She heard a whimpering noise from inside a garbage bag and asked the man what it was. He told her to mind her own business, but at her insistence, he opened the bag.
Inside it was a puppy that could barely move.
The woman brought the puppy to Seminole County Animal Services. The shelter contacted Erica Daniel, the president and founder of Dolly’s Foundation, which rescues neglected and abused bully-breed dogs. Daniel took the puppy to her vet, who told her the prognosis was grim and it would probably be best to euthanize the motionless pup.
Wanting the puppy to experience one last day of being loved and spoiled, Daniel decided to bring her home.
“I had to show her what it was like to be loved,” Daniel said in a segment of NBC’s “Today” show last Friday. “I’d planned on taking her home that night, letting her sleep in bed with us, and having her humanely euthanized in the morning.”
On the way home, Daniel and the puppy, who she named Harper, stopped at a pet store for treats and toys. She and the store’s employees “immediately starting mourning her death. We cried for what her life could have been if we would have just gotten her a few weeks earlier. We fed her treats, held her, loved her, and massaged her tight little muscles so they wouldn’t be so sore,” Daniels wrote on Harper’s page on the Dolly Foundation website.
After a few hours, the puppy started moving. “We started to notice a significant change in her range of motion,” Daniel wrote. “She started to lift her head, she started to pull her front legs under her and try to walk.”
Daniel told “Today” that her reaction to the puppy’s amazing progress was “WHOA!”
Instead of having Harper euthanized, Daniel took her to a veterinarian at the University of Florida. The results of several tests showed that Harper’s organs were functioning normally and she had no brain damage. However, she was diagnosed with a treatable condition called “swimmer syndrome.”
This motor-development anomaly, also known as “flat-pup syndrome,” causes puppies to lie on their bellies with their legs splayed out, giving them the appearance of swimming through water.
If treated while they’re still very young, 90 percent of puppies fully recover, according to Jack Vanderwyk on Labradornet.com. However, the prognosis is much poorer if all four of a puppy’s limbs are affected, as were Harper’s.
When Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy and Fitness in Winter Garden, Fla., heard about Harper, they offered to provide the puppy with free massage and water therapy sessions.
Bev McCartt, a therapist at Hip Dog, told “Today” that Harper has learned what her natural gait should be by swimming. “Her brain kicked in and by the end of her first session, she was like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’” McCartt said. “She’s a real testament to a dog’s determination to get up and just go.”
Now, at 3 months old, Harper has actually started walking. “She started out on grass, then carpet, then concrete,” Daniel told “Today.” “She still can’t walk on tile or hardwood floors, but she’s getting there.”
Harper likes to play with Daniel’s seven other dogs. Although Daniel thinks Harper will be ready for adoption in a month or so, she’s not sure if she can part with this special girl.
Daniel, a dedicated dog foster mom, witnessed yet another amazing transformation last year after she rescued Dolly, a Pit Bull who had been used as a bait dog by dog fighters. Dolly’s mouth injuries were so severe that she couldn’t eat, but with Daniel’s care she has completely recovered and has been certified as a “Good Citizen Dog” by the American Kennel Club.
Daniel established Dolly’s Foundation in her honor earlier this year.
“They’re just dogs,” Daniel told “Today” regarding the negative image of Pit Bulls. “Dogs need love, and they need homes.”
You can make a donation to help defray Harper’s medical costs via a ChipIn. Photos of the miracle puppy can be purchased from Flyin Fur Pet Photography, which is donating all proceeds to Dolly’s Foundation.
DVR Alert! Daniel and Harper will be guests on “Today” on
Monday, October 3. They have been bumped to Tuesday, October 4.
PHOTO: The Wandering Eye