When rescuers found Gracie, a severely injured pit bull, she was cold to the touch. Her friend, Layla, was curled up close to her as if trying to protect her.
“She would not leave her side,” Officer Russ “Wolf” Harper, co-founder of Justice Rescue, told said. “Anytime someone tried to get close; her friend tried to cover the other … It was almost like she was going to take the beating for the other one.”
Officer Harper is tall and has tattoos all over his arms, but he has a special capacity to soothe dogs with what he calls his “girly 10-year-old voice.” That was the first thing he tried when he saw these dogs when he arrived at the park.
“I got down on my knees and called in my girly 10-year-old voice,” he said. “And Layla comes over to me with her tail wagging, but her eyes clenched like she thought she might get hit.”
She eventually came close, but after a few pets on her nose and forehead, she ran back to her friend.
Harper was eventually able to get close enough to both dogs to cover them with his heavy police vest to keep them warm. Then he picked them up and rushed them to the vet. He was trying to prepare himself for the worst.
It was obvious that the young dogs had been used for fighting pretty much their entire lives, based on their wounds.
“Some are very old and some are very fresh,” Harper observed. “They both had fresh bite wounds on them … They’re only about 2 years old, and they’ve only known abuse, they’ve only known fighting.”
“Gracie was dying,” Harper said. “The vet gave her fluids and started warming her up.”
Harper got training as a law enforcement officer so that he could be first to the scene when police get reports of cases like this one.
“Gateway crimes are included with animal abuse, including child abuse, domestic violence, drugs, guns,” Harper said.
Even though the police aren’t specifically trained for dealing with animal cruelty. Harper and his co-founder started Justice Rescue to fill this gap. They trained in law enforcement and became special humane officers.
They are no both certified as crime scene investigators to help find abusers and provide district attorneys with evidence. Harper has been able to help bust dogfighting rings, instead of waiting for the canine victims to surface somewhere first.
Gracie started getting stronger and when Harper entered her room at the vet for a visit, she transformed. “Gracie saw me and actually stood up,” Harper said. “She started eating out of my hand… remembered me … She wanted to follow me around. I sat down and she sat right on my lap.”
The next day, however, Layla crashed and needed special care. They are both still in pretty bad shape but improving daily. They’re so shocked that they’ve been rescued, Harper observed: “They’re loving the affection — they don’t know what to do with it.”
Gracie and Layla will be at the vet for about a week and then they will go to Harper who will help them rehabilitate, get them some basic training and help them learn how to trust again. The goal is to get them healthy and adopted into the right home when they’re ready.
“In a lot of cases, dogs bond so closely because they don’t have anybody else,” Harper said. Now that they have so many people helping them get better, they can hardly believe it.
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