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Miniature dog's plight opens hearts in Phoenix

By Scott Craven

The Arizona Republic

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 12:06 a.m. MST

Andre, a tiny miniature pinchser that lost both of his eyes, is seen in Phoenix on Feb. 15, 2012. Sandy Powers and Annie Belatti adopted Andre. They are nursing the dog back to health.

The Arizona Republic, Pat Shannahan) MAGS OUT; NO SALES, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

PHOENIX — To get through the beginning, you need to know how it ends.

Happily.

And it went through a chain of Arizona generosity that stretched from Tolleson to Phoenix to Scottsdale to Paradise Valley to Fountain Hills to the online community and back, providing food, water, transportation, surgery and $17,000 worth of hope.

All of it inspired by one tiny dog.

It started Jan. 3, as Cedric Conwright was on his daily afternoon walk not far from his Tolleson home. Little of note ever happens on his usual route, except on this particular Tuesday, when a car slowed and pulled to the side just ahead. Conwright saw something thrown from the car's window into a field, and then watched as the car drove away.

As he got closer, Conwright saw a black trash bag, knotted at the top. He started to walk by, but then the sack moved. He approached it slowly.

"I thought maybe it was a snake," Conwright said. He nudged it with his foot and heard a whimper.

"I thought it sounded like a dog," Conwright said. "But who would do that to a dog?"

Ripping open the bag, he found a small, injured dog curled up inside. It was alive, but Conwright wondered how that was possible as he looked more closely.

"His eyes were closed and covered in slime," Conwright said. "He was really thin, too. I couldn't believe he wasn't dead."

Gently picking up the dog, Conwright carried him home, set him down on the floor and gave him food and water. He was surprised that the dog stood and was able to eat and drink.

For the next two days, Conwright cared for the little dog, but it became apparent that there was something wrong with his eyes.

"I knew he couldn't see, because he kept bumping into stuff," Conwright said. "He needed more help than I could give him."

On Jan. 5, Conwright called Maricopa County Animal Care and Control for help, and it took the dog in. Shelter workers considered euthanasia because of the dog's severe injuries, but they hesitated because he was able to walk and eat. Maybe there was a chance.

The eyes were beyond saving and were removed in surgery.

Despite the odds, the 4-year-old (or so) miniature pinscher persevered. After another two weeks, Animal Care and Control officials notified Valley rescue agencies that a special-needs dog was available for fostering. But he would need more medical care, and there were still hurdles ahead.

Among those responding to the call was the Feathers Foundation, a Paradise Valley nonprofit specializing in the care of injured and neglected animals.

On Jan. 20, Susy Hopkins, a Feathers Foundation member who had heard the dog's story and wanted to foster him, waited in a north Scottsdale parking lot for the volunteer bringing him from the Animal Care and Control shelter.

Hopkins feared the worst. But even so, she was not prepared for what she saw. The dog was smaller and thinner than she imagined. Fluid leaked from his eye sockets.

"I just couldn't believe this dog was alive," Hopkins said. "He was a skeleton. Green and yellow liquid was draining down his face."

Hopkins put the dog in her car and then stopped at McDowell Mountain Animal Hospital in Scottsdale. Though she had little money at her disposal, Hopkins asked the staff if they would see Andre — the name the volunteer who transported him had given the dog — with only the promise of payment.

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