AMESBURY — Clean, healthy, and nearly 50 pounds heavier, Goliath has a new home.
Robert Winn and Denise Miller of Amesbury have taken in the American bulldog, found covered in scars and bruises in the aftermath of a June dogfight in Methuen's Gill Avenue Park.
"He's so excited," Miller said. "He's so full of love and so happy."
The 2-year-old Goliath was found by a Methuen resident in June, an underweight, anemic dog with infected paws and a badly bruised tail.
The dog has come a long way, healing from about 10 puncture wounds, having his tail surgically removed and making multiple trips to obedience school. Tina Blamire, who takes in rescued dogs at her home in Haverhill, fostered Goliath as part of her Red Hot Rescue organization.
"Because he had been with those people for so long being abused and tortured, he was very withdrawn, (but) very friendly and wanting affection," Blamire said.
Karen Phillips, Methuen's animal control officer, suspected the animal had been part of a dog-fighting circuit and left behind. Joyce Godsey, of Animal Rescue Merrimack Valley, believes Goliath may have been used as bait for other fighting dogs, noting that the dog greatly fears being muzzled and reacts to other dogs out of fear rather than aggression.
Blamire said the dog was malnourished and weighed just 75 pounds. He spent three months in Haverhill with Blamire and has grown to 120 pounds.
She said it took Goliath two months to heal from his wounds. Blamire gradually introduced him to toys, walks and obedience school over that time.
"We just took everything step-by-step and didn't rush it and let him take his time," Blamire said. "He opened right up."
Blamire said Goliath's original owner came forward, saying that he sold Goliath to a home near Gill Avenue Park about a year ago. Blamire suspects Goliath spent nine months with the dog-fighting owners. Phillips said no one has been prosecuted in the case.
Blamire said that Goliath's character is not one suited for dogfighting.
"Since day one, he has not shown one sign of aggression toward anything," Blamire said.
She said he showed all along how much he wanted to be loved, constantly walking up to her and putting his head on her lap.
He's gone through obedience training and responds to most commands. The obedience training was donated, Blamire said.
"He already has gained so much trust for us that he listens very well for Rob and me," Miller said. "As he grows to trust us more, he'll be more comfortable."
They first met him more than a week ago and knew immediately that he would be a good fit since Goliath ran right up to Winn. Goliath moved in on Sunday.
"He was very friendly. He wasn't nervous around us at all," Miller said of the first meeting. "He chose us."