It was puppy love Tuesday as a reward, cards and money poured in for the young pit bull struggling to recover, his neck fractured, after being stuffed into a plastic bag and flung out of a car in Brentwood.
A $2,000 reward has been offered by the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who sped along the Sagtikos Parkway entrance to the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center and threw out the puppy. Confidential information may be given to the agency at 631-382-7722.
Joey, as the malnourished pup was named, now also has well-wishers' cards and prayers hanging around his upper berth in the emergency room at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, where he's being treated with morphine, Valium and other care.
When Islip Town animal shelter officials took him there Saturday afternoon, he was screaming in pain from fractures in three of his six neck vertebrae and was laboring to breathe with bruised lungs, said veterinarians at the West Islip practice, which specializes in critical cases.
The puppy has two bite wounds on the underside of his neck, indicating he may have been used as bait to train other pit bulls to fight, veterinarians said. The dog, which they said is about 3 months old, had bones sticking out and weighed 10 pounds when he should have been at least 15 pounds.
To keep him still, Joey wears a suit of bandages that goes around his neck and chest.
But on Tuesday, he tried to get up on his front legs, one step better than Monday, when he seemed unable to move them, said Dr. Lynda Louden, chief of emergency medicine at the center.
"He's trying to get up, and I have to sedate him to keep him quiet," Louden said. "Most of the day, he's really alert and eating really, really well, and wagging his tail and giving lots of kisses."
Joey's hospital stay is expected to last six to eight weeks and cost about $15,000.
As news stories of his plight spread, well-wishers have donated about $2,000 for his care and even a dog bed. More than 15 people are on a list to adopt him, even if he can never walk again.
A CT scan scheduled for Wednesday will show whether his spine was compressed after hitting the ground and if surgery is a good option.
Joanne Daly, supervisor of Islip Town's animal shelter, saw a "determination" in his eyes to get better during her visit Tuesday.
"All he kept doing was look at me," said Daly, who has three rescued pit bulls. "I was crying. While I was there, they cleaned the bite wounds on his neck. I think he's a real fighter. His spirits are good for everything he's gone through.
"There's just something about him. He wants to survive. He really wants people to love him, and he deserves that."
On Tuesday, as puppy love hit the shelter supervisor, Joey got his licks in.
"He loves to look at people," she said. "The whole time I was there, he just kept kissing me. He was licking me. I had my face right to his nose and he just kept kissing me. It was amazing."
Daly said she hopes someone recognizes the pit bull puppy and tips off authorities on who threw him away.
For now, Joey has a 50 percent chance that his bones will heal on their own, Louden said.
Although he squealed when his toes were pinched to see if his nerves were damaged, it's too early to tell whether Joey will ever be able to walk again.
At times, he's been propped up on his chest, towels supporting his chin, to avoid getting bed sores by lying constantly on his sides.
The center's staff said Joey's a gentleman, letting them do whatever is needed without biting or fighting, as many dogs in pain do.
If only his back legs recover, Joey may be outfitted with wheels by his front legs to help his mobility, Louden said.
But if none of his legs work, he may have to be euthanized, she said.
It's a fate that the veterinarians knew they may have to take when they accepted the wounded puppy. The center has a contract with Islip Town to treat or euthanize strays for $95 per patient.
"Most hospitals would just euthanize the puppy, but we wanted to give him a chance," Louden said. "He already met with humans that had no regard for his life, and we didn't want to be the second ones to do that."
Donations to Joey's care may be made at vmcli.com/veterinary-medical-center-long-island-donations.html or call 631-587-0800.