Better to Have Loved

July 11, 2012  

Despite its tragic ending, rescuing Hercules is a true love story

By Nicole Davis

I fell head over heels in love with a pit bull named Hercules. This is our story.

In December of 2011, I found myself trying to spread some “Christmas cheer.” I so desperately wanted to give a little bit of money to a charity and make a small difference for someone out there. And when I say a small difference, I don’t mean give a hundred dollars to a charity that takes $99 of it and gives someone, somewhere a cracker.

I decided what I wanted to do with my money. I wanted to donate it to a dog that needed a new life. So, my search began on my own Facebook page. I think most of us have at one time or another been guilty of ignoring or pretending not to see things that are hurtful or sad. I did it constantly. I had “hidden” all of the animal rescue pages that I had “liked” on Facebook throughout the years. When I say hidden, I do mean hidden. They never showed up anywhere, completely forgotten. Until that December night … when I saw Hercules’ face. I just knew. I knew that I was meant to save him. I knew that I was meant to love him. I knew that he was meant for me.

Lee County Domestic Animal Services (LCDAS) received a call from a meter reader at the local electric company about an abandoned dog tied up behind a home. What they found when they got there was heart breaking. Tied up behind a duplex in Fort Myers, Fla., was pit bull. He was tied up with no shelter, food or water and, by appearance, it was obvious that he had been out there for a very long time.

The officer on scene had to carry the dog to his car because he collapsed upon standing. To say that he was emaciated would be a drastic understatement. He was so weak that he couldn’t even hold his own head up. He was a walking skeleton. Upon his arrival at the shelter, he was given a full exam and blood work. By the grace of God, his organs hadn’t shut down. He had a chance!

Trying to Save Hercules

LCDAS watched over him and treated him for the first seven days, as those seven are the most critical. Big Hearts for Big Dogs (BHBD) is a local rescue organization that has chapters in Fort Myers, Miami and West Palm Beach. Upon hearing this poor baby’s story, they stepped up to the plate and offered to rescue him.

I found myself staring at the computer screen for what seemed like an eternity, just trying to understand the picture that was in front of me. How anyone could do this to a dog is beyond my comprehension. How any dog could survive this type of cruelty is truly a miracle. BHBD was looking for a foster for this angel and was going to cover all of his expenses until he was ready to be adopted. There were a lot of people that wanted to take him, but somehow fate chose me. My only condition for fostering him was that I would be the one to adopt him as well. I decided to name him Hercules so that he had something to live up to.

There aren’t words that can truly describe what those first few moments felt like when I saw Hercules in person. Pictures don’t do it any justice either. There is something to be said for watching a skeleton walk. You could see every bone and every muscle as he struggled. Eight days after being rescued, and all he could manage was a couple of steps at a time before collapsing. He had to be carried everywhere. As my husband drove us both home, this beautiful dog snuggled in my lap and slept peacefully. I watched him breathe for the entire hour drive home. I watched his little body fight for every single breath and found myself holding my own as I anxiously worried about him.

Falling in Love

Hercules’s strength and personality grew with each day that he was home. He developed a severe case of pneumonia during the first few days, but even that didn’t slow him down. He was treated and closely monitored by the amazing Dr. Amanda Miller and recovered in less than two weeks. He had weekly visits with his vet and everything was improving. He gained more than 10 pounds in a month, his blood work was almost normal, and his anemia was slowly starting to resolve.

My husband and I were prepared to run into some behavioral issues with Hercules once he regained his strength, not knowing what type of environment he had been exposed to. However, we were pleasantly surprised to have no issues at all. He got along famously with our other two dogs (George and Cinnamon) and loved everyone. Despite all the cruelty, neglect and abuse that he had suffered, all he wanted was to be loved. That was it. He followed me everywhere. If I was washing dishes, he was laying on my feet. If I was reading a book, his head was on my chest. If I was sleeping, his head had to be in the nook of my neck. He was gentle, loving, affectionate and the funniest dog ever. He had such a big personality for such a small dog. He brought more smiles to my face than I could ever count.

