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WOODY HITCHES A RIDE: When we first met this dog, he was wearing a big thick chain collar and staked out in a backyard with not much more to expect than more heat and more loneliness.

Things have changed.

This is Woody the Dog giving the camera a full facial approach. And, in the second photo, that's Woody making sure Bud Kinney knows he appreciates the ride to Baytown.

Here's what happened. And we get this courtesy of Marilyn Kinney of the Baytown Humane Society.

Marilyn and Bud first met Woody when he was already on the road. His rescue humans had acquired him from his backyard outpost and begun looking for some place that could take him and help him thrive. Woody was not accustomed to staying indoors. And Marilyn says the story from his new foster home is that he "has to be enticed to come through the door from outside." When he was fed, he "insisted on dragging his food bowl outside onto the deck where he turned it over and ate his kibble from the ground." And he did some "marking" on the household furniture. But he slept comfortably on the couch all night.

Marilyn says, "We will be working on all of thee things -- except the sleeping on the couch part -- don't see anything wrong with that."

Woody's name was originally "Bo" but it was changed because "Bo," says Marilyn, "sounds too much like 'no' for one thing. He doesn't respond to it anyway. And this dog needs a completely fresh start." (That's Woody several days ago in his big chain.)

As it turns out, Marilyn and Bud first met Woody in Centerville, Texas, at the rendezvous point: the famed Woody's Smokehouse Barbecue. Woody seemed appropriate for the pup's new name.

At Woody's, rescuers Jane and Mary Lynn (who prefer to remain semi-anonymous) introduced the dog to Bud and Marilyn and the "handoff" was made. (It was a happy moment, as you can see in this photo snapped by Bud.) Woody was driven to Baytown and handed over to his foster home, just minutes from Bud and Marilyn's place.

Of course, in the photos it looks more like "Woody rode along" to Baytown rather than "was driven."

Woody's health will be monitored, his behavior will be noted, his social skills enhanced and he'll be placed on the "ready for adoption list."

"We vigorously screen prospective homes and we will find a great home for him, no matter how long it takes," Marilyn says. "He will stay with us in foster care until the right home is found. "We could help so many more if only we had a shelter. "BHS is raising funds to build a critically needed shelter in this area. Other than a small animal control agency here in Baytown (and they will only take animals from citizens of Baytown), there is nothing to service this part of Harris County or any of Chambers and Liberty counties. Yet, these are prime dumping grounds for unwanted, sick and injured animals. The numbers are staggering."

Marilyn says the humane society has raised about $140,000 but that is "not nearly enough to build a proper shelter."

In the meantime, the humane society uses foster homes though, she says, "There are NEVER enough homes for all the animals in need. Foster homes are very hard to come by. however, I could NOT pass up the opportunity to get a chained dog to safety and freedom! I mean it just doesn't happen that the owner of a chained dog will allow you to take it. What an opportunity! One not to be missed, no matter where he is, in my opinion."

Now, here's Marilyn's personal testimony about Woody who, as she was walking him, managed to drag her through the trees a little bit when he got a whiff of "something stinky" that interested him.

"Woody is honestly a very special boy. He's got so much personality and doesn't seem scarred by his time (2 years, I think) at the end of a chain in horrible conditions and with awful food. He exhibits what I've seen only in dogs and it's that uncanny ability to forgive and to remain true to who he was all along -- an intelligent, funny and very lovable dog who just wants to please you and be part of your pack.

"God definitely was practicing when he made people, but then got it right when he made dogs!"

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