It's been six weeks since police found a 6-year-old Shepherd cooped up with no food or water and in poor health, and the dog's temperament and physical condition have improved dramatically, according to Cesar Villalobos, kennel manager at the Glen Cove Animal Shelter.
"He was in bad shape," said Villalobos, who has been with the shelter for 14 years. "In Glen Cove I've never seen anything like this."
Sheldon, as the dog is known at the shelter, arrived malnourished with patches of hair missing, a skin infection and a severe flea infestation.
He was rescued Aug. 6 when the Glen Cove Police Department received a call about an Eldridge Place residence from a neighbor who was concerned that they could hear the dog barking but had not seen him or the home's residents in several days. The caller reported that nobody was answering the door and mail was overflowing in the mailbox, a police spokesperson said.
Police responded and searched the house, finding the dog in a back room with no food or water available, police said.
Officers contacted the Glen Cove Animal Lovers League and the dog was handed over to Villalobos.
"He was growling in his cage the first night," said Villalobos on Monday, standing outside the shelter as he pulled on a leash to keep an energetic Sheldon from circling him too quickly. "Before, you couldn't even get close to him."
Let Patch save you time. Get local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Sheldon has put on 30 pounds since he arrived, said shelter co-founder Joan Phillips, who called him "severely underweight for his size" when he was rescued.
While his behavior with people is still somewhat unpredictable, she said his response so far to all the new exposure is encouraging.
Villalobos said that although adoption to a new home is the ultimate goal, Sheldon's future will remain uncertain at least until the case against his owners, Carol Duchnowski, 55, and son Milo, 19, is resolved.
Each is charged with one count of cruelty to animals, a Class A misdemeanor. The case is being prosecuted by the Animal Cruelty Unit of the Nassau County District Attorney's Office and will be heard in Glen Cove City Court on Sept. 25.
Phillips said that before the Animal Cruelty Unit was formed in 2010, abuse and neglect cases often fell short of being treated as criminal offenses.
She said that understanding how owners can treat animals as harshly or neglectfully as they sometimes do requires a simple shift in perspective.
"The dog is not a sentient being to them," she said of many such cases. "It's as if they had an alarm system. It could also be a lack of education as to an animal's needs."
Follow Glen Cove Patch on Facebook