John Pavoncello video

Heaven -- the West Highland terrier badly beaten and left for dead in a York City trash can -- continues to recover from her ordeal, and an SPCA investigator is getting closer to figuring out who injured the dog.

The 6- or 8-year-old dog underwent surgery Tuesday night at the Animal Emergency Clinic for a broken leg and will likely be returning to the SPCA's Emigsville shelter on Friday, according to Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA.

"The surgery went very well," she said. "The veterinarian felt the leg injury was approximately 10 to 14 days old."

After Heaven is discharged from the clinic, the SPCA plans to place her in an established foster home familiar with helping dogs recover from orthopedic surgery, Smith said.

Serenity Rhoades, 11, sits with her dog Carmel in Bantz Park, where she found an injured terrier in a trash can on her way home from school.
Serenity Rhoades, 11, sits with her dog Carmel in Bantz Park, where she found an injured terrier in a trash can on her way home from school. (John A. Pavoncello Photo)

Smith said she's still very hopeful Heaven will be adoptable. Heaven's other injuries included having a stick rammed down her throat and breaking into pieces in her shoulder area, the SPCA has said.

"She's still a little unemotional," Smith said. "But she's very agreeable to anything that needs to be done for her. There's not a lot of tail-wagging so far, but I heard she was giving random kisses (to clinic staff), so we're very happy about that."

Closing in: Smith said SPCA Humane Officer Nicole Boyer is making progress in her investigation into the cruelty incident as well.

"We have a very solid lead as to the whereabouts of Heaven's original owner, and we are actively pursuing information from her that could lead us to (the abusers)," Smith said.


Heaven has a microchip ID, so the name of her owner is on record.

It's unknown how long Heaven was inside a trash can in Bantz Park in the city's west end. But on Thursday afternoon, 11-year-old Serenity Rhoades heard the dog crying in the
can and ran home to get her mother and help.

"It's pretty sad," Serenity said. "There was water in the bottom of the trash can, and she was whining. She was shaking."

Smith has called Serenity a hero.

Little celebrity: Serenity's mother, Kim Williams, said people have been contacting her to praise her daughter's actions.

"She's quite the little celebrity," Williams said.

People talk about what a great thing Serenity did, and how Heaven might have died if not for the little girl's actions, according to Williams, who described her daughter as an animal lover.

A local french-fry shop has even rewarded the girl with a gift certificate, Williams said.

Serenity said she hopes her family will be able to adopt Heaven once the Westie recovers.

Williams said the family already has an approved adoption application at the SPCA, because they'd been looking to adopt a second dog. Like her daughter, Williams said she hopes to make the Westie part of their family.

"Her name's 'Heaven,'" Williams said. "Come on, how much better can it be?"

-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at levans@yorkdis, 505-5429 or

Anyone with information about who badly beat this West Highland terrier is urged to call the York County SPCA at 764-6109, ext. 126 or 127. York County Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible. Call 755-TIPS. All calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and callers don't have to give their names to collect cash rewards.