The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Pit bull on receiving end of an attack
BY JEFF BRANSCOME
Alex Baliles was at work in Winchester last week when he received an email about a pit bull with severe burns.
So he dropped what he was doing and drove to the Spotsylvania County animal shelter to assess the dog’s injuries.
The pit bull was lying in a kennel with raw, red tissue on his back from neck to tail. The dog looked up at Baliles as if to say, “I’m hurting. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Baliles took a lamb-and-salmon-flavored treat from his pocket and held it toward the pit bull. The dog sniffed his hand, looked into his eyes and accepted the food.
“That’s when I opened up the door and said, ‘You’re coming home with me,’” Baliles, 35, recalled.
He and his wife, Cari, have fostered several pit bulls for Bully Paws Pit Bull Patriots, a Fredericksburg-based nonprofit that finds homes for abandoned pit bulls. Baliles is known as the guy who takes on some of the most severe cases, like the emaciated pit bull who needed to pack on 35 pounds.
But he said the pit bull he picked up last week has the worst injuries he’s dealt with.
He named him Django, after the late jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Baliles was surprised to learn later that the dog’s namesake also suffered severe burns.
“Once you’re around him for a little bit, he is the sweetest dog,” said Baliles, who lives in Culpeper County.
Django, who was wearing a T–shirt to cover his burns during a recent visit to Yowell Meadow Park in the town of Culpeper, even licked a Free Lance–Star reporter on the cheek after some initial wariness.
The black pit bull weighs 68 pounds—4 pounds more than when Baliles first got him. Django has tested positive for heartworm and will need injections for that condition after his burns heal, Baliles said.
Spotsylvania Animal Control picked up the stray dog last week near Guinea Station Road after a resident found Django sleeping by a tractor.
An animal shelter employee notified a Bully Paws foster coordinator, who emailed Baliles and other pit bull lovers.
The Humane Society of the United States hopes to offer a reward of $2,500 to $5,000 for information in Django’s case, said Laura Donahue, Virginia director of the Humane Society. A Warrenton veterinarian who examined Django sent a letter to the Humane Society on Friday saying the dog’s injuries are compatible with chemical or mechanical burns.
“I suspect the dog was either a victim of abuse or neglect (or both),” the vet wrote.
Spotsylvania Animal Control Director William Tydings must sign off on the Humane Society’s reward, Donahue said.
“We hope that the department will move forward with an investigation and accept our reward,” she said, noting that Django’s injuries appear similar to other cases of animal cruelty.
Tydings was out of the office on Friday. He told The Free Lance–Star earlier this week that he wanted third-party confirmation that Django’s injuries were not accidental.
Barbara Donegan, a Bully Paws board member who lives in Spotsylvania, said she hears about dog attacks all the time. “You don’t hear too much about when it happens the other way,” she said.
Many consider pit bulls a dangerous breed as evidenced by a ruling this year by Maryland’s highest court labeling the dogs inherently dangerous.
Baliles said he had somewhat of a pit bull bias until he adopted Tilla about five years ago. He recalls walking Tilla in a nearby park, where a lady told him to keep his pit bull away from her and her dog.
That offended him.
“My goal at that point was to make him a breed ambassador,” Baliles said.
He has a bumper sticker on his truck that reads, “Ban bad breeders.”
It’s been more than a week since he picked up Django, who is doing pretty well considering the circumstances.
Django is staying in a basement with some old couches and a TV. Baliles calls it his man cave/rehab center.
He said he sleeps on a couch with the pit bull to make sure Django doesn’t scratch his wounds. On the first night, Django slept with his muzzle on his foster dad’s chest.
Django is receiving laser treatments three days a week to increase blood circulation in his wounds. He’s on antibiotics and painkillers and eats dog food with extra protein and vitamins.
Baliles has to clean and apply petroleum jelly or cream to Django’s burns six times a day.
And every other day, he has to scrub the dog’s burns to help with blood flow. Django whimpers but doesn’t put up a fight, Baliles said.
“His wounds are coming along really well,” he said. Bully paws has raised almost $6,000 in online donations for his medical expenses.
Django will be kept away from his temporary home’s four pit bulls—one of whom is also a foster—and two pugs for the time being.
Baliles is optimistic Django will find a home after he recovers.
“He’s going to have such a story behind him, and he’s going to be such an appreciative dog that somebody will take him in,” he said. “He’ll have a scar, but guys need some scars.”
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
WANT TO HELP?
To donate money for Django’s medical expenses, visit: firstgiv ing.com/fundraiser/barbara-done gan/helpforburnedpitbulldjango. Bully Paws also collects general donations on its website, bully paws.org.