Rick DiPietro and his wife Cassie have always been considered the resident animal lovers on the Islanders – especially when it comes to dogs. The go-to couple for rallying teammates, wives and girlfriends to attend fundraisers for local shelters and animal hospitals, the DiPietros’ love for man’s best friend is infectious. So when they heard about Joey, a local pit bull who was thrown out of a moving vehicle two weeks ago and suffered multiple injuries, they decided to pay a visit to the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island to check on the pup.
“This was something that hit home for us and we just wanted to bring awareness to the fact that sometimes animals get hurt,” DiPietro said. "You don’t read about it all the time. Fortunately they were able to find Joey and get him back and he’s doing well.”
The Islanders goalie brought several bags of dog treats, an Islanders dog jersey and an Islanders leash for Joey, as well as cupcakes for the hard-working staff at the 24-hour center.
News 12 reported that Joey was put in a plastic bag and thrown out of a moving vehicle near the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood, NY, on Saturday, Aug. 11. Fortunately, a witness saw the bag thrown out of the car window, decided to take a closer look, and discovered Joey.
Upon his arrival at the veterinary clinic, Joey had a broken neck, bruised lungs and chest trauma, as well as wounds around his neck; possibly bite marks. Brooke Hutt, an Emergency Doctor at the clinic, was the first one to get a look at the injured canine, who was only 2-3 months old.
“He was very dehydrated and very weak,” Hutt said. “He presented on his side. He could barely move. I just knew that we needed to give him a chance.”
Hutt added that even though Joey faced an uphill battle from the moment he arrived, and needed morphine to ease his pain, the staff made the decision to do everything they could to keep him alive.
“We just took one look at him and all of us made that decision that we were going to help him and do everything we could,” Hutt said.”From that point on, everybody joined on. That’s the way this hospital works. It’s so wonderful.”
Joey has received many visitors lately, as his story has gained more public attention, and was excited to see the DiPietros on Thursday afternoon. Wearing a blue cast half his size, with a modified Superman crest with a ‘J’, he was pushing himself up on his front legs, trying to move around as much as possible and wagging his tail. That’s enormous improvement from two weeks ago, when he couldn’t use his legs at all.
There are stories like this every day, but not everybody hears about them. The dogs actually get better, and it’s unbelievable how they bounce back from situations like this and can trust people again. - Cassie DiPietro
“He’s doing really well,” Mrs. DiPietro said. “It was nice to see him trying to move his front legs and crawl to us and eat the treats up. It’s nice to see that he’s in good hands right now.”
Despite going through such a traumatic event, Joey has taken well to doctors and visitors since day one.
“He’s been wonderful from the beginning,” Hutt said. “When he came in, he just looked at you with those eyes, like ‘Please help me.’”
During his visit, DiPietro was upset at the mere thought of such a heinous display of animal cruelty, but was all smiles while letting the dog lick his hands and face. The Islanders goalie is glad to see Joey getting a lot of attention.
“It’s good to see that he’s got great care,” DiPietro said. “You can tell these people really love the dog and they want him to get better and they’re doing everything they can to make sure that happens.”
The DiPietros have been involved with the North Shore Animal League, an animal rescue and adoption organization, for several years. They owned a toy poodle and a bull dog, although the latter died after being hit by a car last year. Mrs. DiPietro knows they have a responsibility to use Rick’s persona to bring awareness to an issue they are so passionate about.
“We both try to get involved, because the North Shore Animal League is so well-known, and we do anything that we can to bring awareness,” Mrs. DiPietro said. “With Rick being with the Islanders, it’s easier. It’s an avenue that he can use to try to get the word out there. There are stories like this every day, but not everybody hears about them. The dogs actually get better, and it’s unbelievable how they bounce back from situations like this and can trust people again.”
There is no specific timetable for Joey’s recovery, and he will likely be in the cast for about three more months. Fortunately, many Long Islanders have already donated to the center since hearing the story to aid the cause. After he makes a sufficient recovery, he will be available for adoption. Dr. Hutt says that although there’s still a long way to go, the future looks bright.
“As far as the extent of his care, I think it’s too soon to know what he’s going to require,” Hutt said. “I think we just have to give him time. We’re trying to get Joey as far as we can recovery-wise, and then bring awareness as far as animal cruelty and making people aware of what can result from that and how important it is to be humane to animals.”
According to the News 12 report, the ASPCA, Suffolk SPCA and North Shore Animal League have pooled together and are offering a $25,000 reward for information about the person or people who threw Joey from their vehicle. If you have any information, call the SPCA at (631) 382-7722.