When Colette came into a shelter earlier this month, her body was covered with infected bite wounds and she was weak from years of being kept in a cage so small she couldn’t stand upright.
Her lower jaw was broken, and it had been like that for at least a few years — an old injury from her life as a bait dog. She trembled in fear in the presence of people and other dogs, because the only life she knew was a dogfighting ring.
Warning: Mildly graphic photos below.
But still, Colette couldn’t stop showing how thankful she was to finally be safe.
The 4-year-old pit bull was brought into a South Carolina animal shelter earlier this month after someone driving saw her wandering along the side of the road. She was in a completely rural area with no other homes around — so rescuers believe she was driven out there and dumped.
Luckily, Colette made it into the hands of a shelter who didn’t want to stop at just taking her in. Seeing all the signs of having been in a dogfighting ring, the rescuers went to police to file a report and try to find the person responsible for Colette’s horrible injuries. An investigation into the dogfighting ring is currently ongoing, so the shelter and exact location can’t be named.
Seeing pictures of Colette online — and knowing the unique challenges that ex-bait dogs can face in shelters — Second Chance Rescue in New York City instantly stepped in to volunteer to pay for all her medical care and to coordinate her adoption once she’s back in good health. From states away, the rescue’s president, Jennifer Brooks, has been in touch daily with Colette’s rescuers to follow her progress.
“She has captured the hearts of everyone at the shelter — they all think she’s absolutely precious,” Brooks told The Dodo. “She has warmed up to people, too. There’s a volunteer there who visits her every day and brings her a hamburger, so of course Colette is very bonded with her.”
According to Brooks, dogfighters will use passive dogs like Colette to train their dogs how to fight to the death. Offenders will typically use duct tape or barbed wire to force the bait dog’s mouth shut so they cannot defend themselves from the attack. Brooks said this is likely what broke Colette’s jaw a few years ago, and she had been living with the injury ever since.
If the bait dogs make it out of the violent attacks alive, they are consistently used again for the same cruel purpose. In Colette’s case, her previous owner also bred her, and she gave birth to at least four litters of puppies in her life, Brooks said. Between thinking about the constant physical abuse Colette endured and the use of her body for however many puppies she could produce, Brooks said she “just cries” whenever she shares an update about the dog on the rescue’s Facebook page.
“This dog never knew a warm moment in her life,” Brooks said. “My range of emotions goes from anger to deep, dark sadness to ugly-face crying over her. I picture in my head what she went through over and over again.”
Bait dog survivors typically struggle with reactivity toward other dogs and sometimes need rehabilitation to become more trusting of people and other dogs. However, Colette is the exact opposite; after becoming comfortable in her new environment, Brooks said, she has been very loving toward people and dogs that she meets.
“Colette is the fourth bait dog we’ve ever had — and she’s the first one who is not dog reactive,” Brooks said. “The fact that she can walk past other dogs and not lunge at them is so great. She just continues to show us how forgiving and sweet she really is.”
So far, Colette has undergone surgery to repair her broken jaw and is getting stronger each day. In the coming weeks, she will be spayed and treated for heartworms and the many wounds scattered across her body. Then, she will eventually be ready for a trip into New York.
But instead of going to another shelter, Colette will be going to her forever home.
“We’re so lucky to have been flooded with applications to adopt Colette,” Brooks said. “Her story touched so many hearts — she is really going to be a wonderful companion for her new family. We’ve already chosen them and are so excited to tell them the good news.”
While the investigation is still ongoing, Brooks said, she anticipates the day when the case is over and she can finally announce the identities of the kind shelter workers who took Colette in and took the first steps toward getting the dog the justice she deserves.
“We will let you all know exactly where this took place, who the amazing shelter is and who Colette’s angels are, one of whom I speak with every day,” Brooks said. “Every scar on Colette, every broken tooth in her mouth is a timeline map of everything she has endured. We’re making sure this girl gets everything she needs until she finally goes home to her castle.”