Preston Shelter Ignored Neglected Dog: It Went Blind

Published by Daleen Berry on

Note: Please watch this accurate and moving Youtube video a volunteer created about Courtney’s work at the PCAS and her love for the animals there. It will inspire you!


I broke down sobbing the morning after I attended Monday night’s Preston County Commission meeting and heard government officials lie and attack my daughter and, by extension, my family. Wrapped in a towel, having just showered, I stared into the mirror trying to decide if I should wear makeup for my lunch meeting. And simply began sobbing, the emotional tension from three long days of showing support being too much.

I’m not a crier. I rarely cry and it takes a lot to make me even shed a tear. But this wasn’t the first time I cried for my daughter, Courtney, who’s being painted as a liar and troublemaker. Not because she is, though. It’s because she cares so much about animals that in trying to help them, her innocent Facebook post exposed ongoing problems at the Preston County Animal Shelter.

Those tears came a few years ago, when Courtney’s “baby” and Saint Bernard, Breece Meghen, died after someone fed Breece rat poison. I watched my daughter raise this tiny puppy and treat it like her child for several years. I was privileged to dog-sit Breece, who was one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever known. I was working in California when Courtney texted me with the news. She was devastated for weeks.

“You’re going to call the police and report this, aren’t you?” I asked. “They consider animal abuse more serious than child abuse, you know.”

“Mom, this is Preston County, not California. They’re not going to do anything,” Courtney said. Even from 3,000 miles away, I heard the disgust in her voice.

Then she related various cases of animal cruelty she knew about, where no action at all had been taken. Like the one involving my mom’s Cocker Spaniel. The neighbors swooned over this beautiful canine, so much that Mom finally gave it to them. And then watched it painfully live out its days outside, tied to the short end of a chain, as piercing Preston winter winds blew through.

My mother, Eileen Berry, called the shelter manager repeatedly, trying to report her neighbors. She fed the dog, she tried talking to the owners. I can’t even recall all Mom did, trying to keep it safe. But after months of waiting for the shelter manager to take the animal, Mom kidnapped the dog. It was blind and emaciated. The harsh winter weather and poor care led to an illness that robbed this once-beautiful creature of its eyesight.

I cried then, too. As every woman in my family did, I am sure. That’s because, even though PCC President Craig Jennings has called us “weird”, we care about other living things: cats, dogs, goldfish, and people. Even people like Jennings, who don’t do the good they can, when they’re in a position to do so.

I’d rather be weird and humane, than cruel and cold-hearted. I think most other people would be, too. People like the rock group Nickelback, whose lyrics to the song “If Everyone Cared” are the backdrop to the “Help Courtney Austin!” Youtube video that a female volunteer firefighter created on the animal’s behalf.

The lyrics pretty much speak for themselves so read these few lines and see if you agree:

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
Then we’d see the day when nobody died
When nobody died
And as we lie beneath the stars
We realize how small we are
If they could love like you and me
Imagine what the world could be

I didn’t wear makeup to lunch Tuesday, and it’s a good thing because I cried some more as the day went on. And why wouldn’t I? Not while more than 100 animals remain housed at the PCAS in conditions that are now even worse, with only one shelter employee there. She simply won’t be able to keep up–which will lead to the animals’ declining health. This, of course, is the perfect excuse for the PCC to return to their pre-Courtney mentality, of euthanizing 75-percent of the animals it took in before she arrived.

That is my biggest fear. And the reason for my tears.

Editor’s note: Berry would love it if you would please support Courtney and her efforts to save more than 100 animals still housed at the shelter during what’s turning into a very bad winter here. You can sign the petition asking for her reinstatement, send her a friend request or give her a high five, or like the “Help Support Courtney Austin” page, along with a growing number of people around the world.


Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. She invites you to join her when she takes to the stage in “Knowing Who We Are,” part of Penn State’s University’s Cultural Conversations 2013. Berry will present a soliloquy of her memoir about rape, Sister of Silence, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2013, at The Penn State Downtown Theater Center on Allen Street.
Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country.Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.” To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.If you want to read more than 100 reviews, go to Amazon. To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel.

Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.


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