When Sgt. Travis R. Baldwin does something, he does it with all of his heart, including saving the lives of animals.
The 26-year-old, recently deployed in Afghanistan, was browsing through Facebook a few months ago, something jumped out at him on the Wild @ Heart Animal Rescue’s page, and he felt the need to do something about it.
“I was searching around on the internet and saw Wild @ Heart’s page. It had information on how to help an English bulldog that needed a surgery to survive, and they were doing a fundraiser for his surgery,” Baldwin said via email. “I inquired on the price of the surgery thinking, I could donate a couple bucks to help out this dog.”
The surgery would cost upwards of $300.
“Being that I’ve been saving money from this deployment to start my business (Ace of Spray LLC), I had the money to spare,” he said. “So I donated the $300.”
Baldwin received a letter of gratitude for saving the female Bulldog’s life from Wild @ Heart Animal Rescue’s Tiffany Sessoms. It stated: “Let me say thank you so much for saving this little girl’s life. We now have enough to go ahead and take her into to have the life-saving surgery …”
The dog is alive and well.
“Ava was her name, and she was estimated to be 8-to 10 years old and very, very malnourished when we found her,” Sessoms said Friday. “You could see her spine and ribs very clearly. Her spine was pulled inwards because her teets had multiple tumors hanging from them. And inside of her she had a very deadly condition. She had a condition called Pyometra, which means puss in the uterus. She had to be immediately spayed or it would’ve killed her within the next week or so.”
Sessoms went on to explain that after a full examination, Ava’s condition was worse than they initially thought. “She had multiple C-section scars. Bulldogs cannot have puppies naturally because of smaller back ends, and they have to have C-sections to keep the puppies from killing themselves and the mother. Because of this, the tumors on her teets, and all the other things that usually come with these things, we have to assume that she was used for breeding her whole life, then thrown out on the side of the road where we found her.”
Enter Baldwin, whose donation literally saved Ava’s life.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for animals,” he said. “I have two dogs of my own that are my spoiled kids — Zoe and Ellie. I really wanted to get involved with some organizations like this after I had found a hunting dog that had been shot with bird shot and was whining and hungry. I just could not grasp how someone could harm a dog on purpose and even if by accident why not help it.” Which is why Baldwin waned to get involved when he saw that the dog needed the operation.
But the Iraqi and Afghanistan veteran didn’t stop there.
“After making the donation, I then realized that this was not a non-profit organization, yet this young lady (Sessoms) spent all her free time, money, and house to shelter hurt animals,” he explained. “And I realized that she was struggling with just getting food for the animals.”
Baldwin ordered seven 35 pounds of adult dog food and seven 35 pounds of Puppy Chow for the organization.
“Travis happened upon my ad because he was from Sampson County, and this little girl’s plea (Ava) pulled at his heartstrings,” Sessoms said. “He couldn’t stand the thought of her passing away before we could raise the money. Not only that, but he and his wife donated 14 bags of high end dog food, which helped our rescue out tremendously.”
In the months since her surgery, Sessoms said, Ava has been adopted and doing well with her new family.
“She had those tumors removed, her spine has had a chance to even out a lot more, and she has fattened up quite a bit,” she said. “She’s loving every moment of her new life, full of toys, treats, a few cat friends and even a little brother that’s a chihuahua.”
Baldwin has continued to keep up with Wild at Heart Animal Rescue and is even donating $1 for every like on Facebook. “He also offers discounts if you donate to the rescue through his business,” Sessoms reports. “He’s been a amazing supporter of the rescue and an amazing human being to speak with.”
A month after helping Ava, Baldwin was perusing Facebook again and came across another page seeking people to help animals, and he clicked on A Shelter Friend’s page. The organization, located in Elizabethtown, posted pictures of four dogs who had been hit by cars and left for dead.
“They posted asking for donations because of the bills,” he said. “Without a second thought, I donated the $1,000 for my rest and relaxation vacation with the wife. Again, I have a soft spot for animals and I guess the biggest thing that plays in my mind is what if that was Zoe or Ellie?”
Baldwin said he still got a chance to go on vacation and spent time with his wife of almost five years, Stephanie, family and friends. He also got a chance to meet up with Silvia Kim, from A Shelter Friend.
“I donated a big box of dog treats to her,” he said. “We spoke for a solid 30 or more minutes in the hot sun and I could tell that this woman is truly passionate about what she does. I plan on volunteering there as soon as I return.”
Born in Fayetteville, Baldwin went to school in Stedman until fifth grade, when his family moved to Autryville and he went to Clement Elementary. His parents divorced and he started his middle school career at Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School, where he first met the woman who would be his future wife.
“She hated me,” Baldwin acknowledged. “She said I was trouble.”
In high school, Baldwin admitted to letting his grades slip. “I kind of just gave up,” he said. “My mom suggested Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy to me, in which, I looked at her like she was crazy …”
But it was the best decision, he said, he ever made.
“I ended up going, did color guard, was a governor’s page, and signed up for the military in December 2003,” he remembered. “In May of 2004, I left for basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C. Upon graduating basic training, I attended A.I.T at Ft. Eustis, VA at the Aviation Logistics School.”
After graduation, Baldwin became a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter mechanic. What followed was stints in Korea; Hawaii and Iraq.
In December 2010, he was sent back to Ft. Bragg, before being deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, were he, along with his team provided aerial support for the ISAF commander and his team.
He recently returned to the area for some well-deserved rest and relaxation with wife, whom he married back in 2008.
“She is my biggest support and the person that I know will always stand behind me no matter what,” he said with sincerity. “She is my everything!”
For more information on Wild @ Heart Animal Rescue, click on to www.facebook.com/#!/WildAtHeartAnimalRescue; for more information on A Shelter Friend, click on to www.facebook.com/#!/ashelterfriend.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.