MANATEE -- With his tail wagging a mile a minute, Axel was introduced Wednesday to Trisha Robinson Antonelli.
Robinson Antonelli, a dog trainer, will provide Axel with a foster home until a family can be found to adopt him.
The affable pit bull has been recuperating at the Beach Veterinary Clinic in Cortez since he was attacked with an ax-like instrument in late November.
To celebrate Axel's transition, a party was held at the Manatee County Animal Services facilities north of Palmetto for the public with a cake and beverages -- and gifts galore for Axel.
Axel's first stop after leaving the animal hospital was the Lucky Dogs restaurant in downtown Bradenton, where more than 30 supporters greeted him as he was introduced to his foster mom.
Sheri Clinard, who owns Lucky Dogs with Greta Shepherd, said her restaurant was packed with well-wishers.
"They were even standing outside just to see Axel," Clinard said.
Through the efforts of Clinard, Sue Kolze, of Animal Network and their friends, Axel's story captured the hearts of the local community.
"Sue was having lunch in here when she got the call about Axel," said Clinard, who has been involved with animal rescue for about 20 years. "It was right then that a group of us women started to network to get the word out."
They started a Facebook page called Axel's Angels, which has more than 1,880 "likes," and asked for donations to pay for the dog's medical care.
Axel even has fans across the Atlantic Ocean thanks to Manatee County resident Trisha Grant, who is originally from London.
"I told my friend in England who is an animal person and she got friends involved," Grant said. "They follow his progress through the emails and newspapers articles I send them.
The reward for information on Axel's attacker is up to $13,600.
"I just can't understand how a human being could do such a thing," Grant said.
Robinson Antonelli, who owns Dawg Phonics, was excited about bringing Axel home and looking forward to training him.
"He'll be fully trained in two weeks," she predicted, "and ready to go to a new family."
The dog trainer said pit bulls are her favorite breed, and are misunderstood.
"I want to change people's opinions about pit bulls," she said.
During the party, Robinson Antonelli had Axel sitting on command for the bank of medial cameras lining the wall of the conference room.
Axel, whose injury required 42 stitches only about six weeks ago, was very sociable and wandered around the room to greet his guests.
One of the special guests, Manatee County Animal Services officer Steve Bell, had found Axel bleeding profusely from the head under a vehicle in the 200 block of 60th Avenue West.
"He wasn't even aggressive when I put the leash on him," Bell said in describing when he got to the scene. "He even jumped into the back of the truck."
The injured animal was immediately taken to Beach Veterinary Clinic, which has a contract with the county to handle animal services' medical needs.
"You could see right into his head," Bell said. "It was the worst injury that I've ever seen of an animal that was still alive."
Dr. Luke Berglund, of Beach Veterinary Clinic, and his staff worked on Axel for about two hours, taking X-rays, cleaning the wound and stitching the animal up.
"We're very sad he's gone, but happy for him," said Tiffany Toth, a veterinary technician at the clinic. "He's such an outgoing and lovable dog. He loves meeting people."
Kolze, vice president of Animal Network, said her organization was called to help pay for Axel's medical bills. The nonprofit organization, which helps promote animal rescue groups, raises its funds through donations.
"Animal services doesn't have the money in the budget to treat injured animals," she said.
Kris Weiskopf, director of animal services, said if it wasn't for Animal Network's help, many of the injured animals would have to be euthanized.
"The no-kill fund is to be used for extraordinary medical needs of rescued animals," Weiskopf said. "We don't want to have to put them to sleep because there is no money."