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Groton - On Dec. 30, someone watched a driver pull into Sutton Park in Groton, let a dog out of the car and drive away.
It was 19 degrees. The witness called police.
For two days, various people called police to report a blond pit bull roaming in the bitter cold.
"They could see the dog was shaking and shivering," Groton police Lt. John Varone said. The animal control officer, assistants and the community policing officer tried to catch the dog, but it ran away. Animal Control even set a humane trap to try to get the dog, so it wouldn't freeze to death.
Then on Jan. 1, a woman and her 17-year-old daughter stopped at Groton Animal Control to look at dogs.
Julie Reay-Kaytor, 17, was looking because her grandmother's dog had died about two years earlier. Reay-Kaytor thought her grandmother was ready for a new pet, perhaps an older shelter dog to walk with.
She and her mother, Holly Kaytor, looked around, didn't find one they liked, and left, driving down Fort Hill Road.
As they rode down the hill, a blond pit bull stood nearby shivering, with open wounds on her face. Reay-Kaytor called to her mother to stop the car.
The teenager opened the door, called out and the dog jumped right into her lap.
The family brought the pit bull immediately back to animal control, and officers realized it was the one they'd been seeking.
"When I brought her to the pound, the lady said they'd been trying to trap her for days and she would not come to anybody," Reay-Kaytor said. "And that's when I said, 'I've got to have the dog. She came to me.'"
The dog had a microchip under her skin, so officers were able to track her owner back to Navy housing.
They learned the owner had the dog just a few days. The pit bull previously lived in New York and answered to the name "Latte." She was 3 or 4 years old.
On Monday, police charged Katelyn M. Hickey, 19, of 44 Georgia St. in Groton, with cruelty to animals in the abandonment case. She is scheduled to appear in New London Superior Court March 10.
The Kaytors, of Westerly, have four dogs now - Latte; Abigail, an 8-year-old Silky terrier they adopted after its owner died; Bentley, a 10-year-old Shih Tzu; and Toby, a 3-year-old Schnauzer-Yorkshire terrier mix.
Holly Kaytor brought her three dogs to Groton to meet Latte before adopting her, just to make sure it would work. She said she's done taking in dogs now, "unless I hit the lotto."
But she said because of the way they found Latte, they kept her.
"She's a such a sweetheart, she really is," Reay-Kaytor said. "I feel for her. I don't understand why they would throw her out of a car."
Varone said officers have to remind people not to abandon animals, but to contact an animal rescue league or animal control.
"That way, the dog's not left in the cold and trying to fend for itself," he said.
Groton Animal Control can be reached at (860) 441-6709.