Against long odds, veterinarians have been able to save the leg of Liam the pit bull who had been found shot in Westport last month.
"He is going to be able to keep his leg," said Heather Gutshall, co-founder of Handsome Dan's Rescue for Pit Bull Type Dogs in Cranston, RI. "The nerves are starting to regenerate slowly which is a good sign."
The year-old dog still faces a difficult recovery.
While tending to the injured dog's shooting wounds, Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in East Greenwich, RI, discovered another injury, a substantial break in that same right front leg. It was not clear whether that was an older injury or happened at around the time of the shooting.
Liam, as he was named when brought to Handsome Dan's a month ago, suffered grievous leg injuries after being shot five times.
"Five shots to the chest and legs — nobody is that good a shot," Ms. Gutshall said. "Somebody probably held him down."
Handsome Dan's is working with he Animal Rescue League in Boston, which has taken a strong interest in the case and is expected to announce a reward for information. Westport, too, has set up a reward fund.
Before the shooting, the dog had been spotted a number of times wandering Westport roads. Westport Animal Control Officer Donna Lambert said she had been tracking the dog for about ten days, responding to sightings "up and down Route 6, on Old Bedford Road, even on Route 195."
Then an Old Bedford Road resident called to report that an injured pit bull was cowering in his portable garage.
Ms. Lambert retrieve the dog and took it for veterinary care. The first thought was that he had been hit by a car or maybe bitten by a dog or coyote. But x-ray examination showed that he had been shot.
"He was badly hurt," she said, and it was quickly apparent that the dog's medical bills would quickly surpass the small amount available in Westport's budget for such things. It was then that Handsome Dan's agree to take him in. A plea for donations went out and people were quick to respond, Ms. Gutshall said.
The veterinarians believe that Liam will be able to walk again, though almost certainly with a limp, Ms. Gutshall said.
To help with the healing process, he'll need physical and hydro therapy, something that will be provided free of charge by Canine Joint in Franklin, Mass.
For now, Liam is living in a foster home.
"He has a remarkably good temperament," Ms. Gutshall said. "During excruciating wound care — his wounds had to be cleaned five times a day — he cried out but never resisted. That is pretty amazing." She added that he is very gentle with little children.
She expects that it will not be difficult to find a home for Liam once he has recovered sufficiently. "We have had a number good offers from families wanting to adopt him."
Bad as these injuries are, Ms. Gutshall said that people at Handsome Dan's are no longer shocked by the extent of cruelty delivered to these dogs. On the day she was interviwed, they were making plans to take in a pit bull that police discovered while making a drug raid. The young dog's ears had just ben cut off with scissors. "Sadly, it the cruelty never ends."
The name Handsome Dan's comes from the name given to a dog that they sheltered several years ago — one of the 22 dogs rescued from NFL player Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring.
Ms. Lambert has set up a reward fund in hopes of solving the shooting mystery. Checks can be made out to Liam Reward Fund via Westport Town Hall. She has also set up a Westport animal assistance fund to which donations can also be made via Town Hall.