SYDNEY — The pit bull belonging to the homeless man who recently endured a brutal attack might not have had a roof over his head, but officials at the Cape Breton SPCA say he sure wasn't lacking in the love department.
"You can tell what a happy, healthy dog Chico is, there's no doubt about it," said Cape Breton SPCA manager Jeff Dursi.
"Some people have questioned the type of life he had on the road and on the streets, but look at his demeanor. There's no question this dog had an abundance of love in his life.
"It goes to show you in so many ways oftentimes the people who have little to give, give the most to a companion," he added.
"Look what Shawn was able to give Chico by way of life, strong behaviour, positive attitude, development and socialization — it's phenomenal to see that."
He said Chico and Shawn were "a pack" and Chico clearly misses him.
"Obviously, what he needs more than anything is for his dad to come home and for him to go back with his dad.”
On July 14, Shawn Kurtis Jack, 48, a former Truro resident, was found bloodied and bruised in the parking lot of the Atlantic Superstore in North Sydney. He is now in a Halifax hospital with serious head and other injuries.
So far, six people have been charged in the brutal attack.
Dursi said members of the Cape Breton Regional Police contacted the SPCA around midnight on the night of the incident.
He said he was surprised Chico remained uninjured, suggesting it could have been the "fear factor" of dogs that helped Chico, who was found at his battered owner's side by emergency responders following the attack.
"Chico was on the scene waiting for his owner — as we were told by the police — and was not budging."
Dursi said Chico is currently in the care of the SPCA.
"We are completely committed to caring for Chico until his dad makes sufficient recovery," he said.
"We really hope he recovers quickly and fully. In order to be reunited Shawn's doctors would have to say he's healthy enough and we can't wait for that day to come."
Dursi said the SPCA is actually hoping to take Chico to the hospital in Halifax to visit Jack if permitted.
"If there comes a time where Shawn is healthy enough and it's all approved through the hospital that a visit with Chico would be possible, we'd be happy to facilitate that."
When the Cape Breton Post visited Chico Wednesday, it was obvious how much he enjoys people, as his tail never stopped wagging. He even proudly showed a new toy he found at the shelter, a stuffed porcupine he never parted with.
Dursi said the outpouring of support is amazing, with the SPCA receiving calls from across Canada inquiring about Chico, wanting to know how he's doing.
"By unfortunately going through what Shawn did, he has brought a community together — Shawn and Chico and have thousands of people behind them."
"We are getting phone calls, messages on Facebook, emails, asking how Shawn is and how Chico is adjusting. It's amazing."
Dursi said comments also include outrage about how this could happen in Cape Breton.
"At the end of the day, most people are hopeful and optimistic for Shawn and are very happy his companion is safe, happy and comfortable waiting his dad's full recovery and family reunion," he said.
"A reunion would reduce us to a bubbling mess of tears here, I know that."
Dursi said there are hundreds of Chicos who come into the shelter each year.
The shelter only has a contract for dog control, while money for such things as care of animals, adoptions, and cats comes through donations and fundraising.
"We treat them all the same — give them everything."
"We work day in and day out tirelessly on behalf of each and every one of these dogs and cats. It’s nice seeing people appreciate what shelters do and this is what we do on a daily basis."
Melissa Dawe, working at the SPCA on a placement program through the YMCA, has spent a lot of time with Chico.
"He's a very sweet dog, very smart and he loves playing catch," she said.
"His owner kept really good care of him, kept him well socialized," she said.
"It looks like he took better care of his dog than he did of himself. His dog was obviously his whole world."
She said when she's just sitting outside with Chico, he'll lay across her legs.
"He’s very loving and cuddly.
She said with word starting to get out Chico is at the SPCA, some people have dropped off food and teddy bears for him. She said the animal care workers at the SPCA are doing an amazing job, with everyone working together to keep Chico happy.
"People are being really supportive of him. Chico's full of smiles, but definitely misses his owner."
A gofundme account was started for Shawn and Chico by Julia Hawkins of Little Pond, and by late Wednesday afternoon was at more than $19,200 by 513 people in five days. The account can be accessed at http://www.gofundme.com/bq8738