Ditch hops off the couch and bounces over to his smiling master.
The six-month-old, brindle-colored boxer moves with such ease it’s hard to believe it’s been only a little More than a week since he had one of his legs amputated. A row of staples hold together a fold of pink skin over a round nub where his right rear leg used to be. Yet he scrambles around like he’s had months to adapt to being a tri-pod.
Thanks to the efforts of Tabitha and James Tucciarone of Newark, and a giving community and vet clinic, he’s been given a new lease on life. Before they found him, Ditch suffered from what appears to be an extremely cruel case of abuse.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, James had just dropped his daughter off at school. He was returning to his home in Newark Ranch, just off Farm Road 718, when a bundled mass caught his attention.
“I kind of noticed something in the ditch that shouldn’t be there,” James said. “I pulled over and here’s this little guy curled up in the ditch in the rain. He gave me this look like, ‘You’re here for me.’ Like he was waiting for someone.”
James wrapped him up in a blanket and put him in the truck. That’s when he noticed something horribly wrong with the puppy.
“There was something wrong with his leg,” he said. “The stench was overwhelming. His back leg had no hair, and it had swollen to four times its normal size.”
He noticed something strange wrapped around one of the rear legs. Without disturbing it further, he took the dog to Boat Club Road Animal Hospital.
Someone had bound the puppy’s rear legs together tightly with the elastic waistband from a pair of pantyhose and dumped him into a ditch on the side of the road.
“It had been tied on him for several days at least,” James said. “There was no skin on his leg. Only meat. And in his condition there was no way he could have walked there on his own.
“The animal clinic said it was an obvious case of abuse. There was no reason for that to be wrapped around him.”
The damage caused from binding the rear legs together had caused one of them to begin rotting off. The hospital attempted a special treatment to try and save the leg.
That’s when the community stepped forward to help. Former Newark City Council member Bandy Hicks, who works at the animal clinic, started an online fundraiser through the website gofundme.com to help with medical bills. Within 12 days the site had raised more than $1,200 for the injured pup. A fundraising jar set up in the Conoco in Newark raised a couple hundred more. The animal hospital also helped by doing the procedures for a reduced rate.
“They tried a type of water treatment to remove dead tissue and stimulate new tissue growth,” James said. “They did it for several days and thought he was responding. But when they removed the wrapping and saw bone and tendons, they told us they had to take the leg off.”
After going through everything with the puppy, the Tucciarones couldn’t bear turning him over to a shelter, so they kept him.
“He can already run and play with the other dogs,” James added. “We gave him the name Ditch because that’s where we found him. But we’ve given him the nickname Lt. Dan.”
But they still don’t know how he ended up in the ditch near their home, or who might have injured him.
“We’re really confounded about his story,” James said. “He’s housebroken. He doesn’t act like he was abused. He’s not hand-shy.”
They never heard anything back from Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office where they reported the case.
“We were hoping that by putting the story on Facebook somebody might know what had happened and step forward,” he said. “But we’re not going to needle that to death. I like to focus on the positive, get him well.”
The look in Ditch’s eyes when he bounds around the yard of his new home indicates he’s well on the way.