TUCKER, Ga. – As soon Eric Purdue saw the dusty, black nose and two tired, blue eyes looking up at him, he fell to his knees and began digging into the dirt with his bare hands.
Along the dirt trail he was working, a dog had been buried… alive.
“It's OK, baby. We're going to get you out. We'll get you out baby,” he said to her in a video, trying to comfort and reassure the fluffy brown, chow-mix, whom he named Lulu.
But, the DeKalb County man said, he almost missed her on the trail near Rock Mountain Boulevard and Lewis Road in Tucker, Ga., last month.
She was in tightly packed dirt, unable to move—only her eyes and nose were remained above the underground hole.
Purdue, who was cutting briars along the trail, heard something, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He moved 25 yards in the noise’s direction and stumbled upon her—nearly stepping on her.
That’s when he dropped and began vigorously digging her out by hand.
And soon, his nephew and son joined him and after 30 minutes of frantic excavating, they retrieved her from the firmly packed dirt hole, in which she was tightly wedged inside.
“I think she knew we were trying to help her, so she just laid there. She wasn't super responsive,” Purdue recalled.
After pulling her out from the ground, he took her home, where he and his family bathed her several times that day, and never left her side.
“She was always with us… until we went to bed, she was always being petted.”
From the moment he rescued Lulu, Purdue had already made plans to adopt the abandoned dog. But, despite his and the veterinarians' efforts, Lulu died the following day at the animal hospital.
“I was planning on adopting the dog. I visualized the dog riding around with me in my truck. But they called me around 4:30 the next day to tell me that she'd passed.”
“June was a rough month; it really was. I think about her a lot.”
And a month later, police said, they still don’t have any leads on who did this.
“If somebody recognizes that dog, that's all we need, please get in touch, we can find this person,” Purdue said pleading with the public. “Somebody had to see something.”
According to Purdue, witnesses have told police that they saw a late-model, green SUV two days in a row at the trail head where she was buried. And he believes that Lulu was buried for at least those two days.
Purdue is hoping that possible lead and Lulu's photo and video might help catch her killer.
“This person need help. A lot of it. Or some serious jail time, or both,” he said. “I just couldn't believe that someone would take so much time to do such a terrible thing to a dog.”
“They're sick. Sick. And if they're just plain cruel, maybe someone will bury them for a day or two, see how they like it.”
Purdue still comes by the trail nearly every day, and said Lulu is always on his mind.
“The hole is still here,” he said from where he rescued Lulu. “I'm going to come fill it in today or tomorrow.”
“There's a hole here, too,” he said pointing at his chest. “Everyone in my house has a hole in their heart because of this—everyone in my family was traumatized by it. But the dog was loved beyond measure for the last 24 hours of her life.”
Purdue and his family will host a benefit Saturday for Lulu at the Star Community Bar in Little Five Points, Ga. They will donate all proceeds to the Lifeline Animal Project, which helps dogs like Lulu.
“It's going to be free with a donation at the door. And then we're going to celebrate her life with music.”
PETA is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction on cruelty charges of the person responsible for this crime.
“Someone tortured this dog by packing her in dirt, where she couldn't move, drink or escape the terror of being buried alive,” Colleen O'Brien, PETA vice president, said. “PETA urges anyone with information about this case to come forward immediately so that whoever buried this dog can be held responsible and stopped from hurting anyone else.”
Anyone with information about this case should call DeKalb County Animal Control, at (404) 294-2939.