Concern for Lazarus the Abused Dog Keeps Rising : Animals: The Rottweiler mix has recovered after being bound and left to die. But public response continues, with offers of aid and even vengeance.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

People are loopy over Lazarus.

Lazarus is the 90-pound pooch--a Rottweiler mix--who was left to die in a plastic bag in a shopping-center garbage bin a month ago, his legs and snout bound with duct tape. His rescue by a security guard made headlines, and Lazarus now lives happily with another guard in Long Beach.

But like the biblical Lazarus, raised from the dead, the hubbub over Lazarus the dog will not die.

Around the Montgomery Ward store near where the dog was found, mysterious flyers keep popping up, offering a reward for clues to a canine-cruelty case that Santa Ana police have given up on. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't call or visit the store with offers of money or dog food--or to break the legs of the unknown culprit.

The most personal display of Lazarus-mania may belong to the security guard who found Lazarus, colleagues said: the dog's image and name reportedly are tattooed across his upper arm. (The guard could not be reached for comment.)

The police also have received a steady flow of calls from people who have tracked the case, well, doggedly.

"It's affected a lot of people in a lot of ways," said Karen Carlson, a receiving clerk at the store. "It's very weird."

Caren Evans, a 30-year-old store manager who named Lazarus and first adopted him, has been besieged by more than 200 phone calls--including warm praise, promises of help and one marriage proposal--and the well-meaning visitors who keep showing up.

There's the animal psychologist who offered a couch session--for the dog--and the man who showed up with an oversized hollowed-out Bible containing a big knife--to use on the culprit. A La Habra woman sent Evans a signed blank check. (Evans said she sent it back.) And someone keeps throwing big bags of dog food over the patio fence of her Anaheim apartment, though Lazarus moved out when the landlord outlawed big dogs.

"We get people every day--that's why I stopped wearing my name badge," sighed a weary Evans, slouched on a couch in the store's furniture section. "We get some way-out people. And some very nice people."

Some of those in the latter category have given money to the Grand Pet Care Center to help cover the $600 cost of treating Lazarus, found badly beaten and scarred with cigarette burns.

"I'm an animal lover, and I'm absolutely appalled at whoever did it," said Janice Rogers, a retired nurse in Garden Grove who has called Evans and plans to send her at least $50. "There should be a 'no-strike' law. They should just put them away."

Police investigators, who have no witnesses or fingerprints from the duct tape or plastic bag, have hit a dead end on the case, said John Riles, a supervisor in the department's animal-control unit.

Riles has seen worse animal cruelty, but the brutality of Lazarus' case struck a nerve. "A lot of people are interested," he said. "We've never had any live animals found bound and gagged and put in a bag and thrown in a trash bin."

Police are equally baffled over the source of reward posters that list only a Police Department phone number. The latest posters cropped up just last week.

Carlson said would-be sleuths have called the store seeking surveillance tapes. And one woman pledged her every waking hour to solve the crime using psychic powers.

As for the man with the Bible knife and the talk of vengeance, Evans said thanks, but no thanks.

"I said why don't you keep it. I'll call you," she said.

And Lazarus?

"Just great," said new owner Greg Roberts, a Montgomery Ward guard who took the pooch home to Long Beach when Evans could no longer keep him. The big pup, not yet a year old, is almost fully healed, save for a burned patch on his back that may never grow back.

"He's a wonderful dog," said Roberts. "No signs that he's been through what he's been through."

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