“Puppy,” as he was affectionately known after he was found in Bentleyville in early February with a metal rod protruding from his head, not only has a new name but a new home with a North Strabane Township couple and their 7-year-old American bulldog.
Dino LaSalvia, a retired state police corporal and current school resource officer for Burgettstown School District, and his wife, Julie, picked up the 4-month-old puppy Sunday at University Veterinary Specialists in Peters Township. His new name is Ola Kai, or Kai for short. Dino said that he and Julie, who were on vacation in Hawaii when they learned they were selected to adopt the dog, did some research on the Hawaiian word for survivor to come up with the name.
Kai also means ocean, he added.
“His new name, has a nice strong meaning,” said AJ Owen, social media and marketing manager for the Peters Township veterinary facility where Kai was treated before he was placed with a foster family.
University Veterinary Specialists received hundreds of applications from people interested in adopting the terrier mix, who was also known as Justice and Franky, Owen said
“A number of factors went into the selection process,” Owen said. “As we narrowed it down to 50, then 25 then 10 applicants, we got it down to the final three. We talked to their veterinarians and made sure they were keeping up with veterinary and preventative care on their own dogs.”
“The fact that he (Dino) is a retired state trooper and that they have the time to put into training him was factor,” Owen said. “They will be a great family for him.”
Dino said he had been following the story about the puppy in the media.
“It broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine how anybody could do this to an animal,” he said.
He continued to monitor the puppy’s progress as well as making a donation to his care.
“When I found they were getting ready to put him up for adoption, I went online and filled out the application,” Dino said, adding that he and Julie had been contemplating rescuing another dog as a companion for Kona, who they got from the Greene County Humane Society.
“Then we went on vacation and I was looking out at the beach when I got the call that we were one of the finalists,” Dino said. “Then we learned we were picked.”
Julie said it was not a surprise that her husband submitted an application, but she admits to being totally surprised when they were selected.
Dino and Julie landed from their vacation at 10 a.m. Sunday, went home to puppy-proof the house, and were at University Veterinary Specialists by 2 p.m. to pick up their new family member.
“He is amazing. He should hate humans for what was done to him but he just loved everybody,” Dino said. “He is the most loving dog I have ever seen. We are going to give him the best life.”
In the few short hours that Kai has spent with the LaSalvias and Kona, he has fit right in, Dino said.
“They gave us a bunch of toys that he likes to play with,” Dino said, adding the puppy and 106-pound Kona played tug-of-war with the new toys.
“He’s a cute little angel,” Julie said. “I was a little nervous at first, because Kona is big but the two play so well together.”
“And he follows me everywhere, even if I just get up to go to the kitchen sink,” she added.
The two shared the puppy’s story with others while they were on vacation. Julie said they sat by the pool in tears while going back over coverage of the puppy’s story.
“We truly hope to give him a great home,” Julie said. “We definitely want to give him the best life.”
Donations from the community were made for the puppy’s care to UVS Cares Foundation, including more than $1,300 raised by the Bentworth Leo Club on March 7. The students also were given a tour of the facility. Owen thanked Target Freight Management, Bearcat Ambulance and all of those who donated to the foundation.
The case into the puppy’s abuse was originally handled by a humane officer with the Washington Area Humane Society. Through the investigation, it was determined the abuse happened in Ohio. Kelly Proudfit, humane society executive director, said the information they gathered was turned over to an humane officer in that state, adding they have not received any recent updates into the investigation. Proudfit said the humane society also assisted with the puppy’s adoption.
“We are the ones blessed with having this dog in our lives,” Dino said. “He showed that he has such heart and a will to live. To go through what he went through and to survive and rebound is truly a miracle.”
“It is an honor and a privilege to raise such a bundle of strength, determination and joy,” he added.