People from all around the world helping South Jersey pit bull get better
HADDONFIELD — This month wasn't the first time pit bull Aladdin's life was in danger.
"He actually was rescued — found at the side of the road in 2013," said Michele Schaffer-Stevens, Aladdin's proud owner. He'd been just 18 pounds at the time, and at a year old, should have weighed closer to 50. His tail was broken. His legs were broken. He was missing 12 teeth. He was covered in open wounds.
That he'd been abused was obvious — and whomever was responsible was never found. But somehow, with help of Schaffer-Stevens and the Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue where Schaffer-Stevens is community outreach director, as he got better, he took to people. He proved friendly and empathetic.
Schaffer-Stevens became Aladdin's foster parent, and then his permanent pet parent ("As soon as I heard someone say they wanted him, I wasn't going to give him up," she said). She recognized his caring temperament, and started him on the course to becoming a therapy dog. Seven months after he was found brutally beaten, he was certified.
Aladdin's got an impressive resume. He's been a trained crisis response dog since 2015. He's part of Purina's national therapy dog ambassador team. He's a Ronald McDonald House ambassador. An ambassador for the "Show Your Soft Side" national anti-animal abuse campaign. He has similar rolls with State Farms and Tito's Vodka kindness programs. He was an American Humane Association Hero Dog Award finalist in 2016, and American Humane Therapy Dog of the Year 2017. He works with the Philadelphia Police raising funds for fallen officers, and attends the Philadelphia Blue Sox baseball clinics for special needs children. He does classroom visits alongside police. He was deployed in 2016 as a therapy dog after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida He's appeared on several national television programs, and been in People and Family Circle Magazines.
In other words, Aladdin gets around.
Earlier this month, he started showing what veterinarians initially thought were flu-like symptoms. After a closer look, they found he was in heart failure. He went into kidney failure, and a tumor was found on his heart. His chest was filled with fluid.
Even with a necessary surgery, he was only expected to live another few months — and without it, he was expected to die any time, Schaffer-Stevens said.
The surgery would cost thousands. It was worth it, to buy Aladdin just a little more time, Schaffer-Stevens said. She didn't know where the money would come from.
Schaffer-Stevens woke up Sept. 12 to hear Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue founder Jenn Stevens and Lucy Noland of Fox TV had each set up separate online fundraisers (on GoFundMe and on Crowdrise). Together, without Schaffer-Stevens' knowledge, they's already raised more than $14,000.
In the time since, more than another $1,000 has been contributed.
"We had people from all around the world donating. It's amazing to see people give back to him," she said. Thousand of people have left messages of support through his Facebook page.
And more good news: Aladdin was originally thought to have a hemangiosarcoma — and a life expectancy of weeks to months. His updated diagnoses is of a chemodectoma — a non-fatal tumor that should respond to radiation therapy. He'll have several treatments in the months ahead, and could live for years.
He's been sedentary, but doing well for a dog who's been through such an ordeal. For now, his activities will be limited to working with children.
His bills are already in excess of $16,000, but Schaffer-Stevens is overwhelmed by the support he's seen so far.
"He's just touched so many people, it's unbelievable," she said.