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18th Jan 2021

Dog badly scarred in fire becomes therapy dog for burn victims

“We were terrified that he wouldn’t make it.”

In October 2018, Taka – a Shiba Inu belonging to an American family living in the state of Georgia – was badly burned in a house fire, after the porch upon which he stood collapsed.

He was left in agony, screaming in pain, forcing vets at the Care More Animal Hospital to sedate him in a bid to treat the severe burns. Unfortunately, this didn’t help, and vet Crystal Lesley was forced to bring Taka to the South Carolina Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care in Columbia, South Carolina.

Once there, Crystal told the American Kennel Club, she lay with Taka when visiting him on weekends.

“When I saw the picture I immediately called [the family’s neighbour] and told her she needed to bring him to me!” Lesley says.

“She was able to get some help and they brought him in. He was still smoking when they found him.  We had never encountered a burn victim as severe as Taka before and we were terrified that he wouldn’t make it.”

Photo: Care More Animal Hospital

After finding out about Taka’s story, a nurse at a specialist burns centre, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, got in contact with the offer of a skin graft to allow the dog to blink, free of charge.

Due to the level of care Taka required, it was at this point that his previously family made the difficult decision to give him up, and to allow Lesley to become his owner.

“I had been taking him home with me every day, so eventually I realised I couldn’t part with him,” Lesley says. “After months of recovery and the impact he had on the community.  I was approached by a nurse at the burn centre about Taka coming in to visit burned children, in hopes of giving them something to relate to.”

One thing stood in the way, however, Take needed to get his therapy dog certificate, which he achieved last summer.

“I am so incredibly proud of him,” said Lesley. “Just thinking back to how far he has come and where he is now, is just so emotional.  The amount of love and respect I have for him is profound.”