Calling all animal lovers: CAAWA needs your help


CAAWA’s Patricia Bentley poses with one of her rescues, Daniel. (courtesy photo)

CULLMAN – On the frigid afternoon of Dec. 23, 2010, Terry and Patricia Bentley were headed home to Crane Hill after a last-minute trip into Cullman. Patricia was exhausted after her shift as an RN in Homewood. They had just passed the golf course and were 1 mile from exit 299 when Patricia saw her: a yellow lab sitting at the edge of the road in the brush. Patricia needed to turn the car around. There was a connection between Patricia and the dog that many might describe as fate. The Bentleys did turn around and what they found was an extremely pregnant mother-to-be. Patricia’s decision that afternoon would set her life on a new course.

Terry and Patricia loaded the dog in the car.

Patricia Bentley recalled, “I didn’t know anything about puppies!! What was I going to do?? This sweet dog had been stripped of everything. Her neck had a dark area around it where a collar, a chain or a rope had obviously been. Whoever did this had taken her identity, left her on the coldest day of the year, abandoned her during a time she was in greatest need two days before Christmas.”

Bentley reached out to Dr. Rebecca Durham at Compton’s Veterinary Hospital the following day. Bentley described herself as “hysterical” as Dr. Durham explained that the dog, now referred to as Belle, was dilated and in labor. On Christmas Day 2010, Belle gave birth to six boys and one little girl.

Bentley had reached out to every shelter and rescue she could find for help with her now eight dogs. After dozens of pleas, a representative from CAAWA (Cullman Area Animal Welfare Association) was the only person who offered to help. If Bentley could foster the mom and puppies, CAAWA would adopt them out when ready.

Bentley is now retired after a 29-year-career as a registered nurse. She has a daughter and two wonderful grandchildren. She and her husband worked very hard and saved enough money by 2002 to build their home on Smith Lake in Crane Hill. Bentley laughed a bit as she recalled the life she had planned after retirement.

“We were going to travel. I still have the Rand McNally books on my table and had our road trips planned. We would visit the Eastern seaboard from Savannah to Maine. Next, we would drive through Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The next trip we would explore the Pacific Northwest,” she said.

Bentley’s planned retirement took a detour the day she found Belle. The Bentleys began their fostering journey with Belle and her puppies. The puppies did find wonderful homes, and Belle, she is now Belle Bentley.

Bentley continued to foster puppies for CAAWA as needed but was not active in the administrational aspects of the organization. That all changed in September 2014, when CAAWA was struggling and needed Bentley to help as the organization found itself in a rebuilding phase.

CAAWA is an all-volunteer nonprofit 501(c)(3) rescue. Currently, the organization is “at a crossroads” according to Bentley, who, along with Sue Jones and Becky Greggs, works tirelessly. When The Cullman Tribune sat down with the three women, they were very candid.

Jones said, “We need help. We need people. We are not young women and it is becoming more and more difficult. We need a dedicated group of young passionate people to give the keys to in the future and we don’t have that.”

When a rescue is small, like CAAWA, it is difficult to tackle the short-term goals and focus on the future.

Jones continued, “We spend all of our time picking up animals, taking them to the vets, planning adoption events, coordinating transports, and investing in so many short-term needs. We are exhausted and there never seems to be time to focus on long-term goals.”

The love the ladies of CAAWA have for their community is palpable. When asked what message they wished to convey to the community, in near perfect unison each said emphatically, “SPAY and NEUTER!!” They need donations, then need people to get involved, but above all they want people to have their animals fixed. CAAWA has recently teamed with Friends of Cats and Dog Foundation in Birmingham to allow Cullman residents to participate in the Snip-It Ticket program. A Snip-It Ticket can be purchased through CAAWA for a significantly reduced price on spay/neuters at the Alabama Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic. For more information on Snip-It Tickets, email

CAAWA has pet adoptions on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month at the Cullman PetSmart. The next one is July 28 from 10-4.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, from 11-1, Rumors Deli will be hosting Paws for Cause, benefiting CAAWA’s animals. There will be a fun pet contest at noon with best pet/owner lookalike, best costume, best trick, best pet hello, waggiest tail, smallest pet and largest pet. The contests are not limited to cats or dogs. ALL pets are welcome to join in on the fun. They will also have refreshments, booths from area businesses, prizes, drawings, face painting and many other activities for families and their pets. If you would like to donate items or help, contact Annette at Rumor’s Deli at 256-737-0911.

How can you help?

There are many ways you can help these volunteers as they work tirelessly to do what they can to help Cullman animals. Donations are always appreciated: money, food, beds, collars and other must-have pet items. CAAWA has vet bills that add up quickly. Donors can pay directly toward those bills at Lee’s Veterinary Hospital or Cullman Veterinary Hospital. Just as important, people can donate their time. If you want to get involved in CAAWA’s mission, they need you. For more information on CAAWA and ways you can help, visit or

Copyright 2018 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.