WESTMONT — Morty wasn't good enough or strong enough.
That's what the criminals running a dog fighting ring thought before the 1 1/2-year-old pooch was found in November by Chicago Police bleeding and abandoned in a parking lot.
Morty the pit bull is believed to have been a "bait dog," that is, the dog used as practice, to rile up other pit bulls before a big fight. Bait dogs are deemed not strong enough or aggressive enough and therefore are not trained in dog fighting circles.
But the folks at West Suburban Veterinary Associates in Westmont and a Chicago rescue group have found that Morty certainly is strong, and he is absolutely good enough.
Over the past two months, the animal hospital has donated its time, facilities and medical care for Morty, who came to them from Chicago Pit Stop Rescue, an organization that rescues “bully” breeds and works to get them in shape and adopted.
"Morty was in bad shape, he was one of the most injured dogs we had ever seen," said Christine Panos, founder and executive director of Pit Stop Rescue. "I didn't think he'd be able to make it more than a couple of days."
By December, most of Morty's wounds had closed, but his injuries needed the attention of a veterinarian.
"When Morty came to us, he still had been in very poor shape," said Janet Storjohann, practice manager at West Suburban Veterinary Associates, 518 N. Warwick Ave. "He had no use of one of his rear legs, he had a big lump on his front paw due to an infection, and several other injuries."
Morty ended up staying a little longer than was first expected, and Dr. Alan Main and his staff fell in love with the pooch. They've since brought Morty back to life.
His wounds have closed. The big lump on his paw, which was about the size of a baseball when he was brought in, has shrunk. He's regained his strength. He's even happy.
But obstacles remain, including Morty's left hind leg.
"Much of the cartilage was completely torn off the bone, and Morty has been unable to have much use of that leg," Dr. Main said last week. "While dogs often suffer ligament tears in their knees, the severity of this was something bought about by a dogfight type of injury."
Morty was scheduled to have surgery on the leg last Thursday to repair the ligament damage.
Main has donated much of the medical treatment, boarding and medications for the dog. While the veterinary practice has done work for shelters and worked with abandoned and severely injured animals before, seldom does the hospital do this kind of thing with an animal, Main said.
"Morty has been a special case for us, as we don't do this kind of thing very often," he said. "When we saw the injuries that he had suffered, and how we could help him, we decided to make an exception with him. And his recovery has been tremendous."
Help for Morty has come from outside the Westmont clinic and the Chicago Pit Stop Rescue group, too.
West Suburban Veterinary Associates held a fundraiser in January to fund a surgery for Morty at a specialist. The animal hospital donated raffle prizes for the fundraiser, which raised more than $4,500.
Also, a client of the Westmont animal hospital donated $3,000 toward the dog's surgery as well, Storjohann added.
Morty has become quite a celebrity at the hospital.
"Everyone that comes in wants to see how Morty is doing," Storjohann said. "He really has a lot of people rooting for him, and his story of recovery has touched a lot of people.
"He has gone from a dog that could barely walk, to one that is now active, happy and full of life."
If his leg surgery was successful, Morty will likely soon head to a foster home, where he will get some more attention, before he's able to be adopted.
"It's important that we match the dog to the right family in the right situation," Panos said. "If we can't, then he will always have a home with members of Pit Stop until that time."
For more information on Chicago PitStop, visit www.chicagopitstop.org.
Fore more information on West Suburban Veterinary Associates, visit www.westsuburbanvet.com or call 630-968-4212.