Dozens gather for airport sendoff as Radar’s recovery continues
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Slobbering kisses on the faces of his handlers as his tail wagged furiously, the pit bull terrier bore no resemblance to the bloodied animal left for dead in a roadside ravine slightly more than a year ago.
Monday morning, several dozen people instrumental in facilitating Radar’s transformation gathered at the Chester County SPCA to bid him farewell. For his part, Radar reveled in the attention.
Rich Britton, a spokesman for the Chester County SPCA, said the dog’s recovery to date spotlighted the power of compassionate collaboration. He said hundreds of people contributed to Radar’s second chance – from members of the public who made monetary donations to the veterinarians who donated services to volunteers who managed his daily care.
Caln Township Police Officer Joseph Carboni said when he found the dog lying on the side of Fisherville Road on Feb. 6, 2012, he was “heartbroken.” The dog’s massive injuries suggested he had been hit by a car, Carboni said, adding that he called the Chester County SPCA.
Minutes later, Chester County SPCA Animal Protective Services Officer Craig Baxter arrived, initiating a bond that would continue to intensify. Baxter said in nearly a decade of animal advocacy, he had never seen a dog so injured and emaciated. “I felt so sorry for him,” he said.
Baxter rushed the dog to the West Chester Veterinary Medical Center, where Dr. Scott Humphries performed life-saving treatment for myriad injuries, which included multiple puncture wounds to Radar’s face and legs and a muzzle swollen to twice its normal size. Humphries said the injuries resulted from dog fighting.
Radar, estimated to be between 2 and 3 years old, had been employed a “bait dog,” Baxter said. He explained that Radar would have been tied to a tree so the more aggressive dogs could practice attacking. Then, when Radar outlived his usefulness, “he was thrown out like trash,” Baxter said.
Britton said Radar continued to need more treatment, such as the tibial crest transposition surgery performed by Dr. Willi Weichelt to correct a dislocated knee, which enabled Radar to walk properly. The dog received convalescent care at the Applebrook Inn Pet Resort, but his rehabilitation still had one step remaining, said Britton.
Because of his dog-fighting background, Britton said the Chester County SPCA wanted to ensure that his recovery included extended behavioral training. Britton said he reached out to Kristen Torchia, who had a connection to an Ohio trainer.
Torchia said she became involved in championing pit bulls after a school superintendent banned her therapy dog from an elementary school primarily because of its breed. She said Chuck Stella, a canine behaviorist and trainer in North Ridgeville, agreed to take Radar. Then Matt Kiener, a flight instructor who volunteers for Pilots N Paws, a pet rescue organization, stepped in to provide transportation.
“The unluckiest dog in the world has become the luckiest,” said Britton, expressing gratitude to the many people who assisted. “This is a very joyful and emotional time for all of us as we see Radar take flight to a new life.”
Mixed emotions could be seen on the tearful faces surrounding Radar as he received last-minute hugs on the tarmac at Brandywine Airport before entering his crate for the plane ride. Some were already making plans to visit Stella’s K911 Elite facility in Ohio.
Mike Dempsey, operations manager for the Chester County SPCA, said Radar’s progress so far suggests that he will likely be adopted in Ohio after a training regimen. “We’re optimistic,” he said.
For Baxter – at the dog’s side since the beginning – a visit to Ohio was already on his radar. “I’m definitely going. I don’t think it’s totally set in yet that he’s leaving,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m really going to miss him.”
Although Radar’s name was prompted by his soulful eyes, his plight put dog-fighting on the radar of law-enforcement, and his recovery put the need for donations on the public’s radar.
Founded in 1929, the Chester County SPCA (CCSPCA) is an open access shelter. An independent nonprofit that does not receive county, state, or federal tax funding, the CCSPCA is supported through voluntary contributions and fund-raising events such as Walk for Paws. Britton said the Chester County SPCA Rescue and Recovery Fund, established for Radar, would continue to operate. For more information, visit www.ccspca.org.