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WESTVILLE — Camille Germain and her friends were sitting in the backyard enjoying each other’s company after Christmas dinner Friday.

Through the open gate walked a sight they never expected to see.

Germain said they heard “wheezing” behind them, and when they turned around, they saw a white pit bull puppy — its mouth strapped shut with black electrical tape — stumbling up to them.

“He couldn’t breathe through his mouth,” said Germain, of Michigan City. “But we didn’t want to hurt him trying to take off the tape.”

Germain and her friends immediately took the dog to the North Central Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Westville. Staff there filed a report with the Michigan City Police Department, which is investigating the case.

“He smelled like rotting flesh, and we could see all his bones” Germain said. “But he just wanted love — he was really sweet. We didn’t want him to die, so we got help as quickly as possible.”

At the clinic veterinarian Maggie Sharpe started intravenous pain medications and carefully unwrapped the dog’s taped muzzle. Cut, swollen and infected lips and gums oozed green discharge, indicating his mouth had been taped shut for about two days. The dog’s X-rays showed both his back legs had been broken.

Sharpe, who aged the puppy at about four months, has no doubt about the cause.

“It’s not a typical fracture from being hit by a car,” Sharpe said. “It’s abuse of some sort.”

Despite the injuries, Sharpe felt the dog could be saved.

“He was a good boy the whole time,” Sharpe said. “He was wagging his tail when we tried to take his temperature and being a puppy still. That’s why we wanted to give him a chance.”

She contacted the Guardians of the Green Mile, a Portage-based dog rescue, to help. Since Sherri Christopher founded GOTGM in April 2013, the group has rescued hundreds of stray and abused dogs and found them homes.

When she heard about the puppy, Christopher didn’t hesitate to accept financial responsibility.

“He’s a little baby, how can somebody do that?” asked Christopher, of Portage. “His injuries are consistent with someone stomping on him. I’m sure he was booted or something. Someone with blunt force tried to break his spine.”

Sharpe stitched up the puppy’s muzzle, and in a few weeks, he will undergo surgery to repair his fractured bones. Even after repairs, it’s likely the dog will have arthritis, Sharpe said.

Meanwhile, Christopher will find a foster parent for the dog who can administer wound care.

Germain and her friends asked that the puppy be called Chance.

“We were giving him a second chance at life, and he came to us by chance,” Germain said.

GOTGM added Christmas to his name in honor of the day he was rescued.

Since Christopher posted the pup’s plight on Facebook, more than $6,500 in donations have poured in from around the world. She estimates the dog’s treatment and rehabilitation will be upwards of $10,000. Christopher is also overwhelmed with offers to foster and adopt the puppy.

“There is only one Chance Christmas, but a few hundred at shelters that need to be rescued,” Christopher said. “If they are willing to do this, they can do that, and help save more lives because of one little puppy.”

The veterinary center reported the case to the Michigan City Police Department, and Monday animal control supervisor Royce Williams said a “possible person of interest who might be the owner of the dog” has been identified. A detective has been assigned to the case, and although it is still in the early stages of investigation, “the matter will definitely not go unlooked at,” Williams said.

“It’s pretty horrible,” Williams said. “I have three dogs myself and am an animal lover. Nobody wants to see animals put through this.”

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.