In August 2016, a couple of animal lovers heard a whimper coming from a cardboard box beside a walking trail in Highland Park near Detroit. What they found inside the box almost broke their heart.
It took them a moment to figure out what the mass of skin and blood inside the box was. It didn’t look like the 7-month-old puppy they eventually found out it was.
He was covered in blood from an ear wound, his obviously-broken jaw was angled and also dripping blood. His head didn’t even resemble a dog. It had an oddly bulging “balloon” shape.
The Good Samaritans kept the puppy calm and told him that everything would be ok, although neither of them thought there was any way there could be.
They called the Highland Park Police Department. The PD in turn got in touch with Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue, a nonprofit that rescues injured or abandoned animals and helps them get adopted.
From the moment they saw the poor damaged puppy their hearts sank.
“The dog looked like a little Frankenstein,” DPC founder Theresa Sumpter said. “He didn’t even look like a dog. I truly could not believe it.”
The pup obviously had a broken jaw, but he had also suffered other cracked facial bones. His swollen head was the possible side effect of a blossoming infection or fluid buildup.
The first veterinarian who examined the animal suggested that he might have brain damage. Things didn’t look good for the little dog the clinic had dubbed Courage because of his indomitable spirit.
Courage went into surgery almost immediately where his jaw was fixed, the broken bones were mended and a tube was put in place to drain the fluid that was indeed building up on his brain.
There was no way to know if the effort was for naught; no one would know if little Courage could bounce back from all of his injuries.
But, bounce he did. He awakened after surgery with a wagging tail and an attempt to lick the face of the tech that had come to check on him.
Courage became a clinic favorite during the weeks that he recuperated with first the clinic workers and then with the volunteers at the Pit Crew.
Once everyone was certain that Courage was going to live through his horrifying experience, he was placed on the DPC Facebook page.
It only took one photo to claim the heart of dog-lover Lisa Rettino. Her husband fell just as hard and almost as fast.
“My husband said, ‘We need to contact them. If this little guy pulls through, we’ll take him, no matter what his special needs are,’” Rettino said.
“Both of us were absolutely horrified that a sweet little puppy had gone through what he had gone through.”
So, they filled out an application to adopt Courage. They were relieved to learn that his injuries hadn’t affected his psychological state.
“He is far and away the most laid-back, loving dog ever,” she explained.
They were saddened when, as a result of one of his injuries that didn’t heal correctly, Courage had to have a front leg amputated. That didn’t dim their love for him though.
Nor did it dim Courage’s zest for life. He didn’t slow down for very long, mentally or physically.
“He zooms around the house and jumps and plays and rolls on the lawn,” Rettino said. “He’s all puppy, all the time.”
There’s no way to ever find out exactly what happened to poor Courage. Unfortunately, vets see similar injuries often in pit bulls that are abused by those that fear them.
Courage is a great example to all of us to take the knocks life gives us and keep our tails wagging. Someone is out there to love each of us. Just keep your heart open.
May Courage and his family have many happy years ahead to share together, with hearts wide open.