A Rescued Bait Dog’s Incredible Story Proves Fairy Tale Endings Are Possible

Written by: Ellyn Kail

November 24, 2015

**UPDATE 1/14/2016**

As Murdock the former bait dog lives out the rest of his life the loving home he was always meant to have, volunteer producer Rebecca Caro helped the team at Last Hope Animal Rescue, including President Linda Stuurman, to put together a short film as tribute to the big white dog. Over the last year, Murdock has inspired so many people around the world to step up and choose compassion and empathy over fear and violence, and we could not be more honored to have been a small part of his story, which in many ways is just beginning. May your goofball smile and irresistible kisses reach ’round the world, Murdock, reminding us all that each and every dog deserves a place to call his own. To echo the sentiment of Murdock’s mom, “Where there is hope, there can be faith. Where there is faith, miracles can occur.” Donations to Last Hope can be made here.


In the wee hours of October 24th, 2015, a snoring dog named Murdock was woken from his slumber to see the faces of some of his best friends peering into his kennel at Last Hope Animal Rescue. Blind in one eye, Murdock watched with his good eye as volunteers John Esposito and Terri Rizzi packed a car with all his things: his blankets, his food, water, medicine, and extra treats. When Murdock hopped into the backseat alongside Rizzi, he knew something extraordinary was happening, but he could never have guessed that at eight years old, his life was about to change forever. Murdock, at long last, was going home.


As explained in our original post about Murdock, he spent the first seven years of his life as bait dog in a fighting ring, where he was mauled by stronger fighting dogs to build up their strength and confidence. He arrived at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter with his face and body pockmarked by old and fresh lesions and injuries. Despite the tears that rolled down the faces of TOHAS volunteers, Murdock wagged his tail, understanding in some way that he had reached a safe haven.


While he was part of an ongoing court case against his former owner and abuser, Murdock was not allowed interaction with volunteers and visitors to the shelter for several months. Volunteers Rebecca (name has been changed for privacy) and John W. slipped him treats through the metal bars that lined his kennel, and when the time came for Murdock to begin socializing, John W. was the first to be assigned the part of Murdock’s “Buddy.”


With the threat of euthanasia lingering over Murdock, John W. became his advocate and protector. And while he certainly wasn’t the only one who grew close to the playful pup, he and Murdock felt an unspoken kinship.

Says John W.:

We were both a couple of beat up old guys doing what we could to get by.

Due in part to the white-bearded volunteer’s efforts, Murdock was transferred to Last Hope, where he did not face the risk of being put down but still waited for months on end for a place to call home.


A few weeks after we published our first article on Murdock, a couple in Arizona found his story and contacted Last Hope in hopes of adding him to their family. They filled out an application for adoption, sent relatives to meet Murdock in person, underwent home inspections, and interviewed with both John W. and Last Hope’s Esposito before being approved wholeheartedly by all involved.


The month leading up to Murdock’s trip home was a remarkable one. Esposito and volunteer Rizzi raised the funds to drive Murdock the some 1,500 miles from Long Island to Oklahoma, where they would meet Murdock’s new Mom and Dad. John W. made his last visit on the eve of Murdock’s departure. He spent an hour with his canine friend, who walked beside the volunteer as he told him about the home that awaited him. Murdock grunted in response and chewed on some grass. And then they just held each other before Murdock was put inside his kennel for the last time.

Volunteers from both Last Hope and TOHAS chipped in on preparations for Murdock’s trip. As Murdock fell asleep in Rizzi’s lap, Esposito drove into New Jersey, through Pennsylvania, and to the edge of Indianapolis, where they stopped overnight at a local Best Western. Esposito shared his bed with his furry pal – the first in which the former bait dog had ever slept — and Murdock snuggled and snored until morning.

Says Esposito:

I had his nose on my shoulder and his paws on my chest most of the night.


Murdock finally met Mom and Dad when he poked his nose from the car window as they pulled into the parking lot at an Oklahoma Howard Johnson’s. Mom took Murdock’s leash, and soon Dad was walking him around the lot. Murdock cheerfully followed his parents into their hotel room, where they all had dinner together and the papers were signed. That night, Murdock slept in a real bed for the second time – this time with his forever family.


Esposito and Rizzi both rose at the crack of dawn to bid Murdock a proper farewell. With Dad in the backseat, Murdock joyously jumped up into the car as the volunteers both showered him in kisses. Only as the car pulled away did Esposito allow the tears to fall freely down his cheeks.

Over the past weeks, Murdock has adjusted beautifully to his new home. He’s allowed on the bed of course and enjoys lounging as Dad watches TV. He has his own yard and a doggie door that he can use at his leisure. Of Murdock, John W. says: “He’s just a lovable, stubborn clown who grabs hold of your heart with that that toothless mouth and squeezes it like a chew toy that he’ll never let go.” Now, Murdock has a family who understands and – most importantly – loves him. This isn’t an ending for Murdock; it’s just the beginning.

This Dog'sLife

Looking back on all his years in rescue, Esposito admits that Murdock’s might be the most incredible journey he’s witnessed. Yes, it’s one dog’s story, but Murdock has become a ray of hope in the lives of all he’s met. Every homeless dog deserves a chance, and every dog, like Murdock, has a perfect family waiting to meet him, if only we look hard enough.

To help other dogs follow in Murdock’s footsteps and find their forever homes, please consider donating to Last Hope, TOHAS or your local animal shelter.

H/t This Dog’s Life
Featured image via Last Hope Animal Rescue

Written by: Ellyn Kail

November 24, 2015

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A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.