STANTON — It was sometime around last Christmas that neighbors living along Horseshoe Trail in Stanton first spotted Sgt. Trace pacing along the wood’s edge bordering their properties.
The German shepherd seemed friendly but standoffish, even at first. When approached, the dog would vanish into the woods.
Though the dog sported a collar it was apparent to some residents, like Rachel Van Zoest, that the shepherd was in a bad way. Burrs netted the lank fur hanging from his emaciated frame and he had obviously grown wary of people. In the months that followed, Van Zoest would occasionally spot Sgt. Trace and try to coax him into her yard where he could be corralled long enough to leash him and get him the assistance he needed. The dog was too skittish, however, and even animal control officers were unable to capture him.
And then someone — police are still trying to find out whom — shot the dog twice and left him to die. The shoulder bones of one front leg were completely shattered, as was the knee of the same leg. Despite this, Sgt. Trace managed to stay alive in the woods for days, maybe weeks.
By the time the dog was finally near death the wound had begun to heal. It was March 17, a Saturday, when Sgt. Trace came to ground against the back of Van Zoest’s home.
“He had been coming closer to the house every day for a while,” Van Zoest said. “Then I didn’t see him for a couple days. And then one day he was lying there next to the house and just couldn’t get up. I was sure he was going to die. His entire shoulder and the bones around it were completely shattered.”
Van Zoest called Montcalm County Animal Control, but it was closed for the weekend and wouldn’t be able to come out until Monday, regardless of the dog’s condition.
“I got in touch with family and friends,” Van Zoest said. “I called everyone I knew to see if they had any connection with a shelter or rescue organization.”
While awaiting developments, Van Zoest fed and watered the dog, which was by this time barely able to move. Using online social media, the plea for help quickly spread and was intercepted by Rhonda Waldorf of Sheridan, who works with Safe Haven Humane Society in Ionia. Waldorf agreed to go to Van Zoest’s home to see if there was anything she could do to help.
Safe Haven is a private animal rescue organization funded entirely through donations and run by volunteers like Waldorf.
“I went to Stanton where the dog was and he had already managed to drag himself back toward the woods, though he wasn’t able to move around much,” Waldorf said. “You have to be very careful around an injured dog. I approached him slowly and tossed him some canned food; he was very happy to receive it. Then I gave him some out of my hand and he never showed any signs of aggression at all. He was just glad to see a happy face.”
Though the dog was barely able to walk, Waldorf managed to get him into her car and transport him to the Animal Hospital of Lowell, where veterinarian Dr. Bruce Langlois provided treatment. Because of the extensive damage, Langlois was forced to amputate the leg.
Several area donors pooled resources to pay for the dog’s medical expenses. At last report, Sgt. Trace was still recovering from the surgery and it will be some time before he is ready for adoption.
Sgt. Trace, originally rescued by a member of Safe Haven, was passed on to Bellowood animal rescue in Cedar Springs. Volunteers from Bellowood handled Sgt. Trace’s veterinary care and raised funds to pay for his upkeep during recovery. Bellowood is accepting donations at (616) 696-2846 or via mail at Bellowood, 2985 16 Mile Road, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. Some information was incorrect in an an April 11 article titled “Animal lovers save life of dog.”
Meanwhile, police continue to investigate the case. If apprehended and convicted, the person who did the shooting could be facing up to four years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 in addition to covering the dog’s medical expenses.