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'Hendersonville's dog' rescued, living the good life

Babygirl may have surgery. Babygirl may have surgery.

Babygirl, a timid nomad known on Grove Street as Hendo, Hendersonville, Tiger and simply “Hendersonville’s dog,” has been caught and delivered to dog heaven.

Not the heaven all dogs go to.
Heaven on earth.
The brown and white mid-sized female has the run of an acre and a half of fenced yard on a shady mountaintop in Kenmure. She feasts on an all-she-can eat high-protein diet of chicken and salmon. She has the opportunity to make friends with eight other dogs once she gets used to them. She basks in the love and care of two humans who have spent their adult lives trying to make the world a better place for animals.
“The first night she wouldn’t even come out of the house on her own,” said Mary Cervini, who had been on Babygirl’s trail for two years. “Now she comes out on her own.”
Always a loner, Babygirl has not yet made friends with the dogs already on the scene when she arrived at the Cervini household.
“She just watches them,” Cervini said. “She actually makes a berth to go around them. They know enough to leave her alone.”
On Tuesday morning, Babygirl padded around the fenced yard by herself, making a constant circle.

Looked both ways

The friends of Babygirl kept track of her for years. She seemed to know to look both ways before crossing the street. Though she shied away from people, she was never aggressive toward anyone. One could admire her from afar. Her range extended as far east as Jackson Park and as far south as the county jail and included many stops in between.
“We found about eight feeding stations in town where people have fed her,” Cervini said.
Babygirl always seemed fine until she developed a large tumor a couple of years ago. Afraid she might be in pain or dying of cancer, Cervini and her husband, Mike, thought of trying to subdue the dog with a dart gun or net gun. They decided against that, afraid of hurting her. So over two years, the Babygirl network — a loose collection of dog lovers from the Grove Street Courthouse, the city Operations Center, the county jail, Jackson Park and businesses up and town Grove Street — has alerted Cervini to sightings.
Mary Cervini holds BabyGirlMary Cervini holds BabyGirlFinally, on Tuesday, June 30, the Cervinis caught a break. Mary chased Babygirl through brambles and then to an old house, where Babygirl squeezed into a crawl space and disappeared.
“I swear there was not this much room,” she said, holding her palms a foot apart. That did not stop the slender Cervini from crawling in after Babygirl.
“She knew she was done,” Cervini said. “We lay there for about 20 minutes talking to her. We put the lead on her and she never made any attempt to bite us.”


Babygirl fan club

Both retired from IBM, the Cervinis founded Community Partnership for Pets, which works to promote and raise money for free or discount spay and neutering of dogs and cats. Cervini says she is not in the business of chasing down feral dogs and she really did believe that “eight is enough.” But Babygirl was a special case. She needed rescuing.
Some say Babygirl is the offspring of a similar-looking male known as “the Hardee’s dog.” Fifteen years ago he hung around for handouts at the burger stand on Greenville Highway (now the site of TD Bank).
Dr. Kevin McKisson of All Saints Animal Hospital examined Babygirl. Her teeth are in good shape. She did not have heartworm or fleas. But there’s a 50-50 chance, he told Cervini, that the basketball-sized tumor is cancerous. McKisson may operate once Babygirl rests up and gets stronger.
“We’re going to do the best for her,” Cervini said. If the surgery is too risky, they won’t insist on it. “I wouldn’t want to shorten her life just because I need that growth off.”
And if Babygirl does run up high vet bills, her fan club has already stepped up to help.
Brenda Coates, who has been feeding the dog at Youngblood Oil for years, found plenty of neighbors who were happy to give.
“I set as a goal of $300 to raise and I took 2 hours off yesterday to make some asks,” she said in an email on Tuesday. “Much to my surprise I raised $525 without any problem. In fact 90 percent of the folks wanted a follow-up on her progress. One of the mechanics at Autoworx asked me to wait five minutes till he could call his wife to bring him some money because he loved the dog and really wanted to help.” The mechanic gave $50.
Bail bondsman Brandon Apodoca donated the largest amount. He “fed her daily out back and kept food and water for her,” Coates said. “Chuck Roper (Roper Insurance) and Peter Handley (Hendersonville Realty) also fed her and followed her routinely. Chuck said she was a very happy dog and made him feel good when he saw her.”
By Wednesday, Coates had raised $745.
People can make checks to Community Partnership for Pets, P.O. Box 1021, Flat Rock, N.C. 28731, and designate them for the "Babygirl Fund.” Friends of Babygirl can also donate at communitypartnershipforpets.org.
“Babygirl was more than a dog,” Coates said.
She was a topic of conversation at the water cooler. She created a club of people from all walks of life — auto mechanics, butchers, bail bondsmen, lawyers and judges, City Hall administrators, sheriff’s deputies, public works employees — united by compassion for a timid but resourceful survivor padding up and down city streets, happily cruising from dog dish to dog dish.
County Tax Assessor “Stan Duncan called us yesterday and said they’d seen her for years,” Cervini said. “They called her Hendersonville. The Home Trust bank lady called her Tiger. We’ve been calling her Baby Girl for two years.”
Maybe she ought to named Riley, for she’s living “the life of” now.
“I can’t keep enough food in front of her,” Cervini said. “We’ve just been pumping her up with proteins,” letting her feast on boiled chicken, salmon, high-protein lean meat. “She free feeds. You’ll hear her at night pushing the bowl around. But she’s let us touch her and brush her and kiss her. She’s just doing better every hour.”