- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Angel has a new name, a new home and a bright new future.

Angel, whose new name is Stitch, is a happy and energetic 9-month-old pit bull/blue heeler mix puppy. She loves to play fetch and tug of war.

Now called Stitch, she’s far different from how she was in March. She had suffered critical injuries that her rescuer said happened at the hands of her abuser.

Her injuries required four surgeries performed by Dr. Tiffany Healy, a Cheyenne veterinarian. The dog spent several weeks in recovery at Black Dog Animal Rescue’s headquarters in Cheyenne. Black Dog is the largest animal rescue in Wyoming and places dogs with new families.

Veterinarians thought they were going to have to amputate one the puppy’s back legs because of an injury.

But she began using the leg, which made the surgery unnecessary.

Hers is a story that could have ended in tragedy, but instead is the start of a happy beginning.

Eric and Meredith Bickell and son Jaden, 16, of Cheyenne officially adopted Stitch on May 31. The couple came to the Black Dog office to sign the papers and pay the adoption fee.

The Bickells have been her foster family for the last few months. Meredith Bickell serves on the nonprofit group’s board of directors.

When she saw the wounded puppy for the first time, she said her heart was hurt.

“Her skull was broken, and her face and head were deformed. Her face was swollen,” she said.

“We counted 20 broken bones in various stage of healing,” Brittney Wallesch, executive director of Black Dog Animal Rescue, said of the dog’s condition. She also had a seroma, or a large swollen mass, on her neck from which fluid had to be drained.

Wallesch noticed the deep bond between Meredith Bickell and the dog, and asked the Bickells if they’d like to take the dog home for fostering. They agreed and reported back for frequent doctor visits to Healy’s office. The dog needed 24-hour monitoring in those first few weeks after the surgeries.

The deep bond between Meredith Bickell and the dog continues. “Everybody tells me that she’s mine. She follows me and never leaves my side,” Meredith Bickell said.

Wallesch praised the dog’s remarkable recovery. “She is a phenomenal, inexplicably bright dog. There is just something uniquely great and wonderful about this dog.

“She has survived a tremendous lot with an amazing resiliency during all of this. I have no explanation for why this dog is the way she is,” Wallesch said.

The Bickells have three other dogs at home, and they get along well.

They changed Angel’s name to Stitch because it suits her, Eric Bickell said.

“When she came to us, she had so many stitches. She’s like the cartoon character Stitch of ‘Lilo and Stitch’ fame; she has a crooked smile and looks like Stitch,” he said.

She remains happy and playful after all she’s been through, Eric Bickell said. “Anywhere we take her, she loves everyone.”

Joshua Kelch of Cheyenne pleaded guilty May 10 in Laramie County Circuit Court to one count of failure to provide an animal with food, drink or protection. He was born in 1992.

Laramie County Circuit Court Judge Denise Nau sentenced him to 40 days in jail. He had already been in jail for that long while awaiting trial, so she sentenced him to time served for the misdemeanor charge.

Laramie County Assistant District Attorney Joshua Taylor argued for the maximum sentence of 180 days.

“We took this very seriously,” Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said. “I think this case is a really good example of why our Legislature needs to address the animal abuse laws.”

The state Legislature only provides a six-month sentence for an offender in such a case, he said. But he would like to see a felony charge available in cases like this.

The new law passed in the last legislative session only allows prosecutors to bring a felony charge if the animal died.

“If the animal survives, it is a misdemeanor,” Sandburg said.

Wallesch wants Stitch’s story to help make people more aware of animal abuse.

“What we are hopeful we’ll be able to do is to continue taking her around and telling her story and keeping the subject of animal cruelty at the top of people’s minds,” Wallesch said.

“Wyoming has really weak animal protection laws. There is very little consequence for what happened to her, and there is very little to deter people from mistreating animals, especially companion animals,” she said.

“We hope maybe enough people will care about her and her story and continue to help other animals in the future.”

___

Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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