One of the last volunteers was a quiet, petite woman named Donna. She walked up to the edge of the banquet table and handed Johnny O a manila envelope. Inside were pictures of a dog he and the rest of the guys knew well: Freesia the French bulldog, who had been rescued from a filth-covered bathroom. The woman, Donna Guidi of the French Bulldog Rescue Network, had fostered Freesia for the last four months. "Freesia was adopted on Friday," she said, as the guys clapped and cheered. Freesia's new family included two girls, ages seven and ten, "and you guys are their heroes," she said, beaming.
Donna was a dedicated rescuer: She had fostered twenty-six dogs in the last three years, three of them Frenchies, the rest boxers. She had two boxers of her own, one of which was deaf. "He was being bounced around, kept being returned by his new owners," she said. "I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I needed a mission, so to speak, and he really helped me emotionally."
"So he basically rescued you," Junior volunteered.
Donna nodded, smiling. "I was so grateful for what this dog did for me, I wanted to give back." And that is exactly what Rescue Ink is doing, she added. "I'm such a groupie," she said, walking under the sparkling chandeliers and out of the ballroom. "They're the biggest guys, but they have the biggest hearts."
The day after arriving in New York, the newly named Rebel went to see Dr. Dennis Leon, DVM, at Levittown Animal Hospital. Crowding inside the exam room, Joe, G, and Junior got clarity on some things—and a wait-and-see on others.
"I know that he can hear—he definitely responds to sounds," Dr. Leon said with finality. He had seen the dog lift his head in curiosity when he heard another dog barking. If he was not responding to the guys when they called, that was likely because he was unfocused, taking in the new sights and smells around him.
Like everyone else who had come into contact with Rebel, Dr. Leon found him almost supernaturally friendly. "If this was your ear that had been cut off and infected, you wouldn't let anyone near it," he said. "He just wants to love, which, unfortunately, is why he was a bait dog."
As for Rebel's swollen ears, only time would tell. "When I looked inside the ear canal, there was a lot of discharge and debris, mudlike stuff," Dr. Leon explained. Also, above Rebel's left ear there was still a lot of scabbing and crusting, and an infection was brewing underneath. Though Rebel had been on a course of antibiotics in Kentucky, Dr. Leon prescribed another round, along with antibiotic eardrops and an ear wash. "Overall, he's really thin," Dr. Leon noted. "You can see his backbone. He weighs fifty-three pounds now, and he's going to need to put on at least another fifteen to get up to a desirable weight."