The 8-year-old German shepherd survives after spending hours in a pit filled with oil and trash

By Andrea Boston
Updated June 03, 2010 06:00 PM

It was a call Sheila Zachar won’t soon forget. Her friend, James Beavers, a homeless veteran living at an abandoned car wash in East Memphis, Tenn., had just rescued a 40-lb. dog from a 6-ft. pit of oil, and desperately needed Zachar’s help getting her out of the disturbing–and messy–situation.

Earlier that day, Beavers had noticed a truck speeding away from the car wash, followed by the sound of a dog in distress. He couldn’t pinpoint where the wails were coming from, but as the whimpering continued, he kept up the search.

That’s when he found the 8-year-old German shepherd mix struggling for her life amid oil, stagnant water and trash. The dog had just recently given birth, and her abuser used the pit, formerly a hole for dumping runoff oil and water, as a cruel grave.

Left for Dead
Beavers yelled for help, but when no one responded he took matters into his own hands, using rope to pull out the dog. He then called his friend Zachar from a payphone. The retired respiratory therapist, who rescues animals with her husband, threw on some old clothes, grabbed a few blankets and drove out to the scene. When she arrived, she saw the dog drenched with oil.

“When we got there, Mr. Beavers had already gotten her out of the pit,” Zachar tells of the May 13 rescue. “He had a blanket on her, and he was just beside himself. … It’s so strange how God works. Here’s a man that most people would consider has been thrown away, living in a thrown away area, and rescues a dog that has been thrown away. I really think it was divine intervention that allowed him to save her.”

Although the dog couldn’t stand, Zachar says the shepherd was strong enough to hold her head up and peer out the window on the ride to the shelter. “We just scooped her up and put her on the floor in the back of my car,” Zachar says. “Oil was globbing off of her. Everything we used, anything that oil touched, had to be thrown away. It took a couple of days to get the stench out.”

John Robinson, a manager at the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County, helped welcome the dog to the shelter. “When I went out to the truck to get her, before I even crossed the parking lot, you could smell how much she was covered in the oil and stagnant water,” he said

One Tough Dog
The dog had to be rushed to animal emergency care due to the amount of time she spent submerged in the toxic pit, yet she remained strong. “Usually dogs like that are almost laying on their side,” Robinson says. “They can’t lift their head, and they’re very out of it. She was not. She was still alert, still holding her head up. She’s a fighter. She’s tough.”

To remove the thick, sticky substance from her coat, doctors had to bathe her repeatedly. Robinson says the resilient canine is now doing much better than when she arrived, yet she still needs two or three more baths to remove the oil residue from her coat.

Since the incident hit the local news, her owners have come forward to claim the dog, whose name is Harley. They brought pictures of the shepherd with them to the shelter, and Robinson could tell by the dog’s excited reaction that they were her family.

The owners say they let her go out into the front yard, and they believe that someone in the neighborhood picked up Harley and threw her into the pit. She had already given birth, so her puppies were safe – but the family will soon surrender all five of the pups to the shelter, where they will be spayed and neutered and put up for adoption.

Harley is also being spayed and microchipped, and will go back home June 4 after Robinson and his team talk to the family about how to safeguard their pets.

“She’s a whole different dog,” says Robinson. “She’s got a lot of energy … (and) there’s not an aggressive bone in her body. She’s kind of the star of the show up here.”

The cruel act is still being investigated. No reward is set at this time, but anyone with information can contact the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County.