He was first spotted in the neighborhood around 7:30 a.m. The dog moved slowly, as though exhausted. His ribs, bone, and vertebrae were nearly as visible as they would be on an X-ray, the sharp points almost threatening to poke through his short grey coat. His energy depleted, he made his way down the street not seeming to know where he was headed. He frequently collapsed outside homes, but the people stayed inside. The Pit Bull mix kept going until he ended up outside the window of someone who couldn’t look away and picked up the phone.
“I think that if he had been a Poodle in that same exact condition, those neighbors wouldn’t have thought twice about running out to help that dog,” says Lynda Joyce, who answered the call for help that day.
As administrative coordinator for the Bill Foundation, a Los Angeles-based dog rescue, Joyce was used to calls like that one. The woman on the line was a previous adopter who frequently found strays roaming her neighborhood.
“We always help her catch the dogs, and then we take them to the shelter to see if they have an owner. When no one claims the dog, we pull them on the day they are available and find them a loving home,” Joyce explains.
This call was different though. Through tears, the woman told Joyce the dog who’d collapsed on her front yard didn’t need a shelter — he needed a vet. She snapped a picture and sent it to Joyce, who got in the car right away.
“Even though we were not planning on taking in any new dogs at that time, we knew we had to make an exception for this dog,” says Joyce, who arrived at the caller’s home to find the severely emaciated dog now lying on a blanket on the porch. The skeletal Pit Bull had followed the caller up to the front door after she’d spoken to him sweetly.
“He wasn’t a street dog, because even a street dog would be a little bit heavier than that because they find scraps, or they find people who feel sorry for them,” says Joyce, who believes the dog (who the women would later name Spirit) had either escaped from a bad situation or been dumped in the neighborhood that morning.
“Or maybe he did have a home — because he’s such a great, loving dog — and maybe the owner died and nobody even knew that there was a dog left behind,” she says.
Whatever previous circumstances had brought Spirit to the neighborhood, he seemed to know his luck was changing. On the way to the vet’s office, he curled up in the backseat before raising up a bit to look out the window.
According to Joyce, the vet was taken aback by Spirit’s skeletal physique, and told the women he wasn’t even sure where the dog found the strength to wag his tail. The vet estimated the Pit Bull’s age as between 1 1/2 to 2 years old. He weighed just 44 pounds — half of what he should be — and he likely wouldn’t have survived much longer on his own. Spirit’s doctor expected to find the dog’s organs damaged by the prolonged starvation, but somehow he avoided any permanent problems. He would be able to heal — he just needed time, love, and plenty of good food.
With that in mind, Spirit stayed at the animal hospital for about a month before finally transitioning to a foster boarding facility. In his new environment, he immediately established himself as a dog-friendly, people-friendly, and very happy pup.
“When we rescued him, we didn’t know if he was going to be an angry dog because of all that he’d been through. We didn’t know what to expect, which is why we took it so slow with him as far as moving him into foster,” Joyce explains. “With each day and each gained pound, he was still so sweet and we just thought, ‘Gosh, this dog is amazing.’”
The Bill Foundation folks weren’t the only ones in awe of Spirit. After falling in love with him at an adoption event, a young family with two small children applied to adopt. Less than six months after collapsing on the right lawn, Spirit found his forever home, and a new name: Jax.
“It was better than anything we could have hoped for this dog. We wanted nothing but the best for him and for him to have a family of four to love him, well, that’s just fantastic,” says Joyce.