One Dog, Many Blessings.


by Tina K. VaLant for The New Barker.

Dogs are devoted. Their jobs range from serving as police or military K9s, providing therapy and comfort, or acting as the eyes, ears and/or barometer of their human’s physical condition. We all know of special stories where a rescued dog laid their life on the line—-never looking back—-to alert their family of an intruder or fire, or even move a nest of tiny kittens to safety. Often, these hero dogs are the greatly misunderstood pit bulls and pit mixes. Regardless of their DNA or physical appearance, dogs give unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship. Every so often a dog makes its mark, indelibly touching humans in ways we never forget. Ollie is such a dog.  

October 10, 2017, Hollywood, FL   —- A passer-by heard whimpering coming from a suitcase on Lee Street.  Police were dispatched to an abandoned house where they found a dog inside, mutilated and clinging to life.  The young male pit mix was taken to VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital. Grateful Paws rescue agreed to be his sponsor. He was named Oliver.
Volunteers took to social media to help with the mounting medical bills. In 36 hours, his story went viral, circling the globe, and igniting strong reactions. With over 4000 shares, donations and requests to adopt him came from as far away as Denmark and Germany.  The account surpassed $40,000. It was always stated that additional funds raised after Ollie’s medical expenses were settled would assist other abandoned, abused, and/or neglected dogs coming into the rescue’s care.  “We never imagined this kind of amazing, loving response”, stated Grateful Paws’ founder, Jan Milbyer. Dog lovers around the world rallied for Ollie, sending their prayers, best wishes, and gifts to him at VCA. His prognosis was guarded, yet hopeful.
The Crime Stoppers’ and PETA rewards, combined with private donations swelled to almost $70,000, for information leading to the arrest. Due to the dogged, restless efforts of the Hollywood Police Department, on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 the prime suspect was arrested.  He remains in custody, without bond, facing seventeen counts of animal cruelty, and the scorn of every person who rallied for Ollie.
Even though he endured a horrific experience, when Ollie arrived to VCA Hollywood, he was nothing but wiggles, wags and kisses, despite his incredible physical pain. He wasn’t out for revenge. He was in the moment, feeling the kindness and energy surrounding him. He accepted their care, and responded well. Surely, he had to have been aware of the tens of thousands of prayers, well wishes and kind people rooting for his recovery. And then, two days later, his heart gave out. The VCA staff, vets and a cardiologist worked on him, for over an hour. But he was gone. Jan tearfully added, “The only redeeming thing is that Ollie did not die alone. His life could have ended in that suitcase, but Ollie stayed to serve as an ambassador to his misunderstood breed and brought thousands of dog-lovers together”. A loving memorial service was held for Ollie December 10, 2017. Over 200 attended and honored this brave, sweet dog.
Remembering Ollie
Ollie’s memorial at the Lee Street house, in Hollywood, FL where the blue suitcase was found. Paying respect is Blueberry, a rescued pit mix, who is also a service dog.
Moving forward, what can WE do, to honor Ollie?  Let’s make him proud. We can lobby to change laws, increase punishment and fines for those who abandon, abuse and neglect animals. We can assist more animals. We can be grateful that the person responsible is in custody—-unable to hurt another innocent animal. Ollie was not his only victim. There were cats, rats and other animals. May each victim know we are truly sorry for what they endured. Mostly likely, this person’s brutal behavior would have escalated. His potential victims are safe, now.
Ollie’s memorial on December 10, 2017, at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. More than 200 people attended.
Ollie’s story affected all of us, in many ways. It’s not always easy, but we can control our thoughts, words and actions. I do not refer to the perpetrator, by name. He does not deserve that respect. Let us not risk jeopardizing a fair trial. While operating from anger or rage, we may feel justified—for a moment, but it doesn’t last or contribute toward the highest benefit. Write a letter to the state attorney, hold the firm intention that justice be served and punishment will be the maximum sentence.
We can emulate dogs, by being more mindful. Release judgment, bad feelings, the past, and things we have no control over, like Ollie. Be truly present. Cuddle our own pets a little longer. Leave our phones at home and prolong our own dogs’ walks. We can extend our hands, hearts and hugs to increase the level of love around us, for ourselves and our animal friends. Ollie, you left your paw print in our hearts.


About the writer: Over the past twelve years, Tina VaLant has volunteered, photographed, handled surrenders, transported, completed home visits and fostered for Grateful Paws rescue. She has also been the South Florida rover reporter and photographer for The New Barker dog magazine.

Tina saw a painting of Bailey, her niece’s rescued pit bull.  “None of us knew Ollie before his tragedy. Seeing Bailey’s image really got to me,” said Tina, who contacted the artist. Susan McKenna List agreed to paint a much larger portrait, For the Love of Ollie.  It was unveiled at The Art of Giving Back at Art Basel in Miami Beach, along with Ollie’s story.