On Sept. 11, 2013, the owners of a storage facility in Shreveport, Louisiana, entered an abandoned unit. What they found was heartbreaking: a four-month-old Pit Bull chained to a car. He was skin and bones and barely alive.
The couple, Chuck Ferguson and Robin Brock, took the puppy to Dr. Jennifer Conduff at Animal Emergency Clinic and contacted local rescue Louisiana Baby Mommas.
“Nobody would have second-guessed the doctor had she decided to humanely euthanize him,” says Bo Spataro, who volunteers with the group, “but she said, ‘Human hands did this. Human hands should fix it.'”
The dog had been in the unit, which was not climate controlled, for at least a week with no food or water, his rescuers estimate. Dr. Conduff gave him intravenous fluids for dehydration as well as blood transfusions for anemia. Only time would heal his skin, which had pressure sores from lying on the dirty concrete floor. Bones protruded from his starved eight-pound body.
Bo’s wife, Ronda, arrived at the clinic shortly after to step into their role as foster family. The couple regularly took in critical-care cases because of her experience as a veterinary technician. Once Braveheart was stable, he moved to Benton Animal Hospital, where she works.
“He just had this wonderful will to live, a strong spirit,” Ronda says of the name clinic staff gave him. Bo adds, “He didn’t give up. His heart was, is, brave.”
Ten days later, Braveheart started coming home with her after work. The couple intended to get him healthy both physically and emotionally, then find his forever family. They changed their minds about adopting him out when animal control authorities seized the puppy as evidence in the cruelty case against Gabriel Lee, renter of the storage unit.
Thanks to a local TV crew being at the Spataro home during the seizure, along with community outcry and Lee signing over rights to the dog, they got Braveheart back and decided not to let him go.
“When he was taken away, we felt so helpless. There was nothing we could do. It was such a scary feeling,” Ronda says. “When we got him back, we decided that no one would ever take him from us again.”
Bo adds, “In that moment, we knew we had foster failed.”
The couple legally adopted him and continued helping him heal.
“He went everywhere I did for the first three or four months,” Ronda says. “I wanted to make sure he became acclimated to different people and sounds.”
They also wanted for each of those outings to be a positive experience.
“Every person we would encounter with Braveheart, I would have them give him a treat,” Bo says. “That helped change his attitude toward people.”
The puppy got additional emotional support from their other Pit Bull, Ray Ray, who taught him how to interact with the Spataro’s other animals: Tank the Chihuahua, Sam the Maltipoo, and kitties Lily, Saphira, Sinbad, and Sparrow.
Now 55 pounds and well-balanced emotionally, Braveheart visits schools and attends adoption events as an ambassador for Louisiana Baby Mommas.
“We want people to remember where he came from and see what a different dog he is now, especially because of his breed,” Ronda says. “Because he’s a Pit Bull, the strongest message we can deliver is that after what happened to him, he’s not a monster, he’s not vicious. We want people to see that he’s a Pit Bull and what he was able to overcome.”
The couple has talked about getting Braveheart certified to do therapy work in the future.
“For now, we want him to have fun and be a dog,” Bo says. “He’s a bit of a goofball as he goes through the puppy stage he wasn’t allowed to before, when his life was so rough.”
To learn more about Braveheart and the case against his abuser, follow him on Facebook.
Read more about rescue on Dogster: