Pacino was found all alone in a bedroom of an abandoned house in Camden, New Jersey, in 2013. He had extreme wounds all over his body, and the animal control officers who found him rushed him straight to a vet office to assess his condition. Things definitely didn’t look good for poor Pacino, but luckily, a woman named Brittany Elder was working as the vet tech that day, and as soon as she met Pacino, both his and her lives were changed forever.
The officers who brought Pacino in told the veterinary staff that he was in “really bad shape” and was “too aggressive to handle,” but Elder immediately saw past all that.
“When they brought him into the treatment room, they had him in a giant crate,” Elder told The Dodo. “I opened the crate and he was cowering in the back and wouldn’t come out, but I could see that he was all bloody and extremely wounded. They dumped him out of the crate and he fell into my lap because he couldn’t stand. He was shaking and so scared. His body was cold, skinny, and filthy.”
Elder sat on the floor of the vet practice with Pacino and just held him for a while. It was clear that this poor dog had been through hell and back, and Elder desperately wanted to show him what it was like to be loved for once in his life.
As Elder held Pacino, the vet and the animal control officers began discussing Pacino’s situation. Based on his condition and where he had been found, they assumed that he had been used as a bait dog for dogfighting. His wounds were so severe and would be extremely expensive to treat, so the vet and the animal control officer decided together that the best course of action would be to put Pacino down — but as she held and comforted him, Elder knew there was no way she was going to let that happen.
“At one point, even though he was in so much pain, he looked up at me and licked my face,” Elder said. “It was at that moment I knew that this dog was not ‘too aggressive’ and that I had to do something to save his life. I decided that I was going to take full financial responsibility for him, foster him to bring him back to health, and figure out adoption stuff later. I just needed to do something, and quick.”
Elder took on full responsibility of Pacino, and quickly arranged for him to have his wounds cleaned and cared for. His injuries were so severe that they couldn’t be stitched up, and so the vet put around a dozen drains throughout his body in order to prevent infection. After his surgery, Elder and her boyfriend began making arrangements to take Pacino home with them. He was still so scared and unsure of everything, and they had no idea how he was going to react to being in their home — but as soon as he arrived, they realized they had nothing to worry about.
For the first few days in his new home, Pacino was incredibly skittish, and definitely showed signs of being abused in his former life. He quickly realized he could trust Elder and her boyfriend, though, and had no problem letting them clean his wounds or give him medicine. He bonded with them very quickly, and seemed to understand almost immediately that they loved him and just wanted to help him heal.
“He trusted us so much that he allowed us to do whatever we needed to in order to help him,” Elder said.
While the couple knew very little about Pacino’s past, it was clear he hadn’t had the greatest life — because the poor pup had no idea how to be a dog.
“Throughout his recovery, we literally had to teach him EVERYTHING,” Elder said. “We had to potty train him, crate train him, teach him how to walk on a leash, get him on an eating schedule, teach him what toys were and basically show him how to be a normal dog.”
The more time Pacino spent in his new home, the more he began to come out of his shell, and before long, he was the sweetest, silliest dog around, who just wanted to be around the people he loved as often as he could. His wounds eventually turned into scars and his emotional wounds all seemed to heal as well. Originally, Elder had been planning on fostering Pacino for a while and then finding a forever home for him later, but it soon became clear that there was no way she could let him go.
“One thing that stands out in my mind the most, was one of my friends had given him a little care package with a big red squeaky ball,” Elder said. “I think it must have been the only time he had ever seen a toy, because he didn’t know what to do with it at first. After a few throws, he was obsessed with it and that’s when I saw his first smile! He was goofy, clumsy, and overall super sweet and eager to please. It was clear to us that we were in fact his family, and we couldn’t ever let him go.”
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Now, Pacino has been with his family for five years, and they’ve all loved every single second of it. While he’s still not comfortable around other dogs because of his past as a bait dog, he loves every baby, child and adult he meets, and can’t get enough of meeting and playing with new people. He loves food and spending time with his parents, and his new mom is so grateful that she held him that day in the vet office and realized that he was meant to be her dog.
You can follow Pacino and all of his adventures on his Instagram account.