimson Tide collected more than 1,000 pounds of pet food for Callie’s Place before its game against Arkansas last season, and will be offering $3 tickets to any fan who makes a pet food donation before Thursday’s game against No. 21 Georgia. This year the team is raising its collection goal to 1,500 pounds.
“We’re both honored and humbled that they commit their time and resources towards our biggest expense, pet food,” Robertson said.
Robertson credits her “working pack” of dogs for teaching the newcomers at the shelter to become loving animals. When many of the animals arrive at Callie’s Place, they are still focused on survival. It’s Robertson’s job to make sure they are ready for a new home.
Coach Kristy Curry — who grew up in the country around dogs, cows, chickens and horses — said she had already purchased 100 pounds of dog food to donate on Thursday night. The coach is also the owner of two dogs named Oliver and Daisy.
“Pets are a big part of our basketball family,” Curry said. “Ashley Knight has a little Yorkie, and it’s a big part of our basketball family. We’ve all had animals, and we have a responsibility to take care of them. Callie’s place does a great job of raising awareness for taking care of your pets.”
Cook has also been a dog owner for much of her life, reciting five different breeds she’s owned since her childhood. The donation to Callie’s Place has extra meaning to the senior because she lost her pet Chihuahua just three weeks ago.
“I can’t say enough good things about dogs,” Cook said. “They are loyal to you, they are man’s best friend and they listen to you. Even if you get mad at them they still love you no matter what. It’s just incredible.”