Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
Jack and Deborah Skelly did not always intend to rescue three beagles. Like destiny, Rudy, Linkin and Brooklyn seemed to have just found them.
“They are all rescues,” said Deborah.
Rudy, who is about 10 years old, came first. Seven years ago while vacationing in Keaton Beach, the couple came across the now chunky and wise-faced beagle. While driving, they saw him just in the road.
“We found him in the middle of nowhere,” said Deborah.
They tried to find Rudy’s owners, but no one seemed to know where he came from.
Sweet-tempered Linkin came second.
“He just needed a home,” said Deborah.
His first family was moving and for one reason or another, had to leave him behind. After receiving a slobbering kiss from Linkin, it was obvious why the Skellys fell in love with him.
Then there was little, doe-eyed Brooklyn. The only girl and the youngest beagle, estimated at 2 years old, is truly the most unique.
She’s a pocket beagle, which means she will never get bigger than her petite stature that sits at less than 13 pounds. She’s also a New York native, which is the city where her story begins.
It all started when Deborah was visiting Jack in New York at the end of October. Jack and his son own a retail construction company called JE Skelly Construction. They had been working in Brooklyn and got delayed a bit after Hurricane Sandy hit.
Because of the hurricane, New York was in a gas shortage.
“We ended up waiting in a gas line across from Jack’s hotel,” said Deborah.
While in line, Jack noticed someone walking beagles across the street in front of Mount Zion Cemetery (which is technically in Queens). He and Deborah watched in adoration and then suddenly, they saw a little dog running in down in the cemetery.
“The sound of those beagles must have attracted her,” said Jack.
Just as suddenly as the little dog ran down, she ran right back up the hill again, disappearing.
With little they could do, Jack and Deborah went on about their day. However, they kept thinking about the little dog from the cemetery.
It was cold, snowing, and conditions in New York were terrible as they were recovering from Sandy.
“We just kept thinking about her so I asked the people at the hotel about her,” said Deborah.
The hotel staff told them that the dog had been living in the cemetery for about two months.
“It was really cold that night,” said Deborah. “We just kept thinking that we should have done more.”
With the dog weighing on their conscience, Jack and Deborah woke up the next day and decided to go looking for her.
They walked and walked and walked and even called for her repeatedly, but no dog was to be found.
It was a slim shot, considering Mout Zion was more than 178 acres in size and contained the graves of more that 210,000 people.
“It’s huge,” said Deborah.
Disappointed, Jack and Deborah returned to their hotel across the street from the cemetery.
The following Sunday, Deborah flew home to Valdosta, but Jack remained in Brooklyn to work. Still thinking about the little dog, Jack would go put food out for her every day for three weeks.
Every day when Jack would check back, the food would be gone and, on occasion, little paw prints could be seen in the snow.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, Deborah visited Jack in New York again. She went with Jack to put food out.
“And here she came right down to the bowl,” said Deborah.
She was close, but Deborah didn’t want to scare her, so she just let her enjoy the food.
That Sunday, Jack and Deborah decided that they were going to rescue her.
“We decided we were going to find an animal rescue that would rent us a trap,” said Deborah.
Confident that they would get the dog, Deborah even delayed her flight back to Valdosta.
They got the trap from a local rescue called Sean Casey’s Animal Rescue.
The trap was large and posed a new challenge. While Jack and Deborah always found a way to enter through the fence of the cemetery, now, they were going to have to get the roughly five foot trap over the fence.
“He had to get that trap up over the fence,” said Deborah.
After getting the trap over the gate, Jack crawled through a hole and got the trap situated with a bowl of food waiting inside. It was set at 3 p.m.
Jack and Deborah went back to the hotel. Because Jack had been feeding the dog around 5:30 p.m. every day, she was convinced that that is when she would come.
“I told that to the people at the hotel ... and they just laughed,” said Deborah.
Jack went up to their room to sleep and at 5:30 p.m., Deborah went down into the gym room. There were large windows and they faced the cemetery.
“Almost precisely at 5:30 p.m., I could see this little animal coming,” said Deborah.
Deborah saw the trap fall shut.
“I was so excited,” said Deborah.
Unable to contain her excitement, Deborah skipped the elevator and ran up the stairs to get Jack.
“We have a dog,” Deborah said as she woke him up.
Deborah and Jack rushed to the cemetery, crawled through and opening and there she was.
“It was the first time we ever laid eyes on her little face,” said Deborah.
Jack opened the trap and grabbed the scared little dog.
“I bundled her up like she was a newborn baby,” said Jack.
That day, they went to the store and bought a kennel, bowls and all the things their new dog needed and 30 minutes after getting her, Deborah was back on a plane home.
Jack finished his job in Brooklyn and then put the little dog in a kennel for their long drive back to Georgia.
Jack only made it as far as New Jersey before he had to take the sweet, puppy-faced beagle out of the kennel.
“We bonded on that 16 hour drive,” said Jack.
That’s the big adventure that lad to little Brooklyn.
Jack and Deborah don’t know how Brooklyn survived Hurricane Sandy or even how she survived the frost-bitten temperatures inside the gates of that cemetery.
It could have been coincidence, destiny, or Santa Clause making good on a big wish from a little dog, either way, Brooklyn now has a home with two parents who spoil her rotten and two big brothers who chase her around the yard, cuddle her on their beds and act as if she has always been a part of the family.