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Sparky remains a star one year after abuse

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sparky still gets treated like the top dog in his new neighborhood in McDonough.

From time to time, the 2-year-old terrier mix gets the 'Oh that's the dog from the news' response from neighbors when his adoptive father, Chip Allen, takes him for a walk.

For Sparky, the last year has been a life-changing experience. The little dog was the victim of an animal cruelty case in Forest Park, and came close to death.

Sparky is approaching the one-year anniversary of the event, which made him a local celebrity whose story evoked responses from people from as far away as Virginia and Texas. Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption, which helped oversee Sparky's medical treatment and adoption, has named the dog its celebrity spokesdog.

Even though his name has faded a bit from the headlines in recent months, Sparky still acts like a local celebrity.

"He struts his stuff around the neighborhood when he goes out," Allen said. "He's been out in the sun so much, he's got a tan over his old wounds."

Sparky was dragged behind a pickup truck on July 26, 2007, on Frontage Road in Forest Park. He was left to die on the side of the road when a passerby stopped to rescue him. His chances of surviving were not good. Sparky's doctor had never even seen a dog with wounds as severe as his survive. Large portions of his skin, including the pads on the bottom of his four paws, were gone.

"I feel bad for him because someone did this to him," said Taylor Patton, 10, of McDonough, as she came up to pet Sparky while he was getting his picture taken at a park in Forest Park on Wednesday. "He's a really nice, and pretty dog."

Sparky was not the kind of dog to give up and head for the great dog house in the sky, however. His doctors and supporters were not ready to give up, either.

The veterinarians from Paces Ferry Veterinary Clinic in Atlanta initially believed the dog would need skin grafts to fix some of his wounds, but a lack of infections, and the fact that Sparky was already in good health, resulted in his wounds healing so quickly, surgery was not necessary.

It took nearly six months, but Sparky recovered so he could bark another day.

"He's a walking miracle," Allen said. "He's not a perfect dog, but he's never going to give up."

The driver of the pickup truck still has not been found, even though there is a $6,800 reward for information in the case. Allen said he's passed out hundreds of flyers asking for information about the person who dragged Sparky behind the truck. A billboard continues to stand over Interstate 75 in Forest Park.

"I don't think we'll ever find out who was driving that truck," Allen said. "It's OK, though, because people like that eventually get what's coming to them."

When Allen adopted Sparky in November 2007, he lived in Forest Park, with his other dog, Rocky. In mid-May, Sparky's human, and canine family, moved to their new home in McDonough. "It has a big field for Sparky and Rocky to run around and play in," Allen said.

A fear of trucks is the one lingering effect of what happened to Sparky one year ago, Allen added. "He hasn't forgotten what happened to him," Allen said. "If I get him in the truck, he hides on the floorboard while Rocky hangs his head out the window. Sparky would probably like to do that as well, but he's too afraid to do it."