Angel, who was shot several times resulting in the amputation of her hind leg, is recovering well. (Courtesy photo)

Angels don’t just fall from heaven. Sometimes they randomly show up on your doorstep, seemingly out of nowhere, in need of love and support. Kelly Goodin, Second Chance Humane Society executive director, found herself in such a situation when a severely injured dog was brought to the Ridgway sanctuary in mid-April.

A couple was driving through Durango when they spotted the injured canine limping along on the side of the road. Their initial reaction was that a car had hit her, Goodin explained. But after being taken to Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Montrose, it was discovered that the pup’s body was riddled with buckshot and bullets. Someone unsuccessfully attempted to put her down. Doctors believe the dog, which was given the name Angel for her resiliency and loving spirit, was living with the injuries for at least two weeks before being picked up.  

Her left hind leg and front right ankle were shattered by the gunshots. The rear leg needed to be amputated, while the front leg is currently in a cast. Goodin said Angel may lose that leg as well, but doctors are hoping the bones fuse back together within the next couple weeks. It was hard to tell how many times Angel was shot, she added, but sometimes science can’t explain what seems to be a modern-day miracle.

“We still don’t know how she was able to survive,” Goodin added. “She had not seen a vet before she was brought to us.”

In a May 1 Pet Column in The Watch, the Daily Planet’s sister publication, Goodin wrote about Angel’s journey up until that point. She explained how Angel’s cruel circumstances didn’t change her heart or trust of humans.

“Her strong will is what gives us so much hope that she will make it,” she wrote.

It’s hard not to hold back tears or get goosebumps when reading Angel’s story, so the Daily Planet caught up with the folks at Second Chance to see how her recovery is going.

Over the past month, Angel’s physical condition has improved, but she developed a high fever and her energy level dropped recently. A follow-up visit to Grand Junction’s Sky Canyon Veterinary Hospital, where Angel has gone for regular checkups and tests, revealed that she had the tick-borne illness ehrlichiosis. Antibiotics took care of that, Goodin explained. She still has a bullet lodged in her chest, which shouldn’t affect her overall health.  

Dr. Michelle Dally has provided constant care for Angel, often changing her bandages and casting. It’s a painful process, she said, but Angel has been nothing but congenial and cooperative.

“I have changed her bandages and casting more times than I can count,” Dally said. “ … She never once drew away, never once growled. She always just looked at me with those trusting eyes. This is a dog you fall in love with.”

Even in pictures, Angel’s big brown eyes emit a warmth that’s undeniable, even if her condition makes one think that human’s are the most vicious creatures on the planet.

“Right from the get-go, she’s just been loving and sweet with everyone. That’s one of the remarkable things about her and why she’s becoming like a poster dog for this kind of abuse,” Goodin said. “She’s not letting it change her heart. Everybody that meets her is touched by her because she has a sweet essence about her that already is showing the impact that animals have in our lives even after all she’s been through. She still lifts everybody up that she meets.”

Goodin, who has been with Second Chance for 14 years, previously volunteered rescuing animals in northern New Mexico. Unfortunately, she said, the practice of putting down dogs is still common in some areas. She’s even adopted a dog that’s a gunshot survivor. What’s not uncommon is how the wounded respond to love and support.

“I’ve seen this often, even though they’ve had horrible trauma, they know when they are being saved and they respond to it,” Goodin said.

Angel, who has also been taken care of by Sheri Couto, loves people. Participating in the humane society’s Pets Turning Pages program, where rescue dogs visit area schools during story time, she cuddles up to the kids and typically places a paw in their laps.

“They’re a little bit in awe of how she’s still loving and gentle,” Goodin said of the student’s reactions. “It really opens people’s hearts. That’s what she’s done with all of us as well and reminding us why we do this work and how important it is.”

Goodin explained that Angel won’t be ready for adoption until the fate of her front leg is determined. Once she is ready for a “forever family,” it will

have to be someone that is home often or can bring her along, as she still will need extra care and attention, Goodin added. Angel also may be trained as a therapy dog since “people just immediately light up when they meet her.”