By Autumn Ziemba
CLEVELAND – A little more than a year ago they were caged animals, living a horrendous life of violence.
It was December 23, 2011 when Cleveland police executed a search warrant on the East 91st Street home of Collin Rand, Jr.
Inside they found more than two dozen pit bulls in the basement, living caged, injured and in filth, just steps from a dog fighting ring.
From that moment, the lives of 27 dogs–and the many volunteers who stepped up to help–were forever changed.
Bonsai is one of the 27 saved. Monday evening, he lies happily in his doggy bed, chewing on a bone. His tail wags.
Owner Sandy Smith has been with him from the beginning. “When I first saw him, he was significantly underweight. He was covered in open wounds and healing wounds and had quite a few scars,” Smith explained.
Smith said even Bonsai’s teeth were filed down–a common practice of a brutal bloodsport.
His recovery has been a year in the making. “I cannot even imagine the fear and horror and pain that these animals have gone through,” Smith said, with tears in her eyes, “And the fact that they still are so trusting is amazing.”
Monday night, investigators, volunteers and adoptive families involved in the rescue effort packed city hall, in an emotional show of gratitude.
“What came out a very deep and dark and despair day has turned into one of the most uplifting, moving stories I’ve ever seen in my 11 years on council,” Councilman Matt Zone told the crowd.
Zone honored those who gave countless hours and resources to make sure the dogs had a future, including the raising of $40,000 for their care.
“You can tell the depth of someone’s soul by what they give back to animals,” Zone told FOX 8. ”A person like Sandy [Smith] is a champion and a role model [who] I look up to.”
Zone isn`t the only one.
With a few kisses to his owner’s chin, Bonsai finally knows love.
“It’s an absolute miracle,” Smith said. “He’s gone from a dog that was afraid of his own shadow, afraid of everything and really miserable–I mean, just a dog that probably didn’t want to live–to a dog that just loves every day.”
Cleveland police arrested and charged Collin Rand Jr., who served six months in jail–the maximum sentence–for operating a dog fighting ring.
He is no longer allowed to own dogs.