Titus’ gentle nature saves his life

Titus, a pit bull mix, gives Alycia Marfongella a kiss on the cheek.

When you’ve got a comfy home, a loving family and other dogs to play with … who needs four legs?

Life is good for Titus, a pit bull mix who’s adjusting to life as an amputee.

“He’s so sweet,” said Alycia Marfongella of Danville, who adopted the dog when his owner couldn’t be found.

Although he’s basking in love now, Titus wasn’t always so lucky.

Earlier this month, the Vermilion County Animal Shelter received a call of a barking dog. The workers finally located the source of the barking — a dog whose leg was caught in a fence.

After the dog was freed, the shelter tried unsuccessfully to find the owner. The leg was so damaged that euthanasia was considered.

However, the dog’s gentle personality shone through and workers decided he was worth trying to save.

On May 7, he was taken to East Lake Hospital for Animals, where his left rear leg was removed at the hip. The Vermilion County Animal Shelter Foundation assumed financial responsibility.

Considering the dog’s temperament and an assessment by the veterinarian, the foundation decided the young dog was well worth the effort, according to foundation president Diana Bryant.

The dog was called Lucky at that time. And, lucky for him, one of the kennel workers at East Lake was Alycia. After working with him for several days, she fell in love with the pit bull mix.

There was one problem, however: Three other dogs in the household, and her mother, Tracie O’Neill, had already said no more dogs.

Alycia wouldn’t give up. She used every argument she could think of to sway her mother. She even sent a picture over her phone with text from the dog saying, “I will be good,” and sent a video of him.

Alycia was afraid the dog wouldn’t get adopted if he went back to the shelter.

Finally, her mother and stepfather, Mike O’Neill, gave in and said she could adopt the dog if she takes him with her when she leaves home for college.

Alycia, a history buff, renamed the dog Titus, in honor of a Roman emperor. Besides, he wasn’t answering to the name Lucky.

When Titus joined the O’Neill household on May 13, he adjusted quickly to life with the other three dogs — the divas, Brownie, 6, and Mickie, 11, and his new best friend, Jeffy, 3.

“Jeffy has a new baby brother to play with and he loves it,” Alycia said.

Titus, who’s about 2 years old, likes to play with the others.

But, Tracie said, “He wears out quickly. He can’t keep up with the others.”

All of the dogs are spoiled, but Alycia said, “He’s the best-behaved out of all of them.”

He also has a bit of trouble navigating the stairs to the second floor, but that might be because the family carried up the stairs at first. Now, they’re trying to get him to come up on his own.

Otherwise, he’s getting around well on three legs.

Also, Titus was quite skinny when he was found, and he’s starting to put on weight. He can’t gain too much, however, because he has only three legs to bear his weight.

Titus is housebroken, heels and walks well on a leash. He loves to go for car rides.

“He’s just wonderful to have,” said Tracie, who’s been won over by his personality. Her husband, too, has fallen for the dog.

The family believes strongly in rescuing animals. Brownie, a boxer mix, and Mickie, a Lab mix, both were adopted from the county shelter when they were puppies, and Jeffy, a German shepherd-black Lab mix, joined the home after Tracie’s mother became ill and couldn’t take care of him.

“They can be some of the most wonderful animals,” Alycia said, referring to rescues. “Just because they had a hard start in life doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a chance for happiness.”

Alycia also enjoys her job at East Lake, saying, “It brightens my day when I get to work with animals. They make me laugh.”

In fact, all of Alycia’s relatives are big animal lovers. At reunions, they bring their pets and at Christmas, the animals exchange gifts. One relative even bakes dog biscuits.

Alycia, a 2008 graduate of Schlarman High School, just finished her first year at Danville Area Community College. She plans to put her love for animals into action by becoming an environmental lawyer.

When she transfers to the University of Illinois, she plans to major in political science with a minor in biology.

“I want to help animals worldwide,” she said, and will focus on protecting the environment and endangered species.

It’s inspiring to see someone so young devote her life to making the world better for animals. Although most of us can’t become environmental lawyers, we can follow Alycia’s example and start making the world better — one rescued animal at a time.


If Alycia hadn’t adopted Titus, the county shelter was going to try to find a foster home for him — a place where he could get love while waiting for a forever home.

There’s a need foster families for dogs that are recuperating from illness or who need medical care for a short period of time.

Healthy dogs and cats need foster homes, too. Chester, for example, is a pit bull mix who has been at the shelter a long time and will be euthanized soon if he doesn’t get adopted. A foster home would give him the chance to thrive until that happens.

“This boy is too good a dog not to have the chance at a good home,” foundation president Diana Bryant said. “Time is of the essence here.”

If you can help in any way, her number is 474-3076.

If you would like to have your pet featured in this column, contact Mary Wicoff at 477-5161, send an e-mail to mwicoff@dancomnews.com or write to Commercial-News, 17 W. North, Danville, IL 61832.

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