PLANT CITY — In two years on the job, Animal Control Officer Rodger Parker had never seen such a traumatic injury to an animal.
He got the call at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. Workers at Mosaic Fertilizer reported seeing a dog with a missing leg.
At the plant near County Road 39 and State Road 60, a Mosaic employee said that workers first spotted the injured dog Tuesday, then lost sight of it.
Parker found it with little effort. An adult female German shepherd mix lay motionless near a retention pond.
Though no one had seen what happened, Parker had little doubt how it had occurred.
"That area is full of old, swampy pits," he said. "Gators love to hang out there."
Nothing but bone remained of the dog's right front leg, a condition veterinarians call "degloved." Parker, 23, squatted several feet away — not too close, even though he thought the dog was dead — and muttered to himself.
Then the unexpected happened. The dog opened its eyes. It looked Parker in the face. "It was the saddest, most pathetic look I have ever seen."
The dog climbed to its three remaining feet, limped over to him, and rested its head on his thigh.
"I almost teared up," Parker said. "There was no chance of not getting attached at that point."
He loaded the dog on a stretcher and raced back to Animal Services. The dog's prospects were not good. It had lost blood. Infection had begun to set in.
Even if the dog survived, Animal Services lacks the resources to operate on severely injured strays, said Terrie DiSalvo, who manages volunteers. And on Wednesday, any available veterinarians were examining scores of dogs, cats and goats seized from a Seffner breeding farm.
The dog that escaped an alligator would likely be euthanized.
Parker found DiSalvo and told her about the dog in his van. He asked if there were some way to help.
"You could just see the pleading in his eyes," DiSalvo said. "He didn't want to hear 'no,' but he would have had to accept it."
DiSalvo called Tampa businessman Bob Reina, asking if he could pay a private clinic for the amputation the dog would need.
On Thursday, veterinarians at Florida Veterinary Services removed the dog's leg at the shoulder. Clinic workers have nicknamed the dog "Bindi," after the daughter of the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. Bindi is recovering and doing well, said Cari Sadler of the clinic.
Bindi will go back to Animal Services, where an owner can claim her or she can be adopted.
In finding a private donor and saving the dog, DiSalvo said she knew she was straining protocol. But Thursday, she was just thinking about the moment she knew the dog would make it to a clinic.
"Rodger and I looked at each other," she said. "And it was like, 'Now we know why we came to work today.' "
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (813) 661-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.