Joey, the abused pit bull puppy, and his fans learned Saturday who would give him a forever home -- his veterinarian.
At the Islip Town shelter's first pet adopt-a-thon, many people were teary-eyed as Dr. Lynda Loudon told them that Joey was proof of why critically sick animals should get second chances at life.
At 3 months old, an emaciated Joey had his neck broken after someone put him in a trash bag and hurled it from a moving car on Aug. 11 near the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood.
"This has been a story of hope and survival for all of us," said Loudon, head of emergency care at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, where shelter officials had taken the pit bull.
People clapped and nodded, agreeing with town officials that whoever adopted Joey needed to be able to handle his medical needs.
"It's a given," said Sandra Kolb, of Holbrook, taking off her sunglass to wipe tears. She was one of more than 100 who came to fawn over Joey or find a new pet.
Joey's saga has turned the dog into what Islip Supervisor Tom Croci Saturday called a "rock star." Fans put up a $27,000 reward for his abusers' conviction and $39,000 for Joey's care.
Joey's new family lives in Port Jefferson Station. He'll join Loudon's husband, Tim Sheppard; son John, 2; dogs Brody and Meg; and cat Tristan. As his neck heals, Joey will have two veterinarians watching out for him: Tim Sheppard works at the Sayville Hospital for Animals.
Initially, Loudon declined to add her name to the 75 or so applicants who wanted the pit bull, the latest of many abused strays she's fostered.
Then she got hooked on Joey as he began to behave like a puppy -- tugging the bath towel off her son and running on grass, his back legs pumping a bit faster than his front ones.
As she reviewed applications for him, the vet said, she "felt a pit in my stomach."
"I developed a bond for him after caring for him so long," Loudon said. "I was worried about anybody taking over that role. He just clicked with our family."
When he was found, Joey had bite wounds that suggest he was used as dogfighting bait, but now he's a poster child for abused animals and a shelter system hungry for adopters.
"We've got Joey's brothers and sisters inside," shelter director Joanne Daly told the crowd Saturday. "Feel free . . . to take a dog home."
Anyone with tips about Joey's abuse may call the SPCA at 631-382-7722