In my job, I receive a lot of emails. Some of them are about topics the Northwest Florida Daily News would never write about (like this press release I received, with the headline MANSCAPED™ to Participate in the Jefferies 2022 Consumer Conference), but that’s probably a topic for a future column someday. However, last week I received an email that just broke my heart.
Alaqua Animal Refuge officials sent an email that they were working with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office as three separate animal cruelty cases were being investigated.
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One dog had been tied to the bumper of a truck and dragged down a road for 8 to 10 miles. Alaqua is treating the dog, which was in critical condition at the time of this writing and was missing a lot of skin and toenails.
“Ironically, the dog is in good spirits despite the intentional cruelty inflicted upon him,” Alaqua founder Laurie Hood wrote in the email.
Another dog had been chained outside with a prong collar and had significant wounds around its neck.
In the third case, a Chihuahua was killed when someone fell on the dog during a stabbing incident.
I will never understand how some people can be so cruel to animals.
This news hit especially close to home for me as my wife and I adopted a dog from Alaqua that we later found out was abused by humans.
Jenny and I adopted Nick, a (we think) bluetick coonhound in September of 2018, but doing so was not our original plan. We had lost our Maltese, Mason, earlier in the year and we went to Alaqua to look at a group of Maltese mixes that had been brought in from a hoarding situation after the previous owner no longer was able to care for the dogs.
While we were on our way to look at the Maltese mixes, we ran into an Alaqua volunteer who was transporting Nick back to his kennel run after he had undergone surgery to remove his right eye. We were told that he and his two brothers had been brought to Alaqua from a farm up in northern Walton County recently and that Nick had been injured in a dog fight (not a dog fight organized by people, just two dogs getting into a fight). I gave Nick a pet that day, told him I hope he feels better soon and then went on to look at little white dogs.
We picked out a white Maltese mix that we named Phoebe to adopt, but Phoebe had heartworms when she was taken to Alaqua and had to complete her treatments before we could bring her home.
Since we couldn’t take Phoebe home initially, Jenny and I would drive from Fort Walton Beach to Freeport a couple times a week to visit with her. Without Jenny knowing, each time we would go to visit Phoebe, I would stop at Nick’s kennel to check on him. Eventually, I told her what I had been doing and we actually were able to bring Nick home before Phoebe.
It wasn’t until we took Nick, who we named after Nick Fury from the Avengers because they both have one eye, to our veterinarian that we learned what really happened to him.
He had a place inside his right ear that looked like a pimple. The vet moved it back and forth a bit, and eventually a pellet from a BB gun came out. After that, we took a closer look at him and found about half a dozen pellets all over his tiny body, including two in his head, one in his brow right next to his missing eye. We also noticed he has a scar on his front left leg where it looks like someone cut him.
Despite the fact that some monster out there tortured this dog and used him for target practice, Nick is the sweetest pup. I don’t know why, but he loves all people, especially kids.
We let Alaqua know what we found and that whoever told them Nick had been injured in a dog fight was wrong. I don’t know if they were able to work with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and look into Nick’s surrender or not.
However, I will be forever grateful for Alaqua. Not only have we adopted three beautiful and wonderful dogs from there (we also got our Great Dane, Poe, from Alaqua during their big Great Dane rescue in 2016), but they and other agencies like them do so much to keep animals safe.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but please treat animals kindly. If you see or even suspect an animal is being neglected or abused, please call local law enforcement to let them evaluate the situation. And if you know someone who shot an adorable hound dog puppy with a pellet gun about four years ago, I would very much like to have a conversation with them.
Dusty Ricketts is the content coach for the Northwest Florida Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.