Three-legged pit bull seen as hero for taking bullet for family

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Frank Schultz
Saturday, January 23, 2016

JANESVILLE—Levi got up on his three legs and hobbled over to nuzzle the legs of a Gazette photographer and reporter as they entered his house Saturday.

Not bad for a dog who was shot in the head four days earlier.

Levi, who is small for a pit bull and as loving as a dog can get, took the bullet on behalf of his owners the night of Jan. 19, when a man with a gun entered the house.

He had lost his front right leg in an accident in 2014. More on that later.

Darcy Cherry and her longtime boyfriend, Bob Stenzel, were the only humans home around 6:15 p.m. when the man appeared, masked, dressed in black and holding a handgun.

They had forgotten to lock the back door of the home they own in the 200 block of South Jackson Street on the near west side.

The man ordered the couple to the floor.

Terrified, she held her face in her hands, face-down on the floor.

“I prayed. I prayed to God for us all to be well,” she said.

“Where's the safe? Where's the money?” the man demanded again and again.

There was no safe, no money, they told him.

They are simple working people, Darcy said: She recently became a property manager for a landlord, and Bob is a handyman. They had bought and remodeled the 144-year-old house about a year previously.

The man seemed calm, which made it all the scarier, somehow, Darcy said.

Then he asked “Where's the weed?” an obvious reference to marijuana.

None of that either, Darcy said.

Then Levi, who was in the dining room with them, got up and started growling at the man.

Normally friendly with strangers, Levi has shown in the past that he doesn't like toy guns, Darcy said.

“He said, 'Call your dog off. I'll shoot, I'll shoot,'” Cherry recalled.

The intruder seemed intimidated by Levi. Cherry said she could hear it in his voice.

They called to him, but Levi didn't obey. The man shot.

The man left, and Stenzel called 911.

The bullet, which Cherry thought was was a .22 caliber, went in at the top of Levi's head and lodged in the thick folds of skin around his neck.

Emergency Veterinary Service responded to the scene.

“They were so wonderful to Levi,” Darcy said.

Cherry got the dog as a puppy about 15 years ago, after friends found it abandoned in an apartment building.

“Hey, I'm bringing home a pit bull,” Stenzel told her on the phone.

“No, you're not,” she said

But Levi soon won her over.

Levi has a way about him that makes people happy. Relatives and friends of Cherry's sons ask to take care of him,.

His life has included more than one harrowing adventure.

About five years ago, when she lived on Marion Avenue, Levi was lured into a van and dognapped in broad daylight, Cherry said.

A neighbor noticed, jotted down the license plate number, and police stopped the van and rescued Levi the same day.

In June 2014, Levi and family members were walking trails above Devil's Staircase in Riverside Park when Levi tumbled off the edge of a trail that ran along a steep drop.

Darcy believes Levi's fall kept her sons from falling as well, so he has saved her family twice.

The dog's leg was so shattered that it had to be amputated, Cherry said.

Levi's sutures were scheduled to come out today. Cherry is still feeling the effects of her terror.

“It's exhausting, having to live a normal life again,” she said.

“This guy knows who I am,” she said.

She is afraid to go outside and worries what would happen if she saw the man again.

“This guy's got to get caught. We've got to catch him,” she said, and that's why she wanted to share the story.

“Levi is our hero,” she said.


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