By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cookie was an exceptional dog, and he lived a long and eventful life.
After the people who rescued him from dog fighting gave him a sweeter name, Cookie spent 11 years helping to raise more than $1 million for abused animals.
Cookie, 17, died on June 4. The cause of death, basically, was old age. At his side was Karen Cirrincione, the woman who adopted him 11 years ago. Although Cookie was her much-loved pet, she shared him with the rest of us, taking Cookie to home shows, dog shows and other events because he was the poster dog for AAARF! -- Allegheny Abused Animal Relief Fund.
"Cookie was something," Ms. Cirrincione said. "He was just a joy to have. He was special in every way."
If you're one of the 125,000 Allegheny County residents who buys a state dog license each year, you've seen Cookie's pictures in the AAARF pamphlet mailed with the renewal form.
In the "before" picture from August 2000, Cookie is a battle-scarred and starved dog that weighed just 19 pounds. In the "after" pictures, he's a healthy 70 pounds.
The start-up of AAARF was announced with much fanfare at a Dec. 4, 2000, press conference where Cookie stole the show from elected officials and shelter workers. He wagged his short crooked tail - apparently broken during dog fights - and seemed to be thrilled that so many people lined up to pet him.
AAARF founders asked the public to contribute money toward Cookie's $4,000 veterinary bill. In just one month, animal lovers contributed $80,000. The total recently went over the $1 million mark, according to Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein, who collects dog license fees and AAARF! donations.
"Cookie was so forgiving," said Mr. Weinstein, who marvels that a dog could survive severe abuse and still trust and love people.
It took a village to save this dog, so let me give credit where it is due.
Animal Friends rescued Crook and nursed him back to health. Assistant District Attorney Deb Jugan, who prosecutes animal abuse cases, suggested starting a fund to pay the vet bills of Crook and other abused and neglected animals.
Mr. Weinstein and District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. started AAARF! and set up a board that included representatives from Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania and Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Point Breeze veterinarian Lawrence J. Gerson is on the board to review veterinary care and bills.
Mr. Weinstein recently suggested that Allegheny County Council officials honor Cookie and Ms. Cirrincione. Council member Jan Rea, R-McCandless, is sponsoring the proclamation that will be presented at 5 p.m. July 5 in the Gold Room on the Fourth Floor of the Allegheny County Courthouse, Grant Street.