Everything changed on Jan. 27, 2012. Hercules woke me up early in the morning and seemed to be having a hard time breathing. I called Dr. Miller, frantic that his pneumonia had returned. She met us at her office and determined that Hercules wasn’t saturating his oxygen and he needed to be transported to the emergency veterinary hospital immediately. He was in serious distress. I stood in the lobby of the hospital watching Hercules peer over Dr. Miller’s shoulder as she ran down the hallway towards the team of people flinging curtains, wheeling machines and preparing for him. I stood in that spot completely numb for a long time. I had finally let my guard down and allowed myself to think of Hercules’ future, of all the memories that we were going to make. I wanted nothing more than to make up for all the volatile and disgusting things that had happened to him. Hercules was supposed to grow up to be a huge 70-pound pit bull who got to sleep in a comfy bed every night, eat as much as he wanted, play at the beach on the weekends, take road trips and be showered with love and affection. Would have … could have … should have.

Hercules died in the arms of the vet that fought so valiantly to save him. He fought harder than any dog ever has – but in the end, the abuse handed to him was too cruel and too strong for his body to overcome. He died from a pulmonary embolism that was a direct result of the cruel abuse he suffered.

No Justice

Pablo Flores is the man who did all of this Hercules. A straight and honest answer as to why he sentenced Hercules to slow and torturous death of starvation and neglect was never received. All we know is that he did it willingly and knowingly. He stood by and watched as Hercules fought to stay alive by drinking rain dew and eating sticks. Pablo was given a number of citations, two being for animal cruelty. When his day in court came, the judge admirably sent back the animal cruelty citations and asked that the county hand them over to the state so that proper misdemeanor and/or felony charges could be filed against him. What happened next infuriates and saddens me beyond words. The State of Florida did nothing. Absolutely nothing, despite the judge’s request. Pablo Flores was given the maximum sentence for his citations. He was ordered to pay $1,036 in fines. They put him on a payment plan that lasts more than two years so he could comfortably afford it. If you, like myself, find yourself asking, “Well, what if he doesn’t pay?” I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed in the answer. If Pablo Flores never makes a payment, it goes to a debt collection agency. No jail time. No probation. No record. No memory. Nothing.

The Next Chapter

A piece of my soul died with Hercules that day. I’ve always loved dogs, but Hercules was different. He was my angel. He was my Christmas miracle. The bond that I had with Hercules is unlike anything I have ever had in my entire life. I am a better person for having loved and known Hercules. The only thing that helps mend the gaping hole in my heart from the loss of him is spreading his story, which is why I created Paws for Hercules.

The State of Florida has some major flaws in their legal system and laws. No one should be allowed to commit the heinous crime that Pablo Flores did and have no consequence to pay. If he did this so easily to an innocent animal, what is he capable of doing to you? To your children? Should he really be allowed that chance? Animal cruelty, regardless of whether death was involved, should be a misdemeanor charge at the very least.

If I had it all to do over again, I would. My husband and I fostered and eventually adopted two goofy trouble-making puppies. I want our story of heartbreak and tragedy to break the blinding spell of naivety. What happened to Hercules happens all the time. Your local animal shelters and rescues are full of dogs like Herc. Most of them don’t get happy endings. You can change that, though! You can make a difference! You can save a soul. Please, don’t let Hercules’ death be in vain. Sign his petition to the State of Florida, “like” his Facebook page, laugh and cry at his videos on YouTube. Adopt, don’t shop.

Times are tough, and taking on another family member isn’t always financially possible, but fostering is still an option. Most rescues cover all of the expenses. All you have to do is open your heart and your home to a soul for a few weeks until they can find their furever home. If you can’t adopt, and you can’t foster, then I hope you share Hercules’ story. I hope that you pass it along to your friends and family in the hopes that someone out there will save a soul in memory of Hercules because of you. Be a hero!

View the video of Hercules’ story here.

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53 Responses to “Better to Have Loved”
  1. SheenaghMurphy says:

    brought tears to my eyes… at least poor baby knew love and caring at the end – so many dogs never do. And it is disgusting that so many misnamed “justice” systems are so oblivious to the pain and suffering of our fellow creatures.

    • StubbyDog says:

      SheenaghMurphy We agree, and Nicole and others are working hard to change that. 

