This commentary is in response to an article published in The Chapel Hill News on Sunday, June 30th, and entitled “Police Investigating Service Dog’s Death.”

I am a friend of Charlene Hayes, the foster parent who raised Worthy, the golden retriever who was being trained as a service dog by EENP (Eyes Ears Nose Paws) in Carrboro. He died a tragic and untimely death on June 10th, as a result of becoming overheated when he was left in a car for two hours by Deb Cunningham, Program Director. Had he survived, he would have possibly been placed with his owner at a graduation ceremony on June 29th.

I have known Charlene for many years, and have always admired her ability to “turn lemons into lemonade.” In characteristic style, she is transforming her grief at the loss of Worthy into a cause to prevent such losses in the future. Apparently, each year dozens of children and pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia. Charlene has set up a Facebook page entitled “The Worthy Project” to raise awareness about the danger of pets confined in cars.

The North Carolina House recently introduced legislation that would strengthen Animal Abuse laws by 1) specifically criminalizing confinement of animals in vehicles, and (2) authorizing certain people to rescue these animals. While this bill as written is a good start, it is the hope that it will be strengthened and animal abuse laws broadened in this and every state.

Please write to your state representatives to express support for this bill and strengthen it with greater penalties.

Sadly, Worthy’s premature death prevented his ever having the opportunity to be a service dog for which he had been trained. However, we can all honor his legacy by being proactive in spreading the word and changing the laws so that fewer such tragedies continue to occur. In this way, Worthy’s death would become truly “Worthwhile.”

Carla Shuford, Chapel Hill