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Sanibel family helping starved dog recover

By Staff | Oct 22, 2009

Lilly is an American bull dog who seems to be living a canine version of the American Dream.

She lives with a family that dotes on her and call her their “special girl”. She chows down on homemade meals prepared with venison and calf liver, brown rice and peas. And she sleeps like a princess on a roomy, fluffy soft bed in a room lined with wide windows displaying views of swaying palm trees, a bright blue sky and the occasional fluttering dragon fly.

Lilly must have think she died and went to heaven.

Well in a sense she did.

It was a mere two weeks ago that Lilly’s life was anything but dreamy or idyllic.

The about five-year-old dog was rescued by Lee County Domestic Animal Services after being found to be emaciated and chained up outside at the home of North Fort Myers resident Eugene Hoppe.

LCDAS Officers confiscated Lilly, who was infested with fleas and unable to walk without stumbling, according to a press report. Hoppe acknowledged that during the five years he owned Lilly she had not been to a veterinarian or received any preventive care.

He was charged with Third Degree Felony Animal Cruelty under Florida State Statute 828.12 Section 2 punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Ria Brown, public information officer for LCDAS, said their veterinarian, Dr. Christopher Taylor, found Lilly to be in a severe state of anemia due to massive flea infestation. The fleas numbered in the hundreds of thousands and were actually too numerous to even estimate, Brown said.

“Lilly had lost two-thirds of her red blood cells,” Brown said. “On a body score scale of one to 10 with one being the worst body condition and 10 being an obese dog, Lilly was a one.”

After Lilly stabilized, she was transferred to Belen Brisco’s Sanibel home to recuperate. There the chipper Texan woman with a soft drawl caters to Lilly’s every need. Brisco and her John coo and cuddle with the jowly American bulldog.

The couple and their adult daughter Aerica lavish love and food on Lilly. She eats homemade meals consisting of dry kibble, liver, sweet potatoes and vegetables. She has since put on more than 10 pounds on her skeletal frame.

“I don’t know how she tolerated it so long,” Belen Brisco said.

Though her ribs protrude from her sparse fur, it’s not hard to tell Lilly is on the mend and fighting to be a healthy, happy dog.

“When she first came here she didn’t do anything but sit,” John Brisco said.

She is being fed a special diet to put on weight plus vitamins and iron, Brown said. Lilly is also heartworm positive but her treatment for that will have to wait until she is in better condition.

In the mean time the Briscos’ have made room in their spacious home for Lilly. They also own five border collies ranging from three to six years old. The exuberant border collies, though are kept in a different wing of the house until Lilly is strong enough to play with them, Belen Brisco said.

“I am just praying every day she gets stronger,” she said.

Belen Brisco is the Southwest Florida representative for the national non-profit agency Dogs Deserve Better. The organization helps free dogs chained up outside – often living in deplorable conditions.

She works with LCDAS in helping foster dogs like Lilly that need to recover when found living in these conditions. She also works to get the message out and save other dogs from a plight like Lilly’s.

“Having good foster homes such as the one provided by Belen Brisco of Dogs Deserve Better is critical in the successful treatment of the cruelty case pets we confiscate from abusive and neglectful owners,” Brown said. “Thankfully we have dedicated foster families who are able to provide a round-the-clock home environment which is critical to these pets’ rehabilitation.”

The Briscos’ smiled and looked on with wide eyes during one of Lilly’s recent feedings. They shook their heads as Lilly gobbled down morsels of green peas and meat. After what seemed like seconds, the bowl was licked clean except for one lone pea which in another nanosecond Lilly scoffed up too.

“There’s a dog in there,” Belen Brisco said. “She’s just a sweet girl.”

Anyone who would like to help Lilly or other victims of animal cruelty may send their donation to the Animal Care Trust Fund at 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33912. Information about the Animal Care Trust Fund, Community Pet Pantry, and how to adopt a homeless pet is available at www.LeeLostPets.com.

To learn more about Dogs Deserve Better go to www.dogsdeservebetter.org or call Belen Brisco at 247-2080.