Jeff O’Rear has been a Kansas City police officer for the past 18 years, including a stint as a tactical response officer in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods.
“Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of horrific scenes out there,” O’Rear, who is assigned to the Shoal Creek Patrol Division in the Northland, said Thursday.
But none of that prepared him for what he and his partner, Erik Winter, witnessed last Saturday in the Wilshire Plaza parking lot near Missouri 152 and North Evanston Avenue.
Locked inside a sweltering vehicle, a four-pound male dog, part Chihuahua, was sprawled inside his kennel, on his back and tongue dangling.
His owners had left him there, and he was near death. O’Rear and Winter, who were patrolling nearby, showed up and used a baton to break out a back window.
“He was just so close to death at that time, it was a very horrific picture,” O’Rear said. “That was so emotional to see that dog; to see that somebody would do that to him for no reason; just neglect.”
Earlier this week, O’Rear and his family adopted the dog.
“He is like a puppy, and he gets wound up,” he said. “He likes to nap, and when he wakes up, he likes to go full speed.”
O’Rear and his wife, Paula, kept the adoption a secret from their two daughters until Wednesday, when they picked up the dog from the KC Pet Project in Zona Rosa.
While the rescue of the Chihuahua was unique in its details and high drama, it was not the first time police or fire fighters have brought in rescued animals, said Tori Fugate, a marketing manager for the KC Pet Project animal shelter.
Nor was it unheard of for the rescuer to immediately ask for adoption papers.
Firefighters often bring in abandoned kittens and then ask to take them home, Fugate said. Residents bring in a stray dog or cat, but then don’t want to leave without it.
In one case, a Kansas City tow-lot worker found a puppy that had apparently been trapped inside a Chevy Suburban for 30 days.
The act of rescuing an animal can create an instant bond, Fugate said.
In this case, the Chihuahua and the police officer clearly belonged together, Fugate said. “We realized that, of course, this was the perfect home for this dog.”
As the story circulated through town, many called the shelter asking about the little dog, Fugate said. “But we were straight up with people from the beginning, that this dog is spoken for.”
O’Rear said he and Winter were monitoring animal control calls last Saturday and drove to the shopping center when they noticed that a crowd had gathered around a car. They broke out the window but had trouble getting the rear door open.
“Everybody around us was crying and screaming, they were upset,” O’Rear said.
Someone yelled at O’Rear to take the dog to a nearby pet store. The dog’s body temperature was over 107 degrees, and his heart rate had skyrocketed to over 200. The dog then went into shock as his temperature plummeted to 94 degrees, O’Rear said.
The store’s staff vigorously rubbed the dog with warm blankets and brought his temperature up. The dog was cared for overnight and given other treatment.
The former owners of the dog, a married couple from Carrollton, Mo., have been cited for animal cruelty and will have to appear in court to face a possible misdemeanor charge. The couple signed over ownership of the dog and that allowed O’Rear to adopt him.
It was not the first time the officer’s family adopted an animal O’Rear helped rescue. Five years ago, they took in a cat that was rescued from a Northland sewer.
The Chihuahua doesn’t have a name yet. O’Rear said they want the name to reflect the story of the dog’s rescue.
“It was a great decision, and I was so nervous that it was all going to come together,” he said. “My girls are really excited, and I am looking forward to providing for him.”
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