GARY | Max sniffed the chairs, floor and people sitting in the waiting room at the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana as if reacquainting himself with the place where he began to heal from the neglect he experienced last year.
With his long tongue hanging out of his mouth, the 2-year-old American Staffordshire terrier constantly came back to Gary Police Sgt. Darlene Breitenstein, jumping in and out of her lap.
Working as the new humane officer with the Gary-based humane society, Breitenstein rescued Max after his owner left him chained outside without shelter.
“His collar was embedded in his flesh, and his owner dug it out,” said Breitenstein, of Miller Beach, who has worked with the Gary Police Department’s juvenile division for the past 15 years and for two years as the humane officer with Gary.
A change in Indiana law in 2012 created the humane officer liaison position between the city and the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana, Executive Director Betty Clayton said.
“Sgt. Breitenstein is working with us on cruelty and neglect investigations,” Clayton said. “We’ve never had a humane officer before.”
Max is being fostered by Breitenstein’s sister.
“I’m surprised how well Max healed up,” Breitenstein said. “He spends some weekends with my family. He’s a handful. We have five dogs of our own. Two are rescues.”
Max was one of two dogs taken to the Humane Society facility, 6100 Melton Road, to be treated for injuries caused by neglect and whose cases Breitenstein has investigated.
In another case, a 10-year-old German shepherd named Handsome was found at a truck stop with his frostbitten, infected, paws.
The dog weighed only 60 pounds when he was brought to the shelter but is up to 80 pounds as he continues to heal under the care of a veterinarian and staff members, Clayton said.
“This case is still under investigation,” Breitenstein said about Handsome.
*Another case the humane officer has investigated and taken to court involved horses, goats and chickens in a man’s backyard in the Miller area of Gary. Neighbors reported the animals were being kept in an area too close to other houses, Breitenstein said.
Cruelty and neglect of living things takes its toll on those responding to these incidents and on those who care for them afterward, Breitenstein said.
“The cases I see, I’m glad dogs don’t live to be 20 to 25 years old,” she said as she stroked Max’s head.
*Editor's Note: This story has been corrected from its original version.