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Wisconsin veteran's puppy rescue leads to shelter donations

Posted at 3:06 PM, Apr 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-16 16:06:58-04

CRANDON, Wis. (AP) -- Tegan Griffith noticed something odd in the ditch as she drove along a gravel road on her way to work in Rhinelander on a recent Tuesday morning.

She slammed on the brakes and saw a little beagle-looking puppy, all paws and ears. At first the pup tried to run away from her. But Griffith, 34, lured the pooch into her vehicle. He was adorable.

"All I had that would interest this little lover was a Sargento Cheese Balanced Breaks -- the white cheddar/nuts/cranberry one. It was either that or salad," she would later recount.

Griffith learned from the Forest County Humane Society that the dog was one of a litter of four puppies abandoned in the Northwoods. By this time, she had decided she would adopt him, and she and her fiance had named him Larry.

Later, after her day had settled down, Griffith sat down in her recliner and tweeted out the whole story to her 2,100 or so followers.

By Thursday morning, she had more than 6,000 followers and her thread -- or series of tweets -- had been seen 4.6 million times, clicked on 1.1 million times, retweeted by other Twitter users more than 13,000 times and "liked" 119,000 times.

In her Twitter thread, she shared a link to the Forest County Humane Society in Crandon and urged people to donate.

Within 24 hours, the shelter had received around $10,000 in donations, the Wausau Daily Herald reported.

"We're over the moon," said Angie Schaefer, the shelter manager. "We're just a small shelter in the middle of nowhere."

Right now, the Forest County Humane Society is over capacity, and Schaefer said that the donations will help make needed improvements, and help pay the costs of the shelter's biggest expense, veterinary services, which are about $40,000 per year.

No one who knows Griffith would be surprised by any of this, except maybe for the extent her story went viral.

Griffith is a graduate of Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School who revels in the rural Wisconsin lifestyle. She joined the Marines in 2005, was deployed in Iraq in 2008 and left the service as a sergeant in 2009.

Like so many veterans, she struggled in the transition to civilian life, and ended up enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she studied communications with an emphasis in public relations, graduating in 2018.

Griffith has been outspoken about veterans issues, particularly for women and the (hash)MeToo movement.

She also is a proponent of building a community, something she spoke about when she was featured in a PBS documentary called "American Creed" that explored the national character of the United States.

When she shared about finding Larry on that isolated gravel road, she knew it would resonate with her Twitter followers.

"I tend to overshare, especially about living in northern Wisconsin. I think people are really fascinated with rural areas of Wisconsin. I like to share that Forest County is this county with 9,000 people in it, it's really beautiful, and there are people living up here," she said. "And of course, a puppy."

Griffith has interacted with people from all over the world in response to her tweets about Larry, including Southeast Asia, Europe and Canada. "And they're all so nice," she said. "Some folks have been saying that this has given them faith in humanity."

For the time being, Larry is staying with his three sisters at the Forest County Humane Society as they are being checked out and given medication to deal with minor health issues.

He'll likely be spoiled when he joins Griffith.

"I knew I would be keeping him when I picked him up and made eye contact with him," Griffith said. "I knew I was a goner. I could not trust anyone else with his care."