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‘This big, giant rally around this tiny white dog’

When an abused dog is found on the Jenks Academy playground, the school community jumps into action.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

A group of students and parents at Jenks Academy for the Arts & Sciences rushed into principal Mary Lynskey’s office last Thursday morning carrying a milk crate with a small white dog inside it, wrapped in a blanket.

They had found the dog, which they initially called Tinkerbell, unable to walk and shivering in an isolated corner of the school grounds. Lynskey, who has six dogs herself, called her veterinarian, Dr. Dolores Constantino from Family Pet Clinic. She was most concerned that Tinkerbell’s paws seemed to be infected.

Once at the vet, the staff members who took Tinkerbell to the appointment discovered that she was actually a male dog and renamed him “Pooka.” His fur was severely matted, and he was emaciated and covered in filth and feces. His rear paws had rope marks on the back, indicating that they had been tied. Three of his paws were infected from gashes, and his tendons were exposed by the wounds.

The veterinarian told the staff members that it was the worst case of animal abuse she had seen. She used part of the practice’s money in its stray dog fund to offset the costs of treating him before sending Pooka to an emergency clinic where he could see a specialist. At the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Clinic in Levittown, which also used some of its own funds to pay for Pooka’s care, the dog was given a wet bandage treatment to treat the infections.

“Through everything, he was the sweetest, quietest little guy in the world. Everyone’s heart was bleeding for him,” Lynskey said.

The Jenks Academy community quickly rallied behind Pooka. The night after he was found, Lynskey created an online fundraiser. “Save Pooka’s Paws,” on the crowdfunding website YouCaring to raise money for his medical costs. It met its goal of $2,500 within 48 hours. At last check, the fundraiser has raised $2,627 in four days from 77 donors.

“It was so amazing to see everyone come together to help, I recognized many of the donors as our parents and teachers,” said Haviva Goldman, one of the parents who took Pooka to Lynskey.

Many students asked the school what else they could do to help Pooka heal. In response, the school decided to allow the students to “dress down” (not wear their uniforms) for the last week of school if they donate $5, which will go toward Pooka’s treatment and the replenishment the stray dog funds at the clinic and the veterinarian’s office. The first day of the dress-down week raised $482.

A group of 2nd-grade students, including Goldman’s daughter, Annalena Lattanzi, even wrote the dog a card, which they were able to give to him when they visited.

“It was so hard to explain to my worried daughter how someone could be so cruel to an animal, but what it made it a little easier was knowing that there is also true kindness out there,” Goldman said.

The day after Pooka’s vet visit, the entire 5th-grade class came to visit Pooka in Lynskey’s office, kneeling down to pet him, one by one.

“The kids were so compassionate and warm-hearted with him. They talked to him as if he understood all of the comforting things they were saying,” Lynskey said.

At least 12 members of the school community have offered to adopt or foster Pooka. He is now staying with Lynskey’s vet, who is also considering adopting him. He has gained more than a pound since he was rescued, and his front bandage was taken off yesterday.

“There was this big, giant rally around this tiny white dog,” Lynskey said.

“He got so much support from everyone in the community and he is healing because of that love and support.”

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