Once abused, therapy dog now helps abused children

Bellin Bellin regularly visits Children's Shelter

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Once abused and malnourished so badly that his original owner was arrested, a Siberian Husky is now a therapy dog that regularly visits the Children’s Shelter with his new family.

“Both his physical and emotional transformation were beyond anything I could have imagined,” said Dr. Kassia Kubena-Fontenot, a San Antonio pediatrician.

Steven Fontenot, her husband and office manager, said that’s why they named him Bellin Bellin, the ancient Aborigine god of wind.

“We chose that to show how far the winds of change can blow,” he said of the dog now simply as Bellin. And that’s why the Fontenots' share his story with the children at the shelter, many of them in protective custody.

“Like Bellin back in the day, these children now have their lives torn apart,” said Steven Fontenot. “They lost their homes, their families and they don’t know what’s coming next.”

He said Bellin’s mantra for his life now is “surviving abuse, healing abuse.”

The children who envelop Bellin with hugs, stroking his now-beautiful fur, squeal with delight and smiles abound.

“I can’t think of a bigger gift to give a child, than giving them their smiles back,” Steven Fontenot said.

Added his wife, “It helps them show love as well and helps break that cycle of abuse.”

Related: Reporter Debrief: Bellin's Story

After fostering and falling in love with Bellin, the Fontenots discovered they each had a mission in life to raise awareness about child abuse and animal abuse.

They’re members of Pet Partners and Therapy Animals of San Antonio.

“It was just a natural mesh,” Kassia Kubena-Fontenot said. “He loves them and they love him.”

Yet before he was rescued by Animal Care Services in 2011, after neighbors reported they’d heard and seen enough, the Fontenots said Bellin endured nothing but abuse.

As volunteers with Texas Husky Rescue, they were contacted by ACS after Bellin arrived in hopes he’d been taken in by the group.

Steven Fontenot said they spared him the details until he first came to see the abused husky.

“I’ll never forget just standing there at the chain link fence, knuckles going white, gripping it, as they were telling me the story,” he said.

He said that when Bellin wasn’t left alone for days, the dog was being repeatedly beaten.

“He moved around like everything hurt. He would not make eye contact,” he said. “When I touched him, he would just freeze up, stare off into space, and wait to be hit. That was all Bellin knew of life.”

Finally after trying to gain his trust over time, he said one day, “As I was slowly pulling my hand away, he turned around and gave me a small kiss on the hand.”

He said that simple interaction is all they needed in order to pull him out of the shelter for rescue.

They said slowly, Bellin began showing his spirit and curiosity, and he began to grow.

The Fontenots said it helped that they had other dogs he could learn from, and they would take him to the pediatric clinic to meet the children there.

“So many of the dogs that we work with have been abused, never quite come out of their shell, but Bellin did and he’s happy to help,” Kassia Kubena-Fontenot said.

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