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A happy Valentine

February 25, 2013

BY KRIS REILLY AND LYNNEA LOMBARDO, FOR THE LEADER

A year after she was found near death from horrific abuse, the dog known as Valentine is enjoying a happy home, good friends and good health.

There’s just one problem.

“Now she’s a little overweight,” said Regene Fonville, who’s been taking care of the dog for the past year. “She eats everything. She’s funny, she’s just a hog. ... She’s just a big, lovable couch potato.”

Weight issues aside, the pit bull’s second Valentine’s Day figures to be a lot happier than her first.

On Feb. 9, 2012, the dog was found in Lucerne Valley with an appalling array of injuries, including a fractured skull and broken front paws, one of which was nearly severed and had to be amputated. Her muzzle was bound with electrical tape, rocks were found in her stomach and she had scrapes on her belly, which may indicate that she was dragged on pavement.

Dale Roos, a worker at the Omya California limestone plant, found the dog. Omya plant manager Peter Sutherland said one of the mechanics at the plant, Brad Medici, is Fonville’s brother. Fonville has operated Sounds of Silent Spirits animal rescue and sanctuary in Lucerne Valley for the past 15 years.

“They pretty much knew what to do right away,” Sutherland said.

Fonville brought the dog to Bear Valley Animal Hospital, where the 10-month-old puppy made a full recovery. She now walks with a prosthetic on her right front leg. She was given her name for the holiday that fell five days after she was found.

Meanwhile, a social media campaign raised thousands of dollars for Valentine’s medical care, and a cash reward was offered by a Los Angeles-based animal rights group for information leading to the arrest of the torturer.

Regene Fonville and her husband, Chuck, a retired sheriff’s deputy, played a key role in helping authorities find the 17-year-old boy suspected of torturing the dog. The Fonvilles were presented with a special commendation from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in May.

“None of this could have been possible if it wasn’t for Chuck and Regene Fonville,” Victor Valley Station Lt. Phil Brown said during the presentation.

In June, Judge Larry W. Allen sentenced the teen suspect to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service in addition to being barred from owning an animal for one year, according to a Sounds of Silent Spirits news release. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office would not release information about the case because the defendant was a minor at the time.

A “Valentine’s Day in June” celebration was held at Lucerne Valley’s Pioneer Park. Valentine was reunited with Roos and met throngs of well-wishers. The Fonvilles may do it again this June.

“By the end of the day she crashed,” Regene Fonville said. “I think she liked it. She got to meet other dogs. People came clear from up north.”

Sounds of Silent Spirits typically tries to place animals in homes, but it’s been hard for the Fonvilles to let the dog go. Regene said Valentine has become attached to Chuck, who “spoils her rotten.”

Many who meet her are inspired by the dog’s friendly, tail-wagging exuberance despite her dreadful past.

“I think people can learn a lot from dogs about living and leaving a lot of the baggage behind,” Regene Fonville said. “We can learn a lot from animals.”