She smelled the puppy before she saw him. That’s what Janine Guido, the founder of Speranza Animal Rescue, remembers about the night she met her dog, Libre. It was the 4th of July, but Guido wasn’t in the mood for celebrations. An hour earlier, she’d received a picture of puppy so overcome with mange, skin infections, and open wounds that he was nearly unrecognizable as a Boston Terrier. This dog was the worst medical case the experienced rescuer had seen in her entire career. Horrified, Guido promptly drove 50 miles to the emergency veterinary clinic where the puppy had just arrived.
“The vet probably thought I was nuts because I came into the office bawling hysterically, and I hadn’t even seen him in person yet,” Guido tells Dogster.
The puppy she called Libre had been rescued from a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, by an animal-loving produce delivery driver who, over the course of a few deliveries, noticed the puppy getting sicker and sicker inside a kennel. According to Guido, after asking the farmer if he could take the puppy, the delivery driver then brought the 4-month-old dog straight to a former humane officer, who contacted Guido and took the pup to the emergency vet clinic.
“This all happened within an hour,” Guido explains.
She says she knew the situation was very bad before she even stepped into the clinic. On her way there, Guido spoke to the vet, who initially recommended euthanasia.
“I said, ‘No, absolutely not. Just do everything you can to save him.’ So when I did arrive she just kind of gave me a heads up — he truly needed a miracle to survive.”
With that in mind, Guido headed into the exam room, inhaling a scent she describes as rotten flesh. She longed to hold the puppy and tell him he was loved, but couldn’t yet. The veterinarian didn’t know what kind of infections the pup was fighting or if they could be contagious. Guido stood by as a gloved vet tech handled poor little Libre, who couldn’t even lift his head.
“As soon as she touched his skin, pus oozed out. It was absolutely disgusting. He was in really bad shape.”
Libre stayed in the animal ER overnight before being transferred to the Dillsburg Veterinary Center, where he would spend the next 31 days. According to Facebook posts by his medical team, several maggots were found in his wounds, indicating long-term neglect. The dog needed intravenous fluids, strong antibiotics, and around the clock care.
“It was always touch and go. He would improve, and then he would take two steps back.”
Eventually, Libre’s good days started to outnumber the bad, and Guido started to believe the pup would one day see the world beyond the vet clinic.
“By week three, we had a pretty good idea that he was gonna keep fighting and he was gonna pull through,” she says.
Before Libre was discharged from Dillsburg, Guido announced she would be adopting him. It was welcome news to the thousands of people who began following the case after pictures of Libre taken at the Dillsburg Veterinary Center spread online. Local and international media picked up the story, and soon Pennsylvanians and people around the world were calling for justice for the neglected puppy.
Libre’s fans got their wish after the farmer at the center of the case admitted to police that he left the sick puppy in a kennel believing he would die in there. A week after Libre was discharged from the hospital, the farmer was charged with animal cruelty. The District Attorney went a step further, seeking changes to the state’s current cruelty laws, a statement Pennsylvania’s state senator is echoing in proposed legislation.
“It’s called Libre’s Law. Animal cruelty is not a felony in [Pennsylvania], and we want to make that happen and have harsher punishments for people,” says Guido. “A lot of good things have come out of this horrible situation.”
It’s been two months since Libre was saved from his fetid kennel, and Guido says he’s doing great. He is still taking three medicated baths per day to help with his skin, and although his right eye has been irreparably damaged by all the infections he suffered, the dog is in great spirits.
“I call him the bug-eyed miracle. He is just so rambunctious — like a typical 5- or 6-month-old puppy,” says Guido. “People expect him to be this shy, timid puppy, but he will go up to anybody and start kissing them on the face. He loves everybody and everything.”
See more photos of Libre and follow his story, like the Speranza Animal Rescue Facebook page. You can also watch his journey to date in this video: