HOPEWELL JUNCTION – For our members working for the state Department of Transportation, picking up litter and debris off the side of our state roadways is a regular part of the job.
CSEA members Patrick Harden, Edward Matrejek and Federico Larralde were doing just that the morning of July 24 when they pulled off at an area on Interstate 84 near their yard, a place where they often find items such as discarded tires.
As usual, there was debris that needed removal, but as the workers went about their job, they encountered something they hadn’t expected.
‘A scene no one likes to see’
“We figured we’d stop, throw some stuff in the back of the truck, and as we were doing that, we heard a dog bark,” Harden said.
As Harden and Matrejek went to remove an abandoned tire, they both heard more barking.
That’s when they made the discovery of an abandoned pit bull mix dog.
“We dropped the tire and started whistling for him,” Harden said. “He kept barking and we walked back maybe 100 feet off the road and he was tied to a tree there.”
The workers suspected the dog had been tied up there for several days, as the tall grass was now matted down and the dog had dug some holes, presumably to cool down. A days-long heat wave had just broken the day before.
“We walked into a scene no one likes to see,” Matrejek said. “I ran and grabbed my phone and called [police].”
Meanwhile, Larralde ran back to their truck.
“My reaction was to get the dog some water, so I reached for my canteen and any cup that was available that was clean,” Larralde said. “I cleaned it out and just went over to the dog and gave him water.”
As they waited for police, the workers stayed with the dog and continued providing water. While they weren’t sure what kind of reaction to expect, they were met with a friendly dog happy to find the three rescuers.
“He was pretty friendly,” Harden said. “He came right up to us.”
There was no question, however, that the pup had endured suffering before his abandonment.
“There were ribs showing and cuts on the back of his ears,” Larralde said. “I was pretty mad to see that.”
‘It was a miracle’
State Police delivered the dog to a nearby police department, which soon turned the dog over to the Dutchess County SPCA. The dog, who was later named Pesci, was scanned there for a microchip and was being cared for there.
CSEA members, from left, Patrick Harden, Edward Matrejek, and Federico Larralde outside their state Department of Transportation yard in Hopewell Junction.
DOT workers rescued this dog from the woods near Insterstate 84.
“One of our supervisors was saying, ’it was a miracle,’” Larralde said.
While they are grateful to have rescued Pesci, all three men said they were horrified by what happened to the dog and hope whoever abandoned him will be brought to justice.
“It’s really hard to see something like that,” said Matrejek, who adopted his own dog after she was rescued from a bad situation. “My dog [had been]a bait dog for a dog fighter, so just seeing a tied-up dog in distress is really upsetting.”
After Harden posted photos of Pesci on social media, his post went viral, with more than 3,000 people sharing the post and numerous inquiries about adopting Pesci, who all three workers noted was extremely friendly despite his circumstances.
— Jessica Ladlee
Editor’s Note: According to local media reports, Pesci was euthanized in early August due to injuries believed to be sustained from being tied up with a choker collar and abandoned. While he initially did well under SPCA care, Pesci later developed breathing problems. He was diagnosed with a collapsed trachea and possible esophagus tear and was euthanized after veterinarians determined Pesci would be unable to breathe on his own again. Police continue to investigate the case.