I don’t usually read e-mail at midnight, but on the last Thursday of the month we are on production deadline, and for the January issues I was waiting for word from our art director, Sara, on some edits when I saw a desperate plea to help a pit bull named Petey.
Since the SF/SPCA cover story last September, I sadly get hundreds of pleas a day – there is an amazing network of rescuers without whom thousands more animals would die in shelters every day. They pledge donations, find foster homes, round up rescues, offer transport, and raise funds for medical care. As much as I’d love to foster, I found out with Cooper that there is a one-dog limit for my condo, so it’s not usually an option. But when the plea for Petey came across the wire, my neighbors were out of town for a week, and his story was so sad that I had no control over my fingers as they typed, “I will take him!”
Petey, named for his resemblance to the pit bull mascot of the Our Gang television series, had been found on Christmas morning eating with a feral cat colony in a tough Oakland neighborhood. The colony feeder, Kathy, pulled up in the fog thinking she saw a giant red and white spotted feline, but it was, in fact, an emaciated pit bull with a rubber band tied around his tail. She coaxed him over with food and saw that he was weak, his ribs and spine poking through his dull, lifeless fur. Kathy took him home, where she noticed that his tail was badly infected. Though Petey didn’t seem to mind Kathy’s cats, the cats minded Petey; Kathy also realized that Petey would need medical care for his tail, so reluctantly, she took him to the Berkeley animal shelter.
Tying a rubber band around a pit bull’s tail is a barbaric and amateurish way that thugs, usually involved in dog fighting, do a home crop job by cutting off the blood supply. The vet said that Petey’s tail would have to be amputated. Still, Petey was one of the lucky ones – he likely escaped certain death.
Despite the starvation and abuse he endured, Petey was remarkably trusting and loving – friendly with humans, as well as with other dogs. As if he hadn’t suffered enough, the vet also noted that Petey had cataracts, rendering him almost completely blind. Without expensive surgery, his pain and discomfort would worsen, and he would lose what little sight he had. You might assume that Petey was an older dog, but in fact, he was barely a year old.
Though Petey was a favorite of the shelter staff, his days were numbered: they had more than 35 healthy pit bulls, most also facing a death sentence, so an emaciated, blind, stump-tailed pup stood little chance of getting adopted.
That’s when Kathy sent out the e-mail, and a few days later, with the sponsorship of Rocket Dog Rescue, Petey arrived.
We introduced Jasmine Blue and Petey on a walk around Buena Vista Park. It went well – Petey was freshly neutered and still had that manly smell, causing Jazzy, though spayed long ago, to flirt up a storm. Though his eyesight was limited, I was amazed at how confident Petey was walking on a leash, completely trusting his human companions to steer him clear of lamp posts and trees.
Mealtime was tricky – Petey was still extremely thin, but feeding him too much too fast was unhealthy, so I broke it into multiple smaller servings. Also, because of his sight impairment, he became agitated if he thought Jazzy was going to get his food, so I had to feed them in separate rooms.
That Saturday, I took Petey to his first Rocket Dog adoption fair in front of Bank of America on 18th and Castro, where he reveled in butt scratches and hugs, wiggling his bandaged stump and resting his chin in the crook of every neck he could find. A woman named Rowena stopped and spent a long time with him, and there was an obvious connection. She told me that she and her fiancé, Josh, lived in Noe Valley with their pit bull mix, Yin Yang. With a small apartment, a second dog was out of the question, she said, but fostering might be an option. The next morning I got a call from Rowena explaining that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Petey – she woke Josh at 3 a.m., showing him Petey’s photo and asking him about fostering. To her delight, Josh said yes.
Later that day, Rowena and Yin Yang met me at the Rocket Dog adoption fair at the Pet Food Express on Market Street. Yin Yang and Petey got along fine, so she talked with Rocket Dog founder Pali Boucher and filled out the foster parent paperwork. I drove Petey to Rowena’s apartment, where we sat on the floor and talked for a long time before I headed home.
It’s amazing how attached you become to a dog in a week. Though I knew Petey was in great hands, I had irrational thoughts about abandoning him just when he was starting to get comfortable with Jazzy and me. Later, Rowena called to let me know Petey was doing well, and, sensing my sadness, she sent a cell phone photo of Josh holding Petey like a baby in his lap. I took a deep breath, knowing I’d done the right thing.
I’ve always thought that saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” was cliché and corny, but in Petey’s case, truer words were never spoken.
Petey needs cataract surgery – it will cost $3,000, but he will regain almost all of his eyesight and no longer be in discomfort. Rocket Dog would love to get Petey his surgery, but donations are desperately needed. If you would like to contribute to his surgery, please contact Rocket Dog Rescue at 415-756-8188 or e-mail [email protected]. You can also make a donation via PayPal on the Rocket Dog Web site at www.rocketdogrescue.org.
Petey is also looking for his forever home. To find out about adopting Petey, please call 415-756-8188 or e-mail [email protected]. You will also find Petey, along with many other deserving dogs, on the Rocket Dog Web site at www.rocketdogrescue.org.