Pink-skinned, hairless, and yes, a little scabby, Abigail the Boston terrier cuts an unlikely figure for a celebrity pet. But this scrappy terrier hit the jackpot this week when Food Network host Alton Brown spotted her on Instagram and decided to bring her home.
Abigail, nicknamed Scabigail (or simply “Scabs”), arrived at the Atlanta Humane Society alongside 77 other dogs, all rescued from a squalorous case of animal neglect in Northwest Georgia’s Murray County. “This was a situation where the owner was no longer able to care for the dogs,” explains Christina Hill, the Atlanta Humane Society’s director of marketing and communications. About half of the dogs were healthy enough to go up for adoption within a few days, but the other half required more specialized ongoing medical care. Tiny Abigail fell in the latter category: her mange, a skin condition caused by parasites, resulted in inflamed, scabby skin and total hair loss, and requires ongoing medicated baths.
Hence the nickname—Scabigail—and the Instagram account, where her bio reads, “On a mission to grow all of my hairs back. Every. Single. One.” Both the nom de plume and the Instagram are the work of AHS’s marketing manager, Amanda Harris, who was fostering Abigail at the time. “Amanda started the Instagram for fun because she thought it’d be goofy and silly,” explains Hill, adding that Scabs is a natural for the ‘gram, thanks to her expressive face and photogenic head tilt. “We also thought it’d be a great engagement tool for people to help them understand how we care for animals,” Hill adds, “and understand that there’s a lot of work that we’ve put into [caring for] the animals.” Indeed, more and more animal rescue organizations are getting creative with social media in order to find homes for pets, especially their harder-to-place animals.
Scabigail’s account racked up more than 3,000 followers in about two weeks. And one of them happened to be Alton Brown, who immediately made plans for a meet-and-greet. “He landed on the page, saw her absolutely adorable face, and fell in love,” Hill says. Brown and his fiancee, Atlanta restaurant designer Elizabeth Ingram, visited the Atlanta Humane Society’s Howell Mill campus on Tuesday, and the rest is history. Brown says the couple will “absolutely” keep Scabigail’s nickname and will also maintain her Instagram presence for her fans.
“I can’t remember if I saw Scabigail first or if Elizabeth did,” Brown wrote in an email to Atlanta. “We follow a lot of rescue organizations, so one of us just saw her [scroll past] and showed it to the other, and then we started following her, and then realized she was available for adoption. That was that.”
“The funky little mutt is actually 100 percent Boston terrier and all personality,” Brown describes. “She walks in and owns whatever room she’s in, and that’s a pretty big deal considering she’s only 9 1/2 pounds and has no hair.”
Scabs’s rags-to-riches rise isn’t just a feel-good fairy tale; it’s also indicative of how much AHS and other local rescue organizations rely on community support and involvement, Hill says. The Atlanta Humane Society is funded locally and doesn’t receive umbrella funding from the national Humane Society. When they’re called to situations like the one in Murray County, Hill says, “we’re lucky to never have that second thought of, ‘are we going to be able to care for these animals, are we going to be able to provide for them what they need?’ Because we know the community will step up. And they always do.”
“There so many animals out there who need loving homes,” Brown says. “I can’t even think of adopting anything but a rescue at this point.”
Additional dogs from the Murray County rescue are still looking for homes: seven are on the adoption floor at present, and an additional twelve will go up for adoption within two to six weeks. All of them knew sweet Scabs before she was Internet-famous.
Update 1/1/2019: P.S.—here’s what she looks like today: