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Pup with swollen head, cord around neck makes ‘miraculous recovery’

Dori Scofield, director of the Brookhaven Animal Shelter,

Dori Scofield, director of the Brookhaven Animal Shelter, plays with Wilbur, a pit bull mix who she said has recovered from "horrific" injuries since he was found on the side of a road in June. He is up for adoption at the shelter. (Oct. 18, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

Wilbur, an energetic pit bull mix with splotchy black and white fur, is led on a harness by Brookhaven Animal Shelter director Dori Scofield.

Happy to be out in the sunshine rather than confined to his pen at the shelter on a recent afternoon, Wilbur tries his best to lead Scofield around the grassy area in front of the shelter and jumps into the air with excitement.

But at the slightest indication that someone present might be willing to pet him, he contorts himself into a twisted half-standing position that exposes his soft belly to the interested party.

"All he wants to do is lay around in the sun and get his belly scratched," said Scofield, who added that Wilbur has found a special place in her heart.

She uses a harness on Wilbur rather than a collar because his neck is sensitive. It's the only indication of the "horrific" injuries from which Wilbur has recovered.

The 18-month-old pup was found on the side of Moriches-Middle Island Road in Shirley on June 21. The person who found him called the Brookhaven shelter to report finding a dog that had a huge, swollen head and a cord wrapped around its neck.

Wilbur was rushed to Animal Emergency Service in Selden where veterinarian Dylan Hirsch admitted and treated him.

Hirsch said Wilbur had a collar and braided steel cord embedded deep into his thick neck. The cord was wrapped around twice, causing a tourniquet effect, which blocked fluid from leaving his head, causing it to swell to a dangerous level.

"As the head swells, it makes the tourniquet even tighter," he said. "It's a very vicious cycle."

Hirsch said there were also maggots in Wilbur's wounds, indicating he had been left like that for a long time. Had he been left any longer, he would have died.

Hirsch and his staff removed the collar and cord and cleaned Wilbur's wounds. After a week, he was brought back to them to surgically remove the dead scar tissue around his neck, which was preventing him from healing.

"It's a miraculous recovery," he said. "I was really concerned he wouldn't heal."

Scofield said the really miraculous thing is not just his physical recovery, but that he seems to have no emotional damage despite his mistreatment.

She said the day before Wilbur was found, she received a phone call from a man in Shirley who said his dog had been bitten by a raccoon and his head was swollen.

"I told him we're not an animal hospital, he should take him to a vet," she said. "And he said, 'Well, if he was a stray you would have to take him, right?'"

After finding Wilbur, Scofield contacted the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The organization is now conducting an investigation surrounding Wilbur's case, said a spokesperson with the organization.

Scofield said Wilbur now awaits his "forever home," which she is surprised has yet to happen.

"He's such a good-looking dog," she said, adding that Wilbur does not like cats so he's looking for a home without any other pets. "And he has such a wonderful personality. He holds no grudges for the pain and suffering he's been through. He's a tribute to all animals."

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