There is much about life and human behavior I don't know and certainly don't understand. And this is one of those moments. I'm just plain, flat-out stuck.
Like many other large urban areas, Hillsborough County sees an awful lot of terrible things happen. Shootings, sexual assaults, child abuse. On a scale of being shocked, offended, bewildered, where to begin?
Maybe Ne Ne is not a bad place to start.
Considering the nature of her work, when Hillsborough County Animal Services investigator Pat Perry said that what happened to Ne Ne was the worst case of animal neglect she had ever seen, it's a fairly unnerving commentary on the darkness that lingers in the hearts of some people.
The worst case she had ever seen? An investigator who makes her living seeing this sort of stuff? That's saying something. And it's not good.
When she was found and rescued, Ne Ne, the 6-to-8-month-old pit bull puppy, had been left for weeks in an overgrown back yard without food or water. The dog had lost most of her hair. Her body was covered in a painful skin infection. Welts covered her head.
The mere fact that this young lady was still alive is a testament to the hardiness of the breed and yes, perhaps that intangible, innate desire to survive.
I'm probably pretty dense, but what I simply don't understand is: Why? Why would anyone treat an animal like this, unless, of course, one were even a lower life form than the creature being so abused here?
Why would anyone take a dog into his life, only to consign the animal to a literal torture chamber? Look, I understand pit bulls are cruelly trained to engage in dogfighting. But what good would an emaciated, starved, infected Ne Ne be for even the most heartless of sports run by the most gutless of people?
So it makes no sense to me.
Because pit bulls are the hound of choice for dogfighting operations, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that 250,000 are maimed or killed every year, making the breed the most-abused canine in the country. But hardly the only one.
Fourteen years ago, we adopted Lizzie from Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida. She was about a year old and had spent the first months of her life ignored, neglected and tied to a tree. Tied to a tree.
How could anyone take a golden retriever puppy, which is about as adorable an animal as God ever created, and tie it to a tree? But someone did.
A few years later, we adopted Gracie, a beautiful, loving, gentle (albeit dumber than a sack of anvils) goldendoodle from the same rescue group. Her previous owner was going to put her down after she sustained a hairline break in her pelvis after getting hit by a car, an injury that simply requires keeping the dog relatively inactive for a couple of weeks.
They couldn't be bothered. But we could.
Now in the care of Hillsborough County Animal Services, Ne Ne is on the road to recovery from her ordeal. At least she has a chance. After all, most (but sadly not all) of the pit bulls confiscated from football player Michael Vick's dogfighting operation were able to be rehabilitated and placed in caring homes.
In the meantime, Alix Andrew Dontfraid, 29, and Talisa Williams, 33, have been charged with felony animal cruelty. Because this is a family newspaper, I cannot suggest a proper punishment if they are convicted. Ne Ne might have some thoughts on the issue, too.
For the moment, the almost-lost Ne Ne is getting what she needs the most — a warm hug, a delightful chewy and a chance to simply be a dog.