Gabriel the pit bull suffered severe burns and broken bones. A Bonita Springs vet and a dog rescue are giving him a second chance.
A painful red wound covers much of Gabriel's body. The young pit bull mix requires daily care for the severe burns and other puncture injuries on his torso.
He has fractured legs and broken hips. The dog is fighting off pneumonia, kennel cough, a bacterial infection and hemolytic anemia, a disorder that destroys red blood cells.
Nobody knows for sure what happened to Gabriel. The dog can't share his story.
Despite his suffering, he is still a loving puppy. Gabriel squints his eyes in what seems like joy when his veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Jackson, bends down to rub the dog's head and scratch his caramel-colored ears.
"He is absolutely sweet," Jackson said. "You get overwhelmed with this sad sense of gratefulness from him."
On Aug. 21, Love is Fur Ever, a Southwest Florida dog rescue nonprofit, brought Gabriel from Miami-Dade County Animal Services to Advanced Veterinary, Jackson’s pet hospital in Bonita Springs.
The pit bull mix was missing 40% to 60% of his skin from what looks like a chemical burn, Jackson said. He estimates the dog is between 8 months and 2 years old.
Jackson, his staff and a team of volunteers from Love is Fur Ever are treating Gabriel’s injuries and helping the dog heal.
“We still have milestones to go,” Jackson said.
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Gabriel’s journey to Bonita Springs
Somebody surrendered Gabriel in his wretched condition to Miami-Dade County Animal Services, said Victoria Frazier, the founder of Love is Fur Ever. The owner who surrendered Gabriel said the dog was hit by a car, Frazier said.
Frazier learned about Gabriel through Facebook. Once she saw the dog, the rescue group began taking action to bring him to Southwest Florida.
Samantha Kellum, a Fort Myers resident and a Love is Fur Ever volunteer, drove halfway to Miami at the end of August to help transport Gabriel to Bonita Springs. She saw the dog’s severe injuries before reaching Jackson and his team.
His wound "was all black, like burnt skin. You just kept finding more holes,” Kellum said.
Once Gabriel arrived at Advanced Veterinary, Jackson and his staff kept the dog warm to prevent him from going into shock. They put Gabriel on pain medication and began to understand the extent of his injuries, Jackson said.
“We are gaining ground on the infection,” Jackson said. “He lost a lot of blood. He lost a lot of fluid. It was hard to say what wasn’t wrong.”
Dog owners have brought their pets to the Bonita Springs animal hospital to donate blood when Gabriel's levels have been low.
Gabriel is soaked every day in a solution that helps clean his wounds. The Advanced Veterinary staff and volunteers create a makeshift hot tub for Gabriel's soaks.
"It hydrates all the tissue," Jackson said. "Once it's moist, you can remove all the dead stuff."
North Naples-based medical device company Arthrex, donated JumpStart, an antimicrobial wound treatment product to help Gabriel's recovery, Frazier said. The company had done the same with Abigail, the bonnet-wearing former bait dog rescued by Love is Fur Ever and treated by Jackson in 2016.
Half of Abigail's face and ear were missing when Frazier and Love is Fur Ever brought her to Jackson three years ago. She was adopted in 2017 by a family in Fort Myers.
Gabriel is in worse condition than Abigail had been when she was rescued, Frazier and Jackson said.
Frazier said she hopes to find out who might have hurt Gabriel.
“We’re trying to do some sort of justice for him,” Frazier said.
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Ups and downs
Gabriel has seen good and bad days since arriving at the Bonita Springs animal hospital.
He has struggled to eat, and he caught pneumonia. Surgeries he will need can't be performed until his condition is stable, Jackson said.
But photos and video on the Love is Fur Ever Facebook page show Gabriel enjoying fresh air and walking outside. He began water therapy to keep his legs moving. He is eating better, but sometimes still needs a feeding tube to keep his weight up, Frazier said.
Kellum, the volunteer, said she saw Gabriel improve in just a week, and it made her believe they could save him.
“Even a couple days after it was like, ‘OK, this is possible,’” Kellum said.
Gabriel’s personality has shown through, even though the dog remains on medication for severe pain, Frazier and Jackson said.
“He’s very sweet. He’s gentle. He loves to wag his tail. He loves people,” Frazier said. “He has the kindest soul.”
Jackson said he is encouraged by the dog’s progress so far.
"We're on the road to recovery."
How to follow Gabriel's journey
- Love is Fur Ever website: lifedogrescue.org
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/LoveIsFurEverDogRescue
Love is Fur Ever is accepting donations to help with Gabriel's medical expenses. Here is how you can donate:
- Online: paypal.me/LIFERescue
- In person: Advanced Veterinary, 28380 Old 41 Road #8, Bonita Springs, FL
The following can be brought to Advanced Veterinary, 28380 Old 41 Road #8 in Bonita Springs:
- Size large youth t-shirts
- Healthy treats