A German Shepherd mix who had known nothing but years of violence and brutality was hours from euthanasia in a Los Angeles-area shelter earlier this week. Vets say he had been a bait dog — the bottom of the barrel in the dogfighting world. His ears had been hacked off down to his head — completely gone — so they wouldn’t need tending to after he was attacked by dog after dog. His mouth showed evidence of being wired shut so he couldn’t fight back. The 5-to-7-year-old dog had probably last been bait about two to three weeks earlier.
He sat in his cage at the Downey shelter Monday, covered with fleas and skin infections, quiet, and with only a few hours left before his nightmare life would be over. But a shelter volunteer who must have seen something special in him asked for a day’s reprieve, according to the Orange County Register. She photographed him and contacted several rescue groups. One rescuer, Tiffany Norton, with Coastal German Shepherd Rescue in neighboring Orange County, was inundated with emails from people who thought she could help.
Norton did indeed. She came through in an 11th-hour reprieve. She told the Orange County Register:
“When I saw his photo, I knew I had to do something. Tuesday morning I picked him up. He’s a leaner; he wants to be attached to you all the time. If you move, he moves with you. He has a really soulful spirit, he’s wise beyond his years and he’s super cuddly. When he came here he just started cuddling up with a kitten. When you think of what he’s been through he holds no grudges.”
Yes, when you think of what he’s been through, if you can even bring yourself to do this… Of the years of suffering, of being close to death so many times, beaten down by people and dogs…And still, through it all, to have maintained this gentle soul, a tender love and affection, for people — and even a little kitten he has taken to — you wonder how it’s possible. How can he still trust, and be so sweet? He may have been stolen from a home with good, kind people years ago, and never let go of the hope that he could be with people like that again. Or maybe he just senses that now, finally, life will be good.
The truly happy ending for him will be to find a loving home where people can help him get past his many ailments, which include ear canal infections, skin infections, flea dermatitis, emaciation and arthritis. Vets say with good care, these issues can resolve.
“We’re looking for a soft-hearted family who can look past his injuries and assure that he will have a good life,” Norton told the newspaper. “He lights up when he sees friendly animals and is great with kids.”
The dog has been named Phoenix. He will surely rise from the ashes. If you are interested in opening your heart and home to him, or in making a donation to help defray his medical expenses, go to Coastal German Shepherd Rescue’s website. While you’re there, scroll down the page and look at some of the other dear GSDs who would love a new home. If Phoenix is no longer available because of the publicity he’s getting, there are plenty of other dogs who need you just as much.
Update 9/19 from Coastal German Shepherd Rescue:
“Phoenix is continuing to get lots of love and affection from our volunteers and vet team. He has been cleaned up, treated by our vet and is now feeling much better! Thanks to all the support we have received we will be able make sure that Phoenix will make a full recovery. We have found out that Phoenix is understandably defensive when meeting new animals. Because of his discomfort, we are looking for a home for him with no other animals. We feel that being any only dog is the best way for Phoenix to be assured that he will never be attacked again. On another note, the LA District Attorney is considering offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who committed this abuse.
“We will be posting updates on Phoenix as we get them. For more information or if you are interested in helping Phoenix, please contact Tiffany via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Framed German Shepherd Photos by Coastal German Shepherd Rescue
Other photo by Ken Steinhardt, The Orange County Register