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Sparky's supporters celebrate his recovery

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sparky the dog has become a celebrity of sorts.

Sparky was dragged behind a silver, single-cab, pick-up truck on Frontage Road in Forest Park on July 26. A witness said the driver was a Hispanic male. Sparky was brought to the Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption shelter with wounds to his paws, neck, and legs. The pads on his paws have grown back since then, and his skin is healing ahead of his veterinarians initial projections of six to nine months.

They now believe the last of his wounds will be closed by the end of October.

Since Sparky's story first broke, it has caught the attention of people from across the nation. A man in Texas sent doggie treats; a woman in Massachusetts calls his veterinarians frequently to get updates on Sparky's condition. More than 100 people have applied to adopt the one-year-old terrier mix, but shelter officials have pared the list down to 12 applicants.

Sparky's will to live was celebrated by about 50 admirers on Sunday with a party at the Atlanta Pet and Rescue shelter.

"We can't let this kind of thing happen, and not feel anything," said Sophia Bao, a resident of Reston, Va., who heard about Sparky through the internet and flew down for his party. "What if we were dragged behind a car like that? I don't know if we'd have that kind of will to live. Look at this little fella, though. He's got that will to live."

The party was held to thank the people who have helped raise a $6,800 reward fund to find the driver of the truck. It was also a chance for members of the public to meet Sparky, and get their picture taken with him.

Sparky didn't mind all of the attention, though. He spent most of the party lying in the lap of his foster parent, Atlanta resident, Carolyn Baars, getting fed doggie treats, and having his back and head lightly rubbed by admirers. His tail would wag on occasion, and his tongue would hang out of his mouth. The only time he'd growl was whenever another dog was brought near him.

"He's a really good boy," Baars said. "His personality is starting to come out, and we're beginning to find out who he really is. He's quick to trust, quick to bond, and eager to love people."

Sparky has even gotten over the fear of cars he's had since he was dragged down Frontage Road. He used to cower away from vehicles when he was brought near one, but he now associates getting in a car with going to see his veterinarians, who pet him and give him doggie treats when he behaves.

Baars said Sparky associates visits to the vet office with love and kindness, because he was sedated whenever his bandages had to be changed, sparing him any pain that might occur.

"He's trying to get in my car before I can even open the door," Baars said.

Two of Sparky's vets, doctors Jenine Merritt and Kimberly Cary, attended the party to see how he's doing. Sparky's third vet, Dr. Julia Fann, was unable to attend the party because of a prior commitment.

His doctors admit they are surprised to see Sparky healing faster than they originally expected. They expect the last of his wounds, a large gash on his back right leg, to be healed in three to four weeks.

"We were sure we'd need to perform surgery to put skin grafts in the places where his skin rubbed off," Cary said. "But, the skin has healed so well, on its own, that we don't have to perform surgery on him, after all. He's healed this much in half the time of our low-end estimate [six months.]"

Cary said there are three main reasons why Sparky is healing quickly. He's a young dog; he's generally healthy, and he has a lot of people taking care of him. A lack of infections in his wounds is another reason why his recovery has been so swift, Cary said.

He used to go to Paces Ferry Veterinary Clinic three days a week to have his bandages changed, but now he goes in once a week, so the doctors can make sure no infections develop.

Sparky also got a special treat on Sept. 29, when he got his claws trimmed for the party. His claws had been rubbed almost completely off when he was dragged down the street. The claws had been growing back, but weren't long enough to be trimmed until last week.

"His temperament has been key to his recovery," Merritt said. "A lot of dogs probably wouldn't like having their bandages checked all the time, but Sparky doesn't seem to mind at all."

Anyone who is interested in contributing to the reward fund to help catch the driver of the truck, or the fund to help pay for his medical expenses, can contact Judy Price at Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption at (404) 815-6680. They can also go to www.atlantapetrescue.org/

Anyone with information regarding who was driving the truck, is urged to contact the Clayton County Police Department at (770) 478-7407.