For Belle’s Sake: military couple runs animal shelter

Belle, a dog rescued by Master Sgt. Christian Bird, 5th Communications Squadron cable maintenance and cyber transport systems section chief, and Tech. Sgt. Shelby Bird, 5th Bomb Wing self-assessment program manager, lays in a field where she was found in Sumter, S.C., April 1, 2012. In her honor, the Birds started For Belle’s Sake Rescue and Rehabilitation, an animal rescue, rehabilitation, adoption and pet watching service. (Courtesy photo)

Belle, a dog rescued by Master Sgt. Christian Bird, 5th Communications Squadron cable maintenance and cyber transport systems section chief, and Tech. Sgt. Shelby Bird, 5th Bomb Wing self-assessment program manager, lays in a field where she was found in Sumter, S.C., April 1, 2012. In her honor, the Birds started For Belle’s Sake Rescue and Rehabilitation, an animal rescue, rehabilitation, adoption and pet watching service. (Courtesy photo)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

A luscious green meadow sits beside a small highway in Sumter, South Carolina, April 1, 2012, broken only by a single crossroad.

The sun cast its final rays over the horizon as a lone driver, ready to put the day to rest, navigated toward her home. The stop that cut off the serpentine of traffic gave her a moment to reflect on the day’s activities. She inspected her surroundings prior to taking off again, but a glimpse of light brown caught her eye from afar.

She focused on the tuft of fur that offset the backdrop of a perfect field of grain in the breeze. In the middle of the field lay what was probably once a beautiful dog, left to rot and wallow in her own loneliness. From her body blossomed a grotesque flower of garbage and decaying nutrition. Without hesitation, the driver whipped out her phone to call for help.

An Air Force couple answered that call and raced to the scene, just as they would for any other situation.

“We’ve been rescuing animals since 2010,” said Master Sgt. Christian Bird, 5th Communications Squadron cable maintenance and cyber transport systems section chief. “We always saw stray animals or dead ones on the side of the road, so we decided we wanted to do our part.”

Twilight glimmered beyond the clouds as they arrived to assess the demise of this pit bull mix. She wagged her tail for the calm voices directed at her, and continued to do so as she was carried to a place she could call home.

“Some of the animals we rescue need some form of rehabilitation,” said Tech. Sgt. Shelby Bird, 5th Bomb Wing self-assessment program manager. “Whether physical, behavioral or mental, we take them all in and help them recover.”

Christian and Shelby have learned over the years that 99 percent of animals marked as red flags at animal shelters have mental or behavioral issues that are environment-induced. The Birds introduce these animals to a new environment which helps eliminate their bad behaviors and gives them a fair shot at a home.

When there is a hurt animal, Christian and Shelby ensure its treated properly and adopted into a home that provides time and patience to properly care for them.

After the Birds arrived home, they examined the dog. A prior-military emergency medical technician made his way to their house to further assess injuries since the closest after-hours veterinarian clinic was over an hour away. This malnourished dog, now named Belle, had two shattered back legs, a broken back and all the skin and muscle missing from one side of her body. Crawling within the injuries were hundreds of red ants, eating away at what was left of her body. Aside from massive blood loss and organ failure, the Birds knew that Belle would go through a long and painful recovery process, and would most likely not survive.

Shelby knelt beside Belle, gently holding her hands out. She knew that if there were two options, it should be Belle’s decision.

“Belle, what do you want,” she asked.

Belle rested her head into Shelby’s open palms, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes.

“We lost that one, but we vowed to do our best to save as many as we could in her honor,” said Shelby.

Christian and Shelby named their service “For Belle’s Sake Rescue and Rehabilitation.” Since that day in 2012, they have rescued over 700 animals while stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. They work directly from their home, allowing them to have around 40 animals at one given time.

“You have to be selfless,” Christian added. “You need to make sure you find the time, patience and commitment to see it through.”

The Birds not only have the animals to look after, but also four young children.

“It’s not easy,” said Shelby. “You have to give something up to [help] balance the military, family and the shelter, so we don’t sleep.”

Their saving grace is the teamwork between Shelby, Christian and their children.

“One parent is taking care of the animals, the other is taking care of the kids,” said Shelby. “We have a pretty good schedule and enough understanding and trust in each other to get everything done.”

Christian and Shelby mostly take care of the animals, but occasionally, their children assist.

“They’re involved, but not too much due to their ages and safety concerns,” said Shelby. “They love playing, feeding and filling the water bowls for the animals.”

The Air Force family has supported them as well. Military members sometimes volunteer for a couple of hours to take care of the animals.

“Where the Air Force takes care of us, we take care of them,” said Shelby.

They also care for the animals of deployed Airmen to avoid giving their family member away to a stranger or an animal shelter.

“Some people are unable to afford the high boarding cost of a facility,” said Shelby. “If you allow us to bring your animal into our family, we’ll give them back when you return from serving our country.”

With so many responsibilities and a healthy balance, Shelby and Christian have made it all work in their favor. They don’t plan on reducing any of their efforts due to one reason.

“Everything we do, we do for Belle’s sake,” said Shelby.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.