(NEW YORK) — Max, a friendly pit-bull-pointer-shepherd mix, was saved by a good Samaritan Tuesday, after he was found trapped under a fallen tree with the bodies of his owner Jessie Streich-Kest, and her friend Jacob Vogelman.
Max, a shoo-in for the Target dog with a brown patch over his eye, was taken to Verg South, an emergency veterinary hospital in Brooklyn, where he is expected to recover from head injuries, a broken jaw and some lacerations to the mouth.
For him, it was a second rescue — he was a shelter dog. And now, Verg South will take care of him pro-bono until he can go home to live with his owner’s family.
“It’s just a testament to Max’s spirit that he pulled through this tragedy,” said veterinarian Brett Levitzke, who is treating the dog.
“It’s also a testament to his owner that she went to a local shelter and saved putting him to sleep,” he said. “That’s why the whole story is really heartbreaking, but hopefully it will have a happy ending for Max.”
He, like hundreds of pets up and down the East Coast, were separated from their owners or killed as hurricane-force winds and flooding took down everything in their path.
NYCVert, which since 9/11 has worked with the city’s Office of Emergency Management to develop disaster planning for pets, estimated about 100 animals pets have been rescued and taken to shelters in New York City during superstorm Sandy.
“And that’s not counting those that ended up in hospitals or were stranded,” said Levitzke, 41.
The hospital, with generators, has been operational 24/7 since the storm. One dog had salt water toxicity from being stuck in flood waters, causing his brain to swell. Others have suffered from stress that causes vomiting.
“It runs the gamut,” he said of the injuries. The hospital also takes in abandoned pets.
Max was found alive Tuesday when a neighbor went outside in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn to take pictures of the fallen tree.
“He was mentally very dull because of head trauma,” said Levitzke. The dog will likely need jaw surgery after his head injuries subside.
He described Max as a large “Brooklyn garden variety mutt,” with a “sweet face and a sweet disposition.”
Max had been adopted by Streich-Kest, a special education teacher at the Buschwick High School for Social Justice, from the ASPCA. She was an activist who championed the homeless and even the carriage horses in Central Park.
“Jessie was a wonderful, amazing human being and they were a perfect match, so I am happy he is surviving,” Barbara Gross, a friend of the family, said of Max. “They were inseparable.”
Her parents, Jon Kest and Fran Streich, both community organizers, were devasted by their daughter’s death and plan to keep the dog, according to Gross, 54.
Streich-Kest got Max from the ASPCA when she moved into her first apartment about two years ago, according to Gross.
“He was a real comfort and anchor for her,” she said. “Everyone said the dog thought he was human.”
At Verg South, Max has been “definitely critical for the past few days, but over the past 24 hours, he has taken quite a turn for the better in terms of his neurological status,” said Levitzke.
As of Friday, Max was out of his cage and eating. “He’s a ton better,” he said. “The fact is, Max is a real trooper.”
Levitzke said the city had done a “good job” of looking after pets, informing them how to make preparations for evacuations and even providing accommodation for family pets at evacuation shelters.
“For all those reasons, the numbers aren’t going to be as staggering as Katrina,” he said, where an estimated 600,000 animals were lost or perished.
For future weather emergency preparedness, Levitzke advises families to pack “go bags” for animals, with food, blankets, carriers and leashes, and most importantly ID for your pet and even a photo taken with you in case you are separated.
“Everyone is dealing with the aftereffects of Sandy,” said Levitzke. “Max is welcome to stay with us as long as he needs. And while they get their feet on the ground. We will take care of his injuries.”
“The family has lost everything,” he said. “But pets are family and now they have one less thing to worry about.”
For questions and to help reunite pets and their owners, call the city’s Pet Hotline at (347) 573-1561.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio