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Spotting the lifeless body of a small puppy lying on the side of a road was particularly difficult for two members of the Albuquerque FBI.
Special Agent Diana Parker and Victim Assistance Coordinator Dana Hernandez, both long-time dog owners, were on official business inside New Mexico’s Navajo Indian Reservation when they took a wrong turn and came upon the bleeding canine.
Although the agents assumed the dog was dead, when Hernandez glanced in her rear-view mirror, she saw the injured animal raise his head. She turned her truck around.
“I saw him pick up his head and we just couldn’t believe it,” Hernandez said. “He’d been attacked by coyotes and had been lying there like that for a couple of days. He came hobbling over to us in so much pain and his little tail was wagging as if to say, ‘I know you’re here to save me.’”
She and Parker, who heads up the bureau’s Evidence Response Team, wrapped the severely wounded puppy in a blanket, quickly finished their business, and headed for the vet’s office.
Dr. David Levenson, a veterinarian in Corrales and an FBI Citizens’ Academy alumni, treated the puppy’s deep gashes.
“At first, we thought his leg would have to be amputated,” Hernandez said, adding that the vet kept the distressed puppy overnight.
She credits Parker with saving the dog. “Diana’s so modest she wouldn’t say anything but she really is the one who saved the dog and she also paid the vet bills,” Hernandez said. “Dr. Levenson knew we found the dog and that it wasn’t Diana’s so he gave her a superb deal. They’re the real heroes in this story.”
Other heroes emerged as the days went by. FBI Paralegal Evonne Buie took the traumatized puppy home the first two nights because Parker and Hernandez already have dogs and cats in their homes.
Buie’s boss, Chief Counsel Stephan Marshall returned to his office from a trip on day three after the puppy’s release.
“We need to hide a dog under your desk,” Marshall recalled Buie saying. “OK,” Marshall replied, “I’m not saying no – but you’ve got to tell me why.”
Marshall also fell hard for the injured pup, recently named Rocco for St. Roch, patron saint of dogs and those who love them.
The vet estimated that Rocco had perhaps two hours of life remaining when Parker and Hernandez rescued him three weeks ago, Marshall said.
Marshall took the fragile puppy home, where he and his girlfriend Malena, an expert in herbs and alternative medicine, cared for him for the next two weeks. He thrived and has grown from seven to 12 pounds.
Marshall brought Rocco to work often during that time and said his small paws barely touched the ground because all the agents and staff wanted to hold him. “He’s got the whole office pulling for him,” Marshall said.
Special Agent Mackenzie Monarcko is new to the bureau. She had been thinking about getting a dog and has now adopted Rocco.
“Mackenzie was first to step up but if not, there were 25 other people in this bureau who would have,” Marshall said. “When I first called my girlfriend about caring for Rocco, she said OK as long as we didn’t have to keep him because we have two dogs already. If I would have had him at my house another day, I wouldn’t have been able to give him up.”
Special Agent in Charge Tom McClenaghan has also bonded with Rocco.
“If Mackenzie hadn’t adopted him, I sure would have,” he said.
The vet estimates Rocco is about 3 months old and based on his coloring, coat and the shape of his head, believes he’s an Australian Shepherd and Labrador mix.”
There is something special about Rocco that attracts all types of people and may lead the canine into a unique career, Marshall said.
“Everyone who handles him falls in love with him and because of his temperament, we think he has the potential to help children,” he said.
When Rocco is about a year old, Monarcko will have him evaluated to serve as a therapy dog for traumatized children.
Her plan until then, she said, is to take him to obedience classes and get him trained.
She’ll also bring him into the office a few times a week to keep him socialized.
“He will always walk with a limp and bare the scars from his ordeal,” Monarcko said, and when kids see he got hurt and survived and is happy, it will help them see that that’s possible for them, too.”
Hernandez agreed, adding that Rocco already provides therapy for many of the people in her office.
“Those of us who work on the violent crime squad at the FBI deal with tragedy every day and Rocco really lifts our spirits and helps us feel better,” she said. “It’s amazing to see the transformation of people in the office when Rocco is here. He lights up everybody and they just turn into a puddle of Jello.”