    • NicoleDavis says:

      SheenaghMurphy When I get really upset about everything that happened to Hercules and all cruelty he endured, I remember this one picture I took of him. It’s in the slide show. He’s sleeping and his mouth is hanging open and his eyes are kind of open. It’s the weirdest picture in the world, but it captures a realization for me. When I took that picture I KNEW that Hercules was FINALLY content. He was snoring like a bear when I took that too! That picture makes EVERYTHING worth it. 

  2. I’m crying at my desk. Thank you for loving Hercules in the short time you had with him at the end. There is some comfort in the fact that he didn’t die in that backyard, but in the arms of people who loved him and were helping him. I hope Pablo pays for what he has done to an innocent, loving dog. 

    • StubbyDog says:

      annedreshfield thanks Anne, Hercules did know love, and that is how is should be for all dogs. 

    • NicoleDavis says:

      annedreshfield Pablo will pay! Karma NEVER forgets! When LCDAS spoke to Pablo about Hercules, they found out that Hercules’ name was DEMON. It just goes to show what type of person Pablo really is. 

  3. adoremydogs says:

    My heart cries thinking about what Hercules went through before the angels put him in your arms.  My heart cries knowing there are so many more Hercules out there, going through the same thing.  Hercules is the example of the worst and the best of mankind.  The worst – a man that has no problem torturing an innocent animal and the lack of accountability and punishment, the best – a woman that gave all she possibly had to give to show love and kindness, trying her best to save this innocent boy. 
    And the battle continues on…..

    • StubbyDog says:

      adoremydogs  So true, it is an example of the worst and best in mankind. Thankfully there are more people like Nicole than the abuser.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      adoremydogs I really couldn’t have said it any better myself!!!! xo

  4. There are no words as tears are streaming down my face.  This man watched Hercules attempted to hydrate himself with rain dew, that alone has me in tears.  Hercules did nothing but wanted to be loved as you mentioned. Krush was abandoned in the dead of winter when he was 3 months old.  For two weeks folks walked, ran and drove by him.  When he was finally bought to the rescue where I adopted him he looked like Hercules so the volunteers decided to call him bones because he was so emaciated.  Hercules left this world knowing YOU loved him…someone loved him.  Although it’s hard please find solace in that.  

    • StubbyDog says:

      theprettychic Thanks Kelli, it’s amazing how people can be so cruel and uncaring, then there are people like you and Nicole and all the other people and rescuers who work so hard to help animals in need. That will always make us smile. 

      • StubbyDog My heart aches for these abused, neglected dogs everywhere.  Many times I have to admit that I want to walk away because the problem “appears” to get bigger and our efforts  seem not to make a difference.   When their are stories such as all of the Lennox’s of the world, dogs at the shelter being euthanized left and right and all of the calls to save as many as possible on facebook it’s easy to become discouraged, then I go home and see Sasha & Krush knowing they were once on someone’s site and I think of how they’ve saved me, how they’ve given me a since of purpose; that’s what keeps me going.  We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to what’s going on.  WE are literally the difference between life and death.  Stubbydog words can’t express my gratitude for ALL you do for this bully breed! Although some of the stories bring tears of sadness the love you have for this bully is unmatched.  THANK YOU

        • StubbyDog says:

          theprettychic Thank you Kelli and we think you expressed  how most of us feel every day. It seems that everything is so overwhelming and we can’t make a difference. But really, we all can make a difference, you did, Nicole did and our legions of fans do every day. We will see results and we will persevere because these dogs need our help so much. And the happiness you see in Krush is just one of the many rewards.  

    • NicoleDavis says:

      theprettychic They nicknamed Hercules Bones at the shelter he was at as well. I’m so happy that you rescued Krush! I’m sure that he has an amazing life, but I’m more happy for you because I KNOW that bond that comes from bringing a dog back from death’s door. It’s amazing. There is nothing like it! If everyone could rescue at least one Hercules or Krush, the world would be a better place! xoxoxo

      • NicoleDavis Krush was five months we adopted him however, the effects of his ordeal lives on today.  He’s been with us over a year and eats as if he’s never going to eat again.  When the volunteers see him they can’t believe he’s the same dog, Krush is now  70+ lbs now.  Yes, Krush is loved & he knows it.  You are the best & Hercules knows you loved him!

