BOLINGBROOK – Lauren Weber didn't think twice. Maybe she should have, but she didn't.
The 29-year-old Bolingbrook resident ventured by herself into the violent, crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Feb. 11 to pluck a dozen pitbull puppies that otherwise would have been cast out onto the streets, likely to their death.
"My husband is definitely mad at me," Weber said Wednesday. "But for me, I really love animals. ... I know Englewood is dangerous, but I had the opportunity to save those puppies."
Weber, a volunteer with several area pet rescues, got word about a week ago through fellow animal lovers that a Chicago man had 12 puppy pitbulls he was "looking to get rid of."
She was told the man tried selling them on Craigslist to no avail, and was threatening to throw the dogs outside or use them as bait dogs in a dog fighting ring.
Soon after, she made a quick decision to jump in her car, drive to the home and get the dogs out herself in what she said was her first true dog rescue.
"I got there and the puppies were completely covered in feces," she said, adding that they were all roughly 10 weeks old. "I mean, it was caked on."
One, later named Coco, had an serious open wound. Another, Tucker, had a large lump on his jaw. The rest were a bit malnourished, but outside being in need of a good wash and some TLC were in decent shape, she said.
Weber took the adorable dozen to her house in Bolingbrook, where she and her mother bathed them.
She then reached out to Stephanie Paluch, founder of Players for Pits, a Carol Stream-based pitbull rescue, whom Weber met through Facebook via their common interest in animals.
Players for Pits would be one of four area dog rescue groups to take in the pooches. Two of the dogs have already been adopted, eight are being prepared for adoption and the other two – Coco and Tucker – need extended medical attention for their injuries.
Players for Pits took in three of the dogs.
"They're doing good," said Paluch, of Lombard. "Coco still has a few more [veterinarian] visits to go. And all of them need vaccinations.
"At first they were very shy, which says something because it's rare to see 10-week-old puppies who do no want to be around people. But they've already started to open up and I know they will make good pets."
Weber echoed that last statement. She said the dogs are very much salvageable despite the rough and violent starts to their lives.
"They're still impressionable," Weber said. "They can be trained and I can't tell you how many dogs pulled from fighting rings have made good family pets.
"You have to judge it on a dog by dog basis."
Weber said she's been volunteering with animal welfare groups since 2004, including Humane Haven Animal Shelter in Bolingbrook.
She is confident what the outcome would have been had she not suddenly driven out to Englewood.
"I don't think any of them would have made it," Weber said. "They would have been tossed out. Tucker and Coco definitely wouldn't have made it."
Paluch admitted she advised Weber not to drive out to Englewood by herself, but was nonetheless proud of her.
"When she decided to do that I was shocked. I told her to be careful and just be aware of her surroundings. It definitely took courage from her," she said.
For her, though, it was an easy decision.
"I couldn't let them stay in that condition," Weber said. "I just really love animals. I can't watch those commercials with the malnourished dogs on TV. If I see a dog or cat running around stray, I pull the car over."
Interested in adopting?
The pitbull puppies were taken in by four area dog rescue groups. For adoption information, visit their websites listed below.
Players for Pits: www.playersforpits.com
Pit Crew Illinois: www.pitcrewil.org
It's a Pittie Rescue: www.rescueapittie.org
Rescue Warriors Corps: www.rescuewarriorscorp.com