Bob Hoelter wonders if some divine intervention was at work one frigid winter night in Griffith, Indiana, last month, because if he hadn’t decided to walk 2 miles to his local store that night, things could have turned out very differently.
“I usually drive. That night I decided I needed some exercise,” Hoelter told The Dodo.
As Hoelter crossed a bridge, he heard a noise. He stopped. He then he heard it again. It was the saddest and most disconsolate moan, coming from below.
“I was looking at the water and the land, but I don’t see anything, but I hear it,” he said. “I came back to land, walked around and looked around.”
The screams continued from the darkness beneath the bridge. Determined to help, Hoelter crawled on his hands and knees through the sewer, completely sure of what he would find. All he knew was that someone needed him.
“I take out my flashlight because I always have it with me,” Hoelter said. “I got to the bottom. I finally see it!
And there, looking at Hoelter, was a tiny puppy, shaking and scared. But Hoelter couldn’t believe what he noticed next: the puppy’s snout was taped shut and wrapped with duct tape.
“I’m like, ‘Oh shit,” Hoelter said.
Hoelter knew he had to act quickly. Griffith Animal Hospital wasn’t far away and he hoped they were still open.
“I just put it in my jacket, crawled in and started taking it to the animal hospital,” he said.
And the moment Hoelter burst through the clinic door, holding the puppy, is something Griffith Animal Hospital manager Lori Kovacich will never forget.
“I was out of my chair and I was in the lobby looking for him in seconds,” Kovacich told The Dodo.
Horrified, Kovacich grabbed the puppy and rushed him to the veterinary staff. He moved so fast that he never caught Hoelter’s name and number. “I think he had kind of tunnel vision,” he said.
Hoelter, happy that the puppy was in good hands, returned to his original destination, the store.
The veterinary staff got to work on the puppy immediately. He was emaciated and his skin was severely damaged under the tape. They estimate the tape must have been around his snout for days.
The medical team removed the tape and administered injections of antibiotics and ointment to the approximately 4-month-old puppy. Then they prepared a bed for him with blankets and stuffed animals.
Staff later discovered the puppy also had a broken leg, which would require surgery. They believe someone threw him off the bridge and he didn’t fall into the water, and the puppy landed on the ground.
Kovacich, very upset by the pup’s condition, posted on the animal hospital’s Facebook page: “In my 30 years of working here, I never thought I would see this… in real life.”
Her post caught the attention of many local residents, including Mary Witting. She and her husband, Doug, are long-time clients of the veterinary clinic.
The couple recently lost their beloved dog and had sworn they wouldn’t get another one anytime soon, until they read about the puppy’s sad story.
“I thought: ‘That pretty face needs me.’ I can give him love 24/7, and I need it,’” Witting told The Dodo.
The Wittings went to meet him, fell in love instantly and decided to adopt him. They called him Louie.
While Kovacich and the Wittings were excited about Louie’s future, the man who had saved Louie remained a mystery. Kovacich punished herself for not getting her number.
Then another incredible twist of fate occurred: Hoelter’s niece caught the Facebook post about Louie and helped reunite everyone with her uncle.
And on the emotional reunion day, the most emotional attendee turned out to be Louie, who recognized his hero.
“I was shocked because I didn’t think he remembered me,” Hoelter said. “They sat him down and he ran straight toward me.”
Louie gave Hoelter lots of love and kisses.
Hoelter said he is thrilled that Louie will have a fantastic new home.
But what still haunts Hoelter is what might have happened if he had driven to the store the night he found the puppy, instead of walking: He would never have heard Louie’s cries for help.
He’s grateful that the animal hospital was still open when he arrived and that everyone inside was willing to help. The stars just seemed to align.
“It makes me think that God has a purpose for everyone, to be honest with you. “We all have our calling,” Hoelter said. “I’ll have to walk more often, but I don’t want to find any more dogs under the bridge.”