CHANDLER, Ariz. — Hayley Miller had made up her mind. She would have to put down her pit bull mix, Ginger.
The dog, which she had been fostering for nearly two years, had severe injuries. It had been shot in the face at close range, and Miller knew she couldn’t afford to pay for the extensive treatment to nurse the animal back to health.
A stranger at the hospital, however, urged her to reconsider. To Miller’s amazement, the stranger offered to cover the bills for the medical treatment that would keep Ginger alive.
The stranger was dressed in dark slacks and an instantly recognizable tan shirt – the uniform of a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy. It was Deputy Brian Bowling, the man who had discovered the wounded animal in the first place.
On Dec. 17, Ginger had burrowed into a neighbor’s yard near Gilbert and Chandler Heights, the third such intrusion in recent weeks, according to Miller. Feeling threatened, the neighbor opened fire, Miller said.
“My friends and family keep saying, ‘Who shoots a dog like that?'” Miller said. “I keep saying, ‘Who comes and rescues a dog like that?!'”
While responding to the shots-fired call, Bowling found the dog “bleeding profusely from its head and from its neck.”
“Instead of running away from me or trying to bite me, she ran right up to me and started wagging her tail and tried to get inside the front seat of my patrol car,” he said.
Bowling got special permission from his sergeant to rush the dog to an animal hospital that could handle the severity of her injuries. It was about 30 minutes away.
“I didn’t believe it would survive, given the grievous nature of its injuries, if we had waited for Animal Control to arrive on the scene,” Bowling said.
While driving, Bowling noticed Ginger’s breathing grow heavy. She was bleeding out. Bowling used the department’s newly-issued blood-clotting gauze, called Combat Gauze, to staunch the bleeding.
“She continued wagging her tail, and ultimately that [gauze] stopped the bleeding long enough to get her to the hospital,” he said.
Veterinarians informed Bowling that the dog’s injuries were survivable – if the owner authorized the surgery. Miller had been away at a movie theater at the time of the shooting.
“Unfortunately, the lady that had been doing the animal rescue was a single mother and she didn’t have the financial means to pay for the care,” Bowling said. “I kind of had to make a decision at that point. Called my wife. I thought, as a peace officer, we’re empowered to make decisions that save lives. We’re empowered to affect our community in a positive way. And my wife was very supportive.”
Despite protests from Miller, Bowling paid for the care on his personal credit card, which he reluctantly admitted was about $2,500.
“I don’t want that to be the focus of this,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Ginger is now resting comfortably at home.
“I just wish that there were more people like him,” Miller said of Bowling. “I wish the world had more people like him. When you show such compassion for animals, I think that shows compassion and empathy in all areas of your life.”