PITTSBURGH — Behind every great dog story is an owner, and in the case of an injured, underweight mutt rescued this week from a garbage-can prison in a vacant lot, that owner is Peter Kreuthmeier.
Without the intervention of Kreuthmeier, who dialed animal control officers upon spotting a canine nose pop out of a chewed-through hole in a trash can with a firmly snapped-on lid, who knows where the imperiled pooch would be today.
Staff at the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center in East Liberty, Pa., think someone either left a collar on the dog since it was a puppy or purposely placed a too-small collar on him, leading it to become embedded in his flesh and causing an awful-looking ring of gashes around his neck.
"It was a sickening sight," Kreuthmeier said Wednesday.
"For it to start to rub into the skin and break open the skin, our vets are estimating about two weeks that the dog was in this situation," Dan Rossi, the shelter’s executive director, said. "Obviously, somebody meant to throw this dog away."
Kreuthmeier modestly deflected all attention to his own dog, Zeke, because he was the one who fixated on the trash can and drew his owner’s attention.
Kreuthmeier, 50, an architect, was probably only half-kidding when he said, "Your headline can be, like, ’Rescue dog rescues dog.’ "
But that’s exactly what happened.
Zeke, who came from a shelter himself, was happily bouncing along with Kreuthmeier to the office of Loysen and Kreuthmeier Architects around lunchtime when he caught a scent too interesting to pass up.
"This garbage can was brown plastic, laying on its side, and my dog, Zeke, was insistent on checking it out," Kreuthmeier said. "You wouldn’t give it a second thought."
But a dog would.
"Zeke went up to it. He was sniffing and sniffing and pretty soon this dog nose pops out of a hole in the bottom of the garbage can. And then you hear this ’thumpthumpthumpthump’ from the bottom of the can like he was wagging his tail."
Kreuthmeier called Pittsburgh’s Animal Care & Control Bureau. Workers swiftly arrived and removed the dog from the can.
His fur was matted. Chewing gum stuck to him. He had fleas. And those cuts looked ghastly. No collar or tags could be found.
The dog, likely a terrier-poodle mix about 3 or 4 years old, was brought to the shelter. He weighed in at 12 pounds, several pounds under his expected healthy weight, but he was not dehydrated.
Workers shaved him, cleaned the wounds and treated him with antibiotics for a mild infection. He will have to be neutered. The shelter anticipates that the gash will heal on its own without requiring stitches.
"It’s certainly a serious injury but it wasn’t at this point life-threatening," Rossi said.
Despite his injuries, the dog is happy, playful and friendly. He even wagged his tail when he came to the shelter and did not put up any fight when being handled.