  5. SlpaokPerez says:

    I applaud your efforts. We too have a very similar story – in fact, not only the near starvation, broken bones, numerous scars and nearly total hair loss due to long term extended starvation –  but also the pneumonia which set in right as we thought he was making a turn for the better. Fortunately, Chance survived…but barely…it was VERY touch and go…reading your story brought back so many memories of the early days with Chance (our “little” pitty who now weighs about 80lbs!). Unlike your situation, the responsible party was unknown. The fact that the person responsible for this type of abuse was known and let off with so little is beyond comprehension.  Sometimes it can feel like it is an uphill battle and that you are one of the very few who care. I wanted to share a photo of our little guy…the first photo’s are actually once he had gained 10 lbs…and then 3 months later. We’ve now had him for 9 months and love him dearly. I hope you find the strength to continue caring…there is so much need.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      SlpaokPerez The collage that you posted is amazing! I know all too well what it’s like to be in that touch and go situation. I’m so glad that he was able to overcome the cruelty and abuse that was handed to him because the bond that you two share is one of a kind! I wonder quite frequently what Hercules’ “after” picture would have looked like. I think it would have been pretty close to Chance! 

    • StubbyDog says:

      SlpaokPerez What an amazing transformation. We echo Nicole’s comments, the bond you two have is one of a kind. We are so happy Chance is love and better with you now. 

  6. rachelmiller281 says:

    Wow… What a beautiful dog with a beautiful soul. Thank you for giving him that chance at knowing true love and having a good life, even if it was for a short time. You are a hero.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      rachelmiller281 He did have a beautiful soul 🙂 I think the possibility of him having the soul of angel is pretty good! Everything for a reason…even the bad. Without suffering, there would be no compassion. ( I’ve spent a lot of time repeating this to myself in the mirror and I almost believe it! ) xo

  7. ShawnLowe says:

    Thank you for sharing that.  You are an amazing angel.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      ShawnLowe Thanks for reading it! Hercules was the angel 😉 He continues to make me a better person! xo

  8. adoremydogs says:

    I truly believe anyone who opens their hearts to these extraordinary dogs, will find that they bring a strength to us, as well as that “since of purpose” theprettychic mentioned, to fight against the unjust prejudice imposed on bully breeds.  What an awesome group of people out there and what a great website, THANK YOU for allowing us to share the happiness and successes as well as the sadness that sometimes happens in rescue and saying goodbye to a cherished one. 

    • StubbyDog says:

      adoremydogs Thank you! We hope this website inspires people and helps them to fight for pit bulls. we love our fans and we love bringing you all the stories, happy and sad. 

    • NicoleDavis says:

      adoremydogs Thank YOU! Without people like you who care and are touched by the stories, they would never spread and touch others! 

  9. RaquelElleBell says:

    This story makes my heart hurt for all those poor babies that are “right now” suffering and who have yet to be, or who will ever be discovered.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      RaquelElleBell Me too :/ Hopefully, there will be at least one less because someone was inspired enough by Hercules’ story and tragedy enough to save a soul 🙂

  10. JanineHudson says:

    Tears are flowing.   It is amazing what these sweet babies teach us.  We become better people for having them in our lives even if it’s only for moments.  I’m sorry your time with him was so short, but I am thankful you had him for as long as you did.  Thank you for giving him true love and a wonderful home. And, thank you for sharing his story.      

    • NicoleDavis says:

      JanineHudson Thank YOU for reading it! I totally agree that we become better people for having them in our lives, no matter the time frame. Sharing his story is the only thing that helps heal the gaping hole he left in me and I’m glad that you were touched by it 🙂

  11. puppymomma says:

    I’m crying along with everyone else. At least he knew he was loved.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      puppymomma Tears for Hercules are the only tears I like! Tears mean you were touched by his story! Thank you for reading it! xo

  12. barbaraleeanderson07090 says:

    Nicole, there is a special place in heaven for people like you and your family.  Hercules will be waiting for you all to join him.  This was definitely one of the most heartbreaking, yet heartwarming, stories I believe I have ever read.  Although you and I may never see it, Mr. Flores will get what’s coming to him.  There’s a special place in hell for people like him.  Animal abuse must be made a federal offense, with mandatory jail time and hefty fines.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      barbaraleeanderson07090 Thank you! I sure hope I recognize him when I see him again! I’m sure he’ll be all filled out with chubby pibble cheeks! I believe that Karma will get Mr. Flores as well…I just hope I get to see it! It breaks my heart that animal cruelty is just a citation. Hopefully with more people behind Hercules, we can start to make a difference and get some laws changed! Thanks for the love 🙂

  13. Dogs live in the moment and the last month of Hercules’ moments were spent in your love and comfort.  Bless you!

    • StubbyDog says:

      OpenMindedMoral What a wonderful way to think of it, and so true. Thank you. 

