MANATEE -- Hair grows near the faint jagged line of pink skin running along Axel's head, where the dog's skull was once visible in an open wound after someone attacked him with an ax or other blunt object.
The healing scar signifies recovery for the 2-year-old pit bull mix who was found on Nov. 26 wandering in the 200 block of 60th Avenue West in Bradenton with a bloody gash on his face. The dog was picked up by Manatee County Animal Services Officer Steve Bell and rushed to Beach Veterinary Clinic where he underwent surgery to remove bone fragments. His sinuses
were damaged, but his brain was spared, said veterinarian Luke Berglund.
The dog, named "Axel" by his rescuers, spent weeks on pain medication and antibiotics, with a drain to reduce infection. As swelling decreased and his wound healed, Axel wore a cone collar to prevent him from scratching his stitches.
Axel's rescuers are unsure of the dog's history. Old scars mark his head, legs, paws and back, but he has never shown aggression, surprising everyone by constantly wagging his tail.
But recovery for the dog is far from over. He remains at Beach Veterinary Clinic, where he will begin heartworm treatment next week before going to his new home in mid-January.
Many people showed interest in adding Axel to their family, but Animal Services was careful in its selection of a local home, with no children or other pets.
"We didn't want him to sit in our shelter for months or a year knowing he suffered such a traumatic injury," said Joel Richmond, Animal Services enforcement supervisor. "What he needs is a loving home. He needs a home where he'll get the attention and care he needs."
Axel's story spread quickly through social media networks. Donations were made to Manatee County Animal Services and Animal Network Inc. to assist with his medical bills. Others gave money in an effort to find Axel's attacker.
"Initially we had a few phone calls that turned out to be dead ends," Richmond said.
A reward for an arrest and conviction in the case is up to $13,600, including a $10,000 pledge by Sam Simon, activist and co-creator of "The Simpsons."
Anyone with information regarding Axel can call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011, Animal Services at 941-742-5933 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-634-8477(TIPS).
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.