By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
— Everyone loves an underdog.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been following the story of Phoenix, the Jack Russell terrier pup who was lit on fire late last month and left to die on Buffalo’s East Side, only to be rescued and started along the road to recovery thanks to observant neighbors, City of Buffalo Animal Shelter and the Buffalo Small Animal Hospital.
I’m not alone, judging by the frequency with which the puppy’s resilient little face, bandaged and bundled and missing most of his ears, keeps popping up on my Facebook feed and news searches. Everyone loves Phoenix. Everyone wants to help. And everyone wants the people who did this to be brought to justice. (Two Buffalo teenagers were arrested in the crime Tuesday and each charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals.)
That’s hardly surprising. It’s a story made to pull in public emotion, from the righteous fury at people who could do this to a tiny puppy; sympathy for the pup, who seems so chipper despite his wounds, and amazement at the fact that, despite the awful burns, Phoenix really does seem to be on the road to recovery.
Buffalo media outlets have reported that thousands of dollars in donations for his care have poured into the shelter and there have been countless offers of adoption. A look at the shelter’s Facebook page shows well-wishes, adoption inquires and donation offers from Western New Yorkers and even throughout the country.
And that’s great.
I hope Phoenix finds a wonderful home, a fantastic home, an owner who loves him and babies him and makes sure he never knows another day of fear, want or need ever in his life. I hope that very sincerely.
But then I look around the Phoenix updates on the Facebook page of the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, or those back before he entered the headlines and WNY hearts.
The day before the Phoenix story broke, Diesel, a shepherd mix, peers up from a photo. According to the description, he was surrendered when his owner could no longer afford to care for him, and came in with a bad case of tape worm, which the shelter treated. His dark-brown face and perked ears have that vaguely hopeful look dogs do so well, and I can’t help but hope he found a home.
The photos and the names and the descriptions continue, dogs and cats alike. Cricket. Autumn. Silver. Kipofu. Palmer. Holly. Melville. Midnight. Crystal. Duke. Lily. Sebastian. Tyler. Cassie. Elvis. Milton. Shamus. Lenny. Diva. Mournful-looking shepherds and wide-eyed tabbies and even another Jack Russell terrier, an older, unscarred version of the pup that drew so much attention.
Go over to the page for the SPCA Serving Erie County; it’s the same. Max. KitKat. Titus. Twitch. Arlee. Abbie Rose. Pit bulls and dachshunds and domestic shorthairs and calicos. No less in need of their own happily-ever-after than one Jack Russell puppy.
I hope Phoenix gets that wonderful ending to his tale, the good home he deserves so much. And then I hope that all those who’ve followed his sad story and his recovery use some of that sympathy and compassion and consider opening their homes and hearts to another of the area’s homeless pets, whether another pup, or an older dog, or a kitten or cat.
Because, in the end, they’re all underdogs.
Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.