In the flatlands between Mill Basin and Marine Park, just before the avenue arrives at the golf course and Jamaica Bay, you’ll find VERG South, an emergency hospital for pets. Inside is a dog, which isn’t very surprising, this being a place for treating dogs and cats. Only this dog is famous.
The dog came to VERG—that’s Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group—in a roundabout way. First the dog arrived at a vaccine clinic, probably hosted at a PetCo; the story is fuzzy at the beginning. One thing is certain, and terrible: the dog had owners. They brought him to get shots, which they thought might cure him. He was clearly very, very sick. Shots wouldn’t fix him. A veterinarian at the clinic saw the dog that wasn’t so much a dog as it was a bag of bones and knew she needed to step in. So she called Sean Casey, who does animal rescue all over Brooklyn. He came by at the end of the day, saw the pitbull mutt, saw that it was in a bad way, and told the owners they needed to relinquish their dog, that is: give it up. It wasn’t hard to do. He just told them how much medical treatment the dog would need, and how expensive that would be, and how neglectful they had been. Casey took the dog from them and named him Louie.
Louie went from PetCo to Pet Haven, another clinic, where he lived for three days. While he was there, another veterinarian, Dr. Ford, took a picture of Louie and posted it to Facebook under which she wrote something like this is upsetting, people are terrible. Brett Levitzke, the medical director at VERG, saw the post and pictures of the dog and got really upset too. Levitzke has a springer spaniel named Toby and a cat named Broccoli. He got so upset at the pictures of Louie (emaciated, pockmarked, pitiful) he decided to take on the case, the case being Louie. That’s how Louie came to VERG South out near Jamaica Bay.
What you have to worry about with a dog that’s been starving all its life is the the same thing you worry about with a starving human—a problem called refeeding syndrome. The patient’s body cannot process the sudden influx of food, becomes overwhelmed, and the patient dies. So the team at VERG had to be careful about how to go about feeding Louie. This wasn’t a problem on Louie’s end. His teeth were broken (from trying to eat rocks, most likely), he had worms, he wouldn’t drink, and he couldn’t lift his head, much less walk. He was just in rough, rough shape, everyone recalled. But the thing about this dog in particular was that he was so, so trusting. They had no idea what his past life might have been like, what abuse he suffered, but his eyes stayed bright and alert all the way through. You could tell by his eyes he knew what was going on, but he couldn’t move, could barely lift a paw, much less his whole head. He was maybe 10 months, a year old at most.