A good Samaritan found the dog wandering around, dragging his rear left leg behind him, after being shot six times with a rifle.
The 85-pound Dalmatian-hound-lab mix named Patches was taken to an animal shelter in Chester and examined by a veterinarian, who said he needed major surgery. If someone didn't step up to pay for the surgery, he would be put to sleep because he was in so much pain.
Someone with the shelter contacted Noah's Arks Rescue, a nonprofit organization that takes in abused animals and provides emergency care and rehabilitation. That group took Patches to a surgical facility in Charleston, where they learned that the dog's body was riddled with buckshot and one bullet that most likely fractured his leg, according to the organization's website. Patches had surgery to repair his leg.
More than three years later, Patches is doing much better and is using his second chance at life to bring joy to others.
Bluffton residents Miriam and John Tierno adopted Patches in March 2014. Four months later, he began limping. The pins that were placed in his leg to hold the bone in place had become loose. He needed a second surgery.
"He's really been through a lot," Miriam said. "I don't understand how he's so docile, doesn't fear people."
After a couple of months of recovery, Miriam realized the sweet, calm animal would make a great therapy dog. She didn't know anything about training dogs at that point but did some research and began preparing Patches for his new job.
To become certified as a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International, Patches needed to be able to pass a three-hour test. He had to be able to resist the temptation of barbecued chicken and refrain from engaging with children who were playing in the same room, among many other things.
"He passed with flying colors," Miriam said.
Patches, who is now 8 years old, spends his days visiting patients at Hilton Head Hospital and residents of the Bloom at Belfair. He also listens to children read to him through the Tail Waggin' Tutors program at the Bluffton branch of the Beaufort County Library.
Miriam believes God saved Patches' life so he could make a difference in people's lives, something he seems to be doing with his adorable demeanor and soft, cuddly fur.
"He's a very special dog," Miriam said. "He was shot multiple times, yet in his pain, when they rescued him, he was still wiggling his tail, loving everybody. And now he's giving back to the community."
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.