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YOU WON'T find his death notice on the obituary page of the Daily News, but our city lost one of its finest (four-legged) citizens the other day when Sarge Wolf-Stringer passed away at 16.
His last years were his happiest, and he touched more hearts and souls in his doggie span than many humans do in a lifetime.

When I first met Sarge the pit bull, I committed the ultimate "faux paw" by making up my mind about him before I even set eyes on this big brown bomber baby. But as you'll see, I learned one of life's biggest lessons.

I volunteer at the Rizzo Police Athletic League on Monday nights for the Positive Images program. Under the supervision of PAL Officer Ernie Rehr and director Laura Kelly, we run one of the biggest programs in confidence-building and positive image for girls 11 to 17. As part of my duties, I book guests to talk to the girls on a variety of subjects. I was put in contact with a couple, Kim Wolf and Thad Stringer, who accepted my invitation to bring their dog Sarge out and talk to the girls.

With 80 girls waiting, I asked, "Who's afraid of pit-bull dogs?"

It was like I asked, "Who wants to marry Justin Bieber?" Almost all the hands shot up. I told them to sit at the back of the gym so they wouldn't be so close to the dog, assuming he would be a vicious monster on a choker leash, foaming at the mouth and ready to rip into anything that moved.

Lying on a fleece blanket with his legs dangling and his head resting on Stringer's shoulder, Sarge was carried into the gym like a giant chocolate egg. Wolf put another blanket and his water dish on the floor, and he was placed in front of the girls.

He shifted to his side, yawned and let out a poof of gas.

With his severe arthritis, Sarge could no longer walk. His teeth were down to the gums, which kept him from chewing, but he loved a treat called Philly Cream Cheese. He was a dead ringer for a giant Tootsie Roll.

It was back in 2008 when the Pennsylvania SPCA raided a home in South Philadelphia and found more than 30 animals in a rowhouse - abused, neglected and living in deplorable conditions.

This raid was aired on cable's Animal Planet. The SPCA officers brought the dogs to headquarters on Erie Avenue and tried to save as many as they could.

One of those dogs was our Sarge.

Several months later, Sarge was adopted by Wolf and Stringer, who didn't see an animal prone to violent attacks - they saw a dog that at 14 had a golf-ball-size lump on his back due to an untended bite by another dog, cut off ears and scratch marks on his head and face from fights and beatings. When he was used as a "bait" dog, one of Sarge's shoulders was dislocated and never healed properly.

Wolf and Stringer got to work with Sarge, making sure he had a better life. That spring, he was certified with Pals to Life to do pet visits at nursing homes, rehab centers, hospitals and libraries. He quickly became one of the favorites as his story was told in newspapers, and on TV and the Internet (at www.elderbulls. blogspot.com).

One of the things Wolf told the girls that day was about people making negative comments not only about Sarge being a pit bull but also about her being the owner of a pit bull. At the time, she was a social worker at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, and she went with Sarge to schools, nursing homes and community events to teach kindness not only to animals but to elders as well.

Sarge became such an inspiration that he won the 2010 Philadelphia Barking Beauty Pageant, the first time in pageant history by a pit bull. His Facebook page (Sarge Wolf-Stringer) has almost 5,000 friends, and Mayor Nutter named him the city's 2010 Humane Educator of the Year.

And as Sarge lay on the PAL gym floor, basking in the glory of 80 hands rubbing his belly and scratching his chin and ears, it was hard to believe he'd allow any human hand near him after all the pain and suffering that happened to him in his first 14 years.

Again, never judge a book by its cover.

"Too often, people look at victims of abuse and only see our scars, not our hearts," Kim told our PAL kids. "And too often people look at pit-bull-type dogs and only see labels, see stereotypes, but not the individual dog. Sarge is the most peaceful, happy and forgiving dog you'll ever meet."

Last week, Sarge died at age 16 of a seizure. But instead of passing away at the hands of his abuser or being euthanized because he was labeled a dangerous, violent breed, he closed his eyes surrounded by his mom and dad, his pug girlfriend, Mary Todd Lincoln, and his four other doggy siblings in a house full of unconditional love and squeaky toys.
 

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Omg!! How did I miss this?? :( I loved Sarge. It's awesome, the things that they are doing with the ElderBulls. :)
 
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