GRESHAM, Ore. – He’s got a new name, and he may soon have a home.
A rescued pit bull puppy is being called “Pluto” by his handlers at Multnomah County Animal Services.
A good Samaritan, Nestor Salazar, found the three-to-four-month-old puppy on Wednesday night while he was out for a walk with his own pit bull, Goofy. The park was dark and temperatures had dropped to freezing.
The puppy will stay in a special medical foster home for six weeks to heal up; then he’ll be ready for adoption. Salazar has expressed interest in taking him home.
Someone tied "Pluto's" mouth shut and left him to die. Investigators are searching for whoever abused and seriously injured the dog.
"It was awful. No dog should ever have to be treated like that," said Salazar.
He found the puppy inside a large shoe box.
"He was covered in feces and urine and a dirty, thin blanket that barely even covered him,” Salazar said.
Both of its front legs were broken at the elbows, and a piece of wire was wrapped around its muzzle.
"I realized that thing was on him pretty hard because it basically squeezed his mouth inward,” Salazar said.
Salazar walks his dog regularly in Kane Park. He said on Wednesday night, right before he found the puppy, Goofy pulled him away from their normal trail.
"He started to get a little more agitated, looking for something. ... I was surprised that he found him, and he deserves all the credit," said Salazar.
And it’s where Goofy sensed the box with the puppy was that makes the puppy’s survival story remarkable: six feet down in a ditch, on the bank of a small creek.
Salazar took the puppy home for the night, cut off the wire, bathed and fed him, and let his daughters give him some love. On Thursday morning, Salazar took the puppy to the Multnomah County Animal Shelter for help.
The shelter took the puppy to a local veterinarian’s office where the puppy had surgery to repair both of its broken legs.
"A difficult recovery if you're a three-month-old puppy with two broken front legs," said Mike Oswald, manager of the shelter. "This is a crime in Oregon, animal abuse."
There are, on average, 900 cases of animal abuse in Multnomah County every year. Oswald said that’s on par with other, similar-sized metro areas across the country.
Most of those cases are minor and include things such as not feeding animals or poor living conditions. Oswald said there are only a handful of cases, like this one, that investigators consider "extreme."
This is the second case of "extreme" dog abuse in Multnomah County in as many weeks. Oswald said investigators don't think the two cases are connected, primarily because of geography.
Two young girls found the first muzzled puppy, a Shih Tzu, lost and bleeding in North Portland Nov. 24.
He had a rubber band over his mouth and blood on his mouth and chest.
"I started to tear up a little because I’d never seen anything like this before," Savannah Graham, 13, said at the time. "It was really heartbreaking."
The Shih Tzu was treated at Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital, and was eventually adopted by Emma Sample, 14, the other teenager who took him to the hospital for treatment.
The puppy Salazar found has a good chance of living a full life, according to Oswald. He said the dog could be someone’s missing pet. Investigators are relying on the public to come forward with information about who the dog belongs to and why it was abused.
Oswald also said there’s always the chance that investigators won’t turn up anything; these cases are extremely challenging to figure out.
If the puppy’s owners aren’t located, Salazar is first on the list to adopt him.
"As soon as he's available, I'd like to turn it into a Cinderella story and keep him myself,” said Salazar.
Animal services would like to hear from members of the public who have information about either injured dog.
Officer Michelle Luckey can be reached at (503) 988-6238. Officer Jenny Kimmons can be reached at (503) 201-0067.