Saving Walter the Pit Bull

It was Easter Sunday. Brooklyn bartender Alex Darsey was on his way to the gym when he spotted the young dog struggling to walk toward him. Malnourished, dehydrated, with chemical burns on his skin and a case of mange that had taken away all his hair, the Pit Bull looked to be on his last legs. A passerby told Darsey that he had just been tossed from a passing car.

“I was horrified,” says Darsey, 39, a native of Minnesota who has lived in New York City for ten years. “I was shocked to see the state he was in.”

Realizing he couldn’t leave the severely abused animal on the street, Darsey called Kenan and Ro Juska, a pair of animal-loving friends. They picked up Darsey and the dog and drove them to the Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group of Brooklyn (VERG), a 24-hour facility that specializes in emergency treatment for animals.
Darsey says it was enough to not only pay for Walter’s medical expenses, but also make donations in Walter’s name to local shelters and animal welfare organizations.

In addition, VERG is in the process of creating a fund in Walter’s name, using some of the money raised through the blog to help rescued animals like Walter that are in need of medical attention.

As for Walter, the lucky dog who was left for dead a few months back is now healthy, happy, and officially adopted, living in Park Slope with Alex Darsey, his rescuer and new best friend.

Michael D. Mullins is editor of The New York Companion, in which this story originally appeared.

There, Dr. Brett Levitzke, VERG’s medical director, shared their outrage and horror. The mange, he says, was the worst case he had ever seen. “I was disgusted that a human being could let that happen to him. We see cases of mange all the time, but never to that extent,” Levitzke says. It was, he says, clearly caused by “neglect and abuse that allowed it to get to such a level.”

The burn symptoms were probably caused by a chemical, possibly bleach. Darsey thinks it was someone’s ill-advised attempt to treat the mange.

In spite of the veterinary bills he knew he would be facing, Darsey decided to take the dog home that night, naming him Walter Sunday—Walter for actor Walter Matthau, of whom the dog reminded him, and Sunday for the day on which he was found.

After a week of caring for Walter, administering antibiotics and medicated soap to treat the mange, Darsey noticed that his condition was worsening. “He stopped eating, and his condition quickly became critical,” he says. “He was making horrible sounds, he couldn’t retain liquids, and his skin felt cold, like a dead animal’s skin. I was pretty sure he was dying.”

Back at VERG, veterinarians discovered secondary infections caused by Walter’s weakened immune system. They couldn’t predict whether Walter would live, leaving Darsey and his friends with a difficult choice: Go into debt for a dog who might not live—or walk away and let him be put down.

They decided to save Walter.

And VERG assured Darsey that they would work with him on the medical expenses.

Walter, who was kept at the hospital for several days, was given protein supplements, put on an IV, and placed in an incubator. To help pay for the treatment, Darsey and his friends, who up until now had been paying all medical expenses, launched a fund-raising effort in Walter’s name.

They started a blog named Help Save Walter!( with pictures of Walter along with his harrowing story, to inform others and, they hoped, generate donations on his behalf. Thanks to that, and media coverage—including an appearance on the Today show where Jill Rappaport told his story—thousands of compassionate people around the world contributed enough money over the next several months to help Walter receive the care he needed.


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