(ran South edition)
Three weeks ago on Sunday at 5:30 a.m., a Labrador mix named Boo walked outside her owners' home on four legs. She came back home Thursday with three.
Human cruelty maimed her. Human kindness saved her life.
Boo, who is owned by Jay and Diane Chesnutt, was shot in the right shoulder as she walked in the Chesnutts' fenced yard in the Child's Park neighborhood.
"I let her out while I was getting up," said Diane Chesnutt. "I heard her barking and went for the door. Then I heard the shot."
After the attack that morning, the Chesnutts took Boo to the Animal Emergency Clinic where Dr. Aimee Wade removed the bullet that had lodged in soft tissue just below Boo's heart. X-rays revealed a shattered humerus. The leg could have been pinned, said Wade, but because of extensive injury to the bone, success was questionable. The recommended treatment was amputation of the leg.
The Chesnutts had spent more than $500 in emergency treatment, a significant amount since he is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer and collects disability payments and she is a prep cook at Leverock's Seafood House on St. Pete Beach.
"We were told that the surgery would cost another $1,000," Diane Chesnutt said. "We just didn't have any more money. We were going to have to put her to sleep."
At that point, Wade and Dr. Mac McGlamery, who owns Park Animal Hospital where Boo is a regular patient, intervened.
"They called the SPCA and told them about our problem, and the SPCA paid the entire bill," Diane Chesnutt said.
That bill, along with many others for emergency animal medical treatment in this area, was paid with funds from the Crisis Care Program of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pinellas County.
The program was started five years ago, said SPCA executive director Beth Lockwood, "for people that have been responsible pet owners and have an emergency medical need."
The program is funded through donations and proceeds from fund-raisers. One charity event this month raised more than $25,000.
When the agency receives a request, applicants are required to show proof of income and demonstrate that an effort has been made to keep pets current on vaccinations, Lockwood said.
Boo's assailant has not been caught.
"We suspect it was a burglar who was in the back yard, maybe trying to steal something from our tool shed and Boo surprised the person," Diane Chesnutt said.
For information about the SPCA, call 586-3591.