Wednesday, July 12, is just a normal day for many, but not for Remo the mixed breed dog .
Today, he graduated with a doggy education Ph.D., and “Top Dog” class honors from TAILS (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills) just four months after enduring nearly fatal abuse.
Rescuers were stunned that despite dehydration, malnutrition, skin disease and internal and external parasites, the young pup still acted loving and friendly when rescuers found him on March 14, stuffed inside a small metal box baking in the Palatka, Florida, sun.
“All he wants is to give unconditional love although he was treated in the worst possible way,” Putnam County Animal Officer Kathy Tillman told PEOPLE. “He hasn’t ever given up trust in humans.”
This was clear as soon as Tillman released Remo from his prison. He wagged his tail and tried to kiss her before collapsing. Tillman carried the grateful dog to a transport truck.
Once at the nearby animal shelter, the officer was told it was at capacity. If Remo stayed, he would likely be euthanized. Tillman didn’t give up on Remo, she just made a few phone calls.
“They called me and I immediately authorized the care,” said Jen Deane, president and founder of Pit Sisters rescue group. “Because of the shape he was in, he had to live [at the animal hospital] for several months.”
In May, thanks to Tillman and the devoted care of Pit Sisters, the friendly and loving Remo entered the canine training program at James I. Montgomery Correctional Center (MCC) in Jacksonville.
“He came to us in a bit better shape than he was in when he was rescued, but he was still lethargic and very thin. We started him out very slowly, in 1.5 hour increments so he wouldn’t get overheated and so he could get used to everyone,” said Officer Lisa Irre, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, who serves as the MCC training coordinator. “He was so excited. You would think with the way he was treated he’d be afraid of people and other dogs but he was so happy and grateful. Just so grateful. He was constantly bounding around almost saying ‘Look at me! I’m here. I like you!’ ”
In fact, Remo was so friendly some other dogs didn’t accept him at first but now “they adore him. It didn’t take him long at all to be accepted. They all play together and would love to do that all day long.”
Since his rescue, Remo has gained about 30 pounds and many of his physical injuries have healed. He took to training so quickly that he is only the fifth dog in three years to complete his Ph.D. in behavior, said Irre.
Remo’s story has heartened many, perhaps no one more than his inmate trainer Howard Culpepper. Culpepper shared with PEOPLE via Irre that he has avoided dogs since one bit him when he was 13. But when he first heard Remo’s story and saw photos of him, he decided to foster him through the program.
“After caring for and training him these past eight weeks he began to look at dogs differently,” relayed Irre. “He said Remo’s story really touched him. The fact that Remo is so loving and happy after all he’s been through caused [Culpepper] to learn to love again.”
Rescuers are hoping Remo, who is ready for adoption, will find his forever family soon. They all hope he’s “treated like a king.”
“I have been doing this for over three years and this case is the one that amazes me,” said Irre. “I will never forget Remo.”
Find out more about Remo and Pit Sisters at the recuse’s website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.