Andrew Dys

Why are volunteers searching for a pit bull in Fort Mill? Because it’s a therapy dog

The searchers in Fort Mill mash through brush and pound through ditches and call out the name: “Carlton”

Carlton went missing in April. Carlton is a pit bull.

Yet people from Columbia and Darlington and Florence and Hartsville and Fort Mill keep looking because Carlton is a therapy dog -- vitally important to his owner, Coker College student Chris Noel. Noel said he suffers with depression and the dog is the companione he needs to succeed.

Noel wants to one-day be a special education teacher.

“Carlton is not aggressive,” Noel said. “He’s my friend.”

Noel was visiting Fort Mill April 21 when a friend wanted to walk Carlton and let Carlton do what dogs do outside. Carlton slipped his leash and dashed off, and the search started.

A reward of $500 is offered. Carlton is neutered and micro-chipped.

All he needs is to be found.

Carlton was a shelter dog at the Darlington County Humane Society shelter, rescued as a dumped stray left to die, then turned into Noel’s companion. The volunteers from the shelter, who come from many communities across South Carolina, have led the search, printed and distributed fliers and put out food near where Carelton went missing.

Neighbors in Fort Mill also have helped look, but so far Carlton remains on the loose.

“Carlton was an ambassador for the animal shelter -- a success story,” said Kin Tiedeman, a Rock Hill native and Winthrop graduate who lives near Columbia and is a volunteer rescue leader at the Darlington County Humane Society shelter.

Carlton went missing on Quail Ridge Lane, near Harris Road not far from Interstate 77 and the Catawba River. Volunteers are planning to put up motion cameras similar to those used by hunters, and have canvassed hundreds of homes. Belva High, another York County native and retired Francis Marion University professor, is another volunteer who has been part of the search team.

“This doggie Carlton is shy and wonderful and he matters to young Chris so we all need to do what we can to find him,” High said. ‘This is what people who care do - try.”