By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — What a difference a year has made for the 7-year-old purebred Vizsla dog now known as Yogi.
Turn the clock back 12 months and Yogi was one of dozens of dogs allegedly being neglected at South Side Dogs, a Worcester kennel operated by Frank Popolizio of Schenectady.
Some of the dogs were so underfed when state troopers seized them that their ribs were sticking out.
Yogi, then known as Yoshi, had been one of the kennel’s stud dogs. He was severely underweight and had an abscessed mouth and a frost-bitten penis and ears when he was removed from South Side, said his new owner, Karen Miller, a dog trainer from Jefferson.
Miller acquired Yogi through the Susquehanna SPCA, as a result of her involvement with one of the rescue organizations that assisted in the placement of the more than 50 dogs that police confiscated from Popolizio.
“When I first got him, he wouldn’t even take cookies,” said Miller. “He didn’t know what they were.”
The purebred dog seemed skittish and uncomfortable around people and other dogs, she added.
“When somebody walked towards him, he would just hit the ground,” she said. “He would eat in a half-compressed posture, and he slept almost the whole day, like he was trying to close out the world around him. When I took him to the pond with my other dogs, he didn’t know what to do.”
But, like night becomes day, Yogi has shed his trepidation in favor of a boundless playfulness and yen to be petted.
“Today, he stands on his tippy toes, and he looks me in the eyes with one of those looks that says, ‘boy, do I love you,’” Miller said. “He leans right up against me and he wants affection. He picks up balls and plays with them, and he plays with the other dogs His eyes are bright and open and he smiles this big doggy smile.”
Explaining why the pet is now called Yogi, Miller said: “He’s such a cuddle bear.”
Miller said she has tremendous gratitude for the Susquehanna SPCA, which nurtured the seized dogs and found foster homes for many of them until the rescue organizations could place them with their adoptive families.
“The SPCA suffered financially for saving all these dogs,” Miller said. “They didn’t have to take all these dogs. We as a community need to pull together and thank them for the incredible work they do.”
Susquehanna SPCA director Liz Mackey said in addition to relocating the 53 dogs taken away from South Side kennel, her organization coordinated the adoptions of an additonal 99 dogs in 2012s. Further, 60 dogs were reclaimed at the shelter just south of Cooperstown off State Route 28 by their owners.
That adds up to a total of 213 dogs benefitig from the SPCA services. The SPCA also found new homes for 134 cats last year.
Mackey said she and her staff enjoy hearing from owners or the rescued dogs, such as Miller,
“We get positive stories coming back all the time about the rescues,” she said. “Everyone loves them.”