The Jack Russell terrier found with severe burns on Buffalo’s East Side on Monday has garnered a large following of well-wishers hoping for his recovery and making thousands of dollars in donations to pay for his recovery.
And despite his resembling “a toasted marshmallow,” with burned ears and a serious ankle infection, veterinarians are optimistic that the dog – aptly named Phoenix – is going to make it.
“We had a lot of people thinking he’s going to be blind, but he’s not,” said Rebecca Wagner, a senior veterinarian with Buffalo Small Animal Hospital.
Many people are closely watching Phoenix’s health, and not just veterinarians. Hundreds of area residents have donated a combined $12,000 toward his medical care and made countless offers for his adoption. They also are anxiously awaiting word of his condition.
“We’ve gotten enormous support from the whole community, even around the country,” said Suzanne Laba, a 13-year volunteer with the Buffalo City Animal Shelter. “We’ve been touched by the amount of well-wishes and donations. Many people want to adopt him. It’s been very overwhelming to us, because we’re not used to getting this much exposure.”
The terrier’s day-to-day progress has drawn a tremendous swell of followers on the city animal shelter’s Facebook page as people continue to wonder who could harm a puppy this way.
Animal advocates said they’ve been touched, overwhelmed and gratified by all the messages and phone calls, but they also point out that many other animals besides Phoenix need medical attention, love and a good home. And several others also have been abused.
The staff at Buffalo Small Animal Hospital said they’ve seen dogs that have been stabbed, kicked, thrown out of windows or deliberately wounded as bait to warm up fighting dogs. They’ve seen other dogs and cats burned, too, some worse than Phoenix.
“This one just caught the attention of the media,” Wagner said.
The fact that Phoenix is a puppy and was still on fire when he was discovered on Herman Street could have something to do with that.
Phoenix’ eyes and lids appeared markedly improved Saturday. He will, however, lose 60 percent of his ears, which now swivel on his head like stiff, crumpled black tabs. Much of his upper coat remains, though there are patches, particularly on his lower body, groin and left knee where his outer fur and skin have been burned away.
“Poor guy,” Wagner said. “Right around his penis is pretty bad.”
The Achilles tendon in his left rear ankle is also exposed and smells bad, leaving Phoenix limping on his remaining three paws while the vets monitor his wound and contemplate whether his foot needs amputation.
Despite his overall tattered appearance, Phoenix seemed interested and alert Saturday, was eating better and was regaining some strength from Friday, when he seemed in greater pain and was unwilling to touch his dog food.
The vets gathered and watched over him with obvious fondness while the calm-but-curious dog got his picture taken.
Phoenix was named for the mythological bird that goes up in flames at the end of its life cycle and is reborn from its own ashes.Police continue to investigate the animal cruelty incident, Buffalo