One hot, August day in 2010, home inspector Paul Samartgedes was sent to a foreclosed home in Central Phoenix to take photos and make recommendations to the bank regarding the property. He and his co-worker, Jerry Mollo, walked through the quiet, dark house, taking flash photos of each room. Then they left. Late that same night, when Paul downloaded the photos on his computer and began to review them, he made a stunning discovery.
There was a dog staring back at him from one of the photos, from the floor of the bathroom, his eyes glowing from the flash – emaciated, and so broken in spirit, he had not uttered a single sound while Paul was taking the photo.
Paul raced back to the house first thing in the morning with his partner, after having forwarded the photos to his wife, Lisa. Lisa worked with a woman that was very active in animal rescue, Joann Hansen. As Paul was making his way back to the foreclosed home, Lisa and Joann immediately launched an email plea for help. Lisa states, “I was on pins and needles while Paul drove there, hoping he had made it through the night. I still can’t believe someone intentionally left him there to suffer and die.”
Paul knew this dog had to have been alone for weeks, and frantically called all the local animal control and humane agencies to get help for the pit mix he began to refer to as Nick. Due to myriad reasons, no help was available. One local shelter sent out an emergency responder, who helped Paul get Nick out of the house, and give him water and food – but said he was not “sick enough” to take into their care.
Dismayed, but undeterred, Paul, his wife, and Joann, continued their efforts to find sanctuary for Nick. They found a temporary foster for him, raised funds for him to receive vet care, and kept networking for help. It finally came, and Valley of the Sun Dog Rescue took Nick into their organization and placed him with a more permanent foster home.
For his efforts, Paul Samartgedes has been awarded the Gene Fields Humane Award from national animal welfare organization, Sunbear Squad. The award is bestowed by Gene Fields, the retired Animal Control Officer in West Virginia who championed Sunbear’s case.
Sunbear Squad states that “…Samartgedes could have just delivered Nick to the nearest pound where he may have been euthanized. Instead Samartgedes and his wife assumed responsibility for Nick’s care, found a foster home, recruited friends and raised money to help him get veterinary care, and helped him find a rescue.” Because they did not give up on Nick, he now has a permanent home, with a loving family, and a new name – Nacho. Sunbear Squad posted Nacho’s story on their “Animal Rescue Stories” page to inspire other good Samaritans to take action in similar situations.
His new family wished to stay anonymous, but they had this to say: “My husband and I love him to pieces! … He gives endless kisses and adores his sister [dog], Kona, as she does him. He is always the life of the party when we have company over; without fail he ends up on someone’s lap before the night is over.”
Lisa and Paul Samartgedes, who have always been animal lovers, state that saving Nick has made them even more sensitive to the plight of animals in their community and they try to do as much as they can to help area rescues and shelters with food and financial donations.
The Gene Fields Humane Award is given to selected individuals who take extraordinary action to save an animal in distress. Sunbear Squad Inc. is a non-profit organization that publishes a web site, www.sunbearsquad.org and blog, www.sunbearblogsquad.org . The sites offer all-original guidance, knowledge, and tools to help individuals prepare to report signs of animal abuse, neglect, and distress promptly. Sunbear was a dog who died of neglect, and neighbors did not report hearing him while he was trapped for over 6 weeks in a laundry room in an empty West Virginia townhouse. Gene Fields is a career Humane Officer in Charleston, WV, with over 522 successfully prosecuted neglect and abuse cases to his credit, including Sunbear’s case.