A West Highland terrier, above, was severely beaten and left for dead in a trash can in York City’s Bantz Park. The dog was rescued thanks to
A West Highland terrier, above, was severely beaten and left for dead in a trash can in York City's Bantz Park. The dog was rescued thanks to 11-year-old Serenity Rhoades, who heard the animal's cries and got help. (Submitted Photo)
Eleven-year-old Serenity Rhoades loves animals, and can't understand why no one helped to save a severely beaten dog left for dead in a trash can at a York City park.

"It was sad," Serenity said. "I couldn't imagine if that happened to my dog. There was a lot of people walking by, and nobody tried to help it."

Serenity, of York City, was walking home from McKinley Elementary School on Thursday afternoon when she heard yelping coming from a garbage can in Bantz Park, in the city's west end. She looked in, spotted the dog and ran home to get her mother, Kim Williams.

They called 911, and an animal control officer responded to rush the adult West Highland terrier to the York County SPCA shelter in Emigsville, according to Melissa Smith, the SPCA's executive director.

"She's a hero," Smith said of Serenity.

If not for Serenity, the dog might have remained in the trash can for days, eventually dying of injuries, exposure or both, Smith said.

Initially, the dog's prognosis was "very, very uncertain," said Smith, who described the dog's wounds as "horrific" and "torturous."

But by Monday morning, Smith said it appears the abused dog will survive.

"I think everyone here feels she has pulled through the worst of it and that she's on the road to recovery," she said.

Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday to fix a broken leg, she said.

Microchip records for the dog indicate her name at one time was "Heaven" and that she was owned by someone in Georgia, according to
Smith. The dog is probably 6 or 8 years old, she said.

Young hero: Williams said she's proud of her daughter, but not surprised.

"She loves animals -- she brings home all kinds of animals," Williams said. "She does volunteer work sometimes ... at a veterinary hospital."

Williams said the Westie was somewhat buried in trash and water.

"All you saw was (her) little head," she said. "It would've frozen in there. It was soaking wet and shivering. (She) looked so pitiful. It would've brought tears to anyone's eyes."

The trash can was chained up, so they couldn't simply turn it on its side to let the Westie crawl out, Williams said, and when she reached in, the dog snapped at her. Williams said the dog was clearly frightened, not mean.

That's when Serenity told her mother she intended to stay with the dog until help arrived.

"She stayed there until they came to get it, the whole 45 minutes," Williams said.

"I think of it this way. The people really shouldn't have thrown that dog away," Serenity said. "Would you want to be abused?"

Impaled: Initially, SPCA veterinarians thought Heaven had a shattered, dislocated shoulder. But Smith said what appeared in X-rays as shattered bone were really bits of a 12-inch stick rammed down Heaven's throat.

"It was forced down the dog's throat, went down the side of her mouth and out through where the shoulder blade would be," Smith said. The area is now badly infected, she said.

But the good news is, Heaven's shoulder blade is intact, Smith said. Heaven also suffered a hemorrhaged eye, among other injuries, Smith said.

It's believed the Westie was beaten, and perhaps kicked, one to three days prior to being rescued Thursday afternoon, Smith said; it's unknown how long the dog was in the trash can.

"For whoever did this to then discard a living animal in a trash can is despicable," she said. "When cases like this come to us that are so emotionally charged, the only way you can wrap your mind around it is to save the dog. If we can't save the dog, then there's no good that came of this situation."

New home? Serenity said she hopes to adopt the Westie, and that her mother said it would be OK.

"We have our (SCPA) applications filled out and everything," she said.

Smith said she's very hopeful Heaven will be adoptable.

SPCA Humane Police Officer Nicole Boyer is investigating the cruelty incident.

"We have no leads yet," Smith said. "But we've had tons of calls from people concerned for the dog's welfare, and horrified by her circumstances, as we are."

-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at levans@yorkdispatch.com, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.

How to help
Anyone with information about who owns this badly beaten West Highland terrier -- or who beat her or discarded her in a trash can -- 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.