    • NicoleDavis says:

      OpenMindedMoral You’re right! It makes me smile to know that he was finally content and was able to enjoy himself that last month. It’s not enough, but I don’t think anything would have ever been enough to show him how much I loved him!

  14. thegaphiker says:

    first let me say i am sooo sorry for your loss i have a rescue pittie too and they are beyond other dogs, almost a different species all together, my boy ,despite his abuse ,which thankfully was not as severe as your poor babies, but bad just the same, has bonded with me totally, he follows me everywhere and i love him like a child. Try to find some solace in the fact you gave him love those last months, something he had never felt in his life, and that makes you his parent and earth angel forever and ever, and HE WILL BE WAITING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE, for you, only you may not recognize him, he will be healthy, happy and filled with gods love for you and you will live in god’s grace for all eternity. god bless and keep you, may your pain turn to joy in the knowledge he has reached paradise!!!!!!!!!!

    • NicoleDavis says:

      thegaphiker Thank you 🙂 I often wonder what he’s going to look like the next time we meet and I think your description is perfect! The bond with a rescued pit bull is unlike anything else out there! I’m glad that you have it. Give him a scratch behind the ears for me 🙂 xo

  15. Judithg says:

    As I sit here with tears for this loss of this precious little life, I thank you for all you did for Hercules.  I have two rescue pities and I would fight tooth and nail for them.  He loved you and you loved him.  He will be waiting for you, of that I am sure.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      Judithg Thank YOU for reading it! I hope that his story continues to inspire others! 

  16. RichDee says:

    What a beautiful little dog… so sad… I’m a 59 year old man and the story brought tears to my eyes.

    • StubbyDog says:

      RichDee It brought tears to everyone’s eyes Rich, so you’re in good company. 

    • NicoleDavis says:

      RichDee Tears for Hercules are the only tears that make me smile! I appreciate you sharing that because it means that his story touched you. Thank you for reading it!!

  17. JondaBink says:

    Blessings to you for your great efforts and giving Hercules all that love. It is people like you who will help change society’s blindness to this epidemic. Thank you!

    • NicoleDavis says:

      JondaBink Thank you! Hercules opened up my blind eyes and I hope his story will do the same thing for many more 🙂

  18. Matt.S says:

    Thank you for sharing this powerful story! Through all the tragedy & pain, this life-altering experience is being turned into motivation to save lives. Run Free Hercules.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      Matt.S  Thank you! I believe that everything happens for a reason. Hercules was a martyr and I think it’s my job to make sure everyone knows 🙂

  19. Valeriabrinkers says:

    Thank God for people like you!!! This story touched my heart. Thank you for sharing.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      Valeriabrinkers It makes happier than you know to read that Hercules’ story touched your heart!!! Thank you! xo

  20. Matt.S says:

    Amen! Thanks for that, Judithg! Hercules is safe now and waiting for his rescuer!

  21. NatashaAEaton says:

    I sobbed my heart out reading this story. My Staffie Purdy was in a similar condition when she was found abandoned. Thankfully she made it through and is now a very healthy, happy little girl who has changed my life forever. My heart breakks for what he and you went through, I will never understand how a human being could do this to a dog and, if this was a child he would be in prison. Our dog’s are our children and laws need to be changed. Thank you for sharing, what a beautiful boy he was and may he rest in peace. People like you make this world a better place 🙂

    • StubbyDog says:

      NatashaAEaton We agree Natasha, Nicole is working to change the laws in Hercules’ honor. She is forever changed by Hercules and will do whatever she can to make people accountable. And she surely does make the world a better place.

    • NicoleDavis says:

      NatashaAEatonThank you for your sweet comment 🙂 The saddest part of all of this is that a man capable of this type of action is roaming freely. If he did this to a dog with no remorse, surely he would not hesitate to something equally horrific to a human. It always starts with the animals…