LORAIN — Most of the 40 or so people who braved wind and temperatures in the lower 20s Saturday night at Lakeview Park agreed conditions were pretty raw, but they gladly endured them for Herbie, the pit-bull mix who was found very badly emaciated and barely alive Dec. 1 on a Lorain tree lawn.
Bundled in heavy coats with faces framed by hoods and the soft glow of lit candles, the group gathered for the 7 p.m. candlelight vigil, for the dog, which weighed about 25 pounds when found, a third of what should have been his normal weight of 75 pounds.
Kevin and Heather Ives of Elyria were among those who gathered with others on Herbie’s behalf beneath the rear balcony of the park’s Rose Cafe.
“We just wanted to bring attention to Herbie’s situation in this crazy world,” Kevin Ives said.
“There’s a lot of love and good energy here,” Heather Ives said.
Both stressed the need for passage of Nitro’s Law, a bill that makes it a felony crime for Ohio kennel owners, managers or employees to abuse or neglect pets in their care.
Named in memory of one of a dozen-plus dogs who died from extreme neglect at a Mahoning County kennel in 2008, the measure, passed the Ohio House but languishes in the state Senate.
“We’ve seen people post messages for Herbie from every continent except Antarctica,” Kevin Ives said.
“It’s amazing to think that something that started here in Lorain County has gone international,” Heather Ives said.
Herbie, who was named at the Lorain Animal Clinic, was nursed back to nearly 50 pounds by mid-December after being neglected, caged, abandoned and sustaining a fractured skull, police said.
Lorain police Officer Richard Broz, who found Herbie and has been taking him home on weekends, encouraged those attending the rally to keep pressing for passage of tougher laws on animal abuse.
Despite the care he received, Herbie caught another bad break when it was learned he is suffering from an inoperable cancer.
Many in the crowd signed notes of affection and encouragement for the dog on a large white sheet.
The group also heard from Geri Cahill-Miller of the Purple Lotus Project, a nonprofit Lorain-based effort working to open a facility within the year to provide shelter for women, children and pets that have been victimized by domestic violence.
“There are so many instances of women who won’t leave a bad situation because they fear their kids and pets will be hurt” by an abusive male in the same household, Cahill-Miller said.
Cahill-Miller said a couple of possible locations for the shelter are being scouted.
Working with 20 to 30 volunteers, the group first wants to focus on setting up foster care for pets, so female victims of domestic violence and abuse can feel comfortable enough “to escape” threatening environments.
Plans also call for the shelter to work with women to try and help them secure employment, Cahill-Miller said.
Women would be able to remain at the shelter for up to 18 months.
The group also heard from Elyria Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, who praised the crowd’s rallying around Herbie “when so many animals do not have people who stand up and fight for them.”
The Humane Society of the United States and private donors are offering rewards totaling $11,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who abused Herbie.
For more information about the Purple Lotus project, visit purplelotusproject.org.