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Rescued pit bull is a 100-pound sweetheart

More than a year after he was brought into the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter battered and worn, Capone is living large.

"He has his own couch, his own bedroom with a queen-size bed," says Beth Henderson, who has had the 100-pound pit bull for more than a year. "I bought him an argyle sweater. He is babied, but I think it's just because of where he came from. He's been through so much."

He is also a celebrity in his suburban neighborhood. "Everyone around here knows Capone," Henderson says, greeting him on their daily walks or as he rides by in Henderson's truck.

White with black spots, Capone, now 8 1/2 , is sometimes mistaken for a Dalmatian cross, except that "his head is huge," says Henderson. He has short legs and a Rottweiler-size body, and she is working on paring down his weight, which should be closer to 85. "But it's so hard, because I have a big family and everyone is always giving him treats," she says.

Capone came into the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter "in rough shape," says the shelter's director, Kelly McCartney. "He looked beaten up, not like he was fighting, but like he might have had a run-in with another dog. He was thin, his skin looked bad, he was not well cared-for."

Worse yet, probably because of his experiences on the street, he dislikes other dogs. "I thought I was going to have to euthanize him because of the aggression he was showing toward other dogs," says McCartney.

But possibly because when she looked in his eyes she saw "an old soul -- just a good old dog," McCartney took Capone home with her. "He had been sitting in our isolation ward for a week or so," she says. "I'm not even sure I temperament-tested him, but I decided I was going to take Capone home with me."

At home, McCartney has two small dogs, a Maltese named Winter and a pug named Chester, both adopted from the shelter. "I was a little nervous at first about introducing them, but they were absolutely fine; in fact he took more of a protective stance over the two smaller dogs," says McCartney, who was careful to keep the animals crated for everyone's safety when she was not there to supervise them.

Capone, says McCartney, "was the biggest baby in the world. He absolutely loves people, children and small dogs."

Henderson had grown up with animals and decided to look online for a dog. "Why not get a dog from the shelter?" she asks. "My mother said they mind better. These dogs are just thankful, I think, that somebody wants them." She spotted Capone's photo while scanning available dogs on Petfinder.com. "The main thing was that he was older. I just felt so bad," she says. "The older ones seem to get passed up."

Because of Capone's size and temperament, shelter officials "were very careful about who was going to get him or where he was staying," says Henderson. In fact, McCartney brought Capone to Henderson's house for a visit. "He was 20 pounds heavier than he was in his photo online, and I said, 'Oh my God!' " says Henderson, laughing. "I sat on the floor and he backed right up and sat his big butt right on my lap and I thought, 'You know what? This is it.' "

As Capone settled in, Henderson was impressed by how much he loves people. "He is the best dog, and he is wonderful with people," she says. "He loves my parents, loves my sister, my nieces and nephews. I want people to be aware of how good a dog he is."

Capone and Henderson's sister's dog, a chow mix, get along well now, "although it took a little bit," she says. He is also intelligent and obeys well, she says. "He minds, goes in the bathtub when you tell him he needs a bath. He knows 'sit' and 'roll over.' He does all kinds of tricks. He is super smart, and he goes everywhere with me. He really wants to be around me all the time."

Capone also enjoys spending time in the truck, even if it's not moving. "We're not sure why, if he once lived in a car or a junkyard, but he feels safe in there," she says. Because she has an attached garage, she lets Capone stay in her truck with the truck door and the house door open, "and he just comes in the house when he's done," she says.

In November, Henderson started volunteering at the Buffalo Animal Shelter on Oak Street, walking dogs and talking with people who come in. Besides wanting to give something back to the organization that had given her Capone, Henderson says, "They need the help and I love dogs."

In April, Capone was diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma of the stomach. Although the name is frightening, the cancer can be managed if caught early enough. Capone is now on a medication designed for humans and, says Henderson, "is doing great. He's got a good life now."

People and animals who have been profiled in "Pet Tales" will be special guests from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Barkyard in LaSalle Park. Rescue groups and mobile food vendors have been invited to the event, which is open to all. For more information, contact the Barkyard at info@thebarkyard.org, or call 218-0303.

email: aneville@buffnews.com

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