The rescuer, LaChrystal Ricke, is the founder and director of Reggie’s Friends, a rescue group in Houston Texas. She saw a heartbreaking photo of a dog sleeping outside on a dirty armchair. He immediately went to save him.
“He was out in a parking lot in this kind of not-so-nice part of town,” Ricke told The Dodo. “Someone posted that they went to the gas station and there was this skinny dog. I wanted to save him because it wasn’t a safe place”
As Ricke pulled into the gas station, she noticed that the sun had already set, leaving the area in complete darkness. She felt uneasy, as it was a sketchy part of town, but she couldn’t abandon the dog that needed her help. Aniken, as she had named him, was missing, and she refused to leave without him.
Despite the danger, Ricke searched for Aniken relentlessly. She called out his name and scanned the area with a flashlight, but he was nowhere to be found. Determined to find him, she posted on Facebook, hoping that her friends would come and help her.
Her heart was sad as she wrote, “Hey guys, can you come over here? I can’t find him. I’m going to leave him alone for the night because I’m sure he’s found a safe place.” It was tough to give up the search for the night, but Ricke knew she had to put Aniken’s safety first.
She drove home that night, with a heavy heart and a sense of defeat, hoping and praying that Aniken was indeed in a safe place.
The next morning, two volunteers returned to find him. “They started knocking on doors, asking people if they had seen him,” Ricke said. “But no one saw him, no one saw him. And then this healthy little female [stray dog] came along – I named her Tessa. He tries to get their attention and leads them back to this little shack in the back where people have thrown all kinds of rubbish – it’s car parts, food waste.”
Finally, they found it! “He was lying in that chair that you see in all the photos,” Ricke said.
When Ricke arrived at the gas station, she was relieved to see the other volunteers who had come to help. Her excitement grew as they searched for Aniken together. Eventually, they found him and decided to take him back to the rescue center along with Tessa.
Initially, Aniken appeared to be a typical malnourished street dog, but as they examined him more closely, they realized that his situation was much more dire than they had anticipated.
“We get home and he starts coming out of the cage and we start seeing these massive infected wounds,” Ricke said. “And they fester – they are still infected. My husband and I said, ‘Okay, we need to take him straight to the emergency vet.'”
Once he arrived at BluePearl Emergency Pet Hospital, they found even more problems with Aniken. He was covered in ticks that had fed to capacity. This put enormous strain on his organs. The medical team was also concerned about something else: Aniken had been used as a bait dog. In fact, his case was the worst they had ever seen! The poor dog had basically been used as a training target.
At first, Ricke wasn’t convinced that this was true. She claims the term is thrown around too often, but when the vet opened her mouth and showed her that virtually all of her teeth had been pulled out so she couldn’t bite back, she knew right then that this poor dog was a victim in more ways than one than one.
Aniken has scars upon scars upon wounds that won’t heal. The tick infestation made matters worse. It wasn’t clotting properly and the wounds that should be healing were badly infected.
“All these wounds that were festering, festering because someone sewed them up by hand.” Then if you consider all the scars on his face, you start putting it all together and there is no other answer – this was his life. It was a bait dog. The intention was for him not to live, basically, which is awful.”
Aniken had a long way to go. Because he had to stay at the medical center, one of the nurses there wanted him to feel as safe as possible, so she gave him a stuffed elephant to keep him company.
A dog who had nothing, who had been tortured and dumped, finally had a safe space and a teddy bear to keep him company. Aniken was by no means cured, but he understood that this stuffed elephant meant he could start forming bonds—and that his petty life would be forever behind him.
As Aniken began to heal, he ended up at a foster home. And guess who came with it! Yes, his stuffed elephant.
Nothing will be fair or easy for Aniken. No one can say for sure what dogs remember or what they leave behind forever. But what was certain was that Aniken’s days in dirty armchairs behind gas stations were over. His days of being used as a bait dog were over. The days of being abused and abandoned and never loved were over.