EDGEWATER — An $8,000 online donation for an emaciated dog named Willow, who was found dying last week in a Far South Side alley, was revoked after the animal shelter Felines & Canines learned Tuesday that the donation was made with stolen credit cards.
Now Abby Smith, the shelter's executive director, can only wonder: "Who does that to a charity? So, are you a thief with somewhat of a conscience?"
Smith, who launched an online fundraiser last week to help pay for Willow's medical care, said she saw a series of suspicious donations pop up on the fundraiser's Web page at GoFundMe.com.
First there was a donation for $2,000, then for $200, another for $100 — but all were posted under the same name.
Suspecting something was wrong, she contacted GoFundMe, which confirmed the donations, totaling $8,000, were made with stolen credit cards.
It's "$8,000 in fraud," Smith said. "You don't think, like, this is gonna happen when you are doing what we are doing. ... To have this happen in the middle of it is just mind-blowing.
"Yesterday was just a punch in the stomach with this thing, and it just doesn't make sense to me," she said.
GoFundMe spokesman Greg Smith said the company is investigating the fraudulent donations.
But animal lovers have so far reacted to the news by giving even more vigorous support for Willow, he said.
As of Wednesday night, the fundraiser had netted nearly $14,000.
"The public's been very supportive once we said what happened," she said. "But it's sh----. I don't know how else to say it. It's just a sh---- thing."
Willow was found by animal control on Nov. 3 in a Far South Side alley lying on her side "frozen" and "too weak to stand," Smith said.
She weighed just 26 pounds.
After she was released to Smith and Felines and Canines, she spent five days at the Animal Care Center, a veterinary hospital.
Veterinarian Joanna Krol said that Willow came to her "severely emaciated — skin and bones, really nothing else."
She was also anemic due to malnutrition, she said, and her body stopped creating enough red blood cells to function.
"She was in terrible, terrible condition," she said. "She was pretty much starving to death."
Krol said she began feeding Willow slowly at first, and within a couple of days gained a couple of pounds. But she's still far from her breed's average weight of about 50 pounds.
There is a chance Willow might not make it if her body reacts harshly to treatment and food, Krol said.
"If she is clear by the weekend, there's a good chance" she's going to live, she said, but full recovery would take months.
But if any type of dog deserves the help of others, she said, it's a dog like Willow.
Now the pup, which is believed to be a year old, is kept in a kennel at the shelter at 6379 N. Paulina St.
On Wednesday, the same day she left the animal hospital, her rib cage and hip bones protruded from her short, tan fur coat. But she acted like a healthy pooch, jumping for treats and craving attention from Smith and anyone else who came within petting distance.
Smith said that any money raised for Willow that doesn't go toward her care would be used for other dogs and cats that have been severely neglected.
"When we saw her, we were stunned at how emaciated she was — and then we got mad and decided that all that we are doing is going to be for much more than just Willow," Smith said. "It's going to be for other animals in this state."
So she came up with the "Say Something" campaign, which encourages people to call a shelter — or really anybody at all — if they see neglected animals.
"If you see something you should do something about it," said Paula Grabow, an adoption counselor at Felines & Canines. "All you need to do is say something. Make your voice heard, and that could make a difference in the life of an animal.
"Willow is just an amazing symbol for animals in need."
Smith said if Willow makes a full recovery, she will need a permanent home.
"Her spirit is amazing," she said. "She wanted to live very badly. For me, it's so great that's not her life — it's not starvation and death. It's starvation, and love, and then death. For us it's really special that we could be the ones in the middle facilitating the love part, because tragic is what it would have been if she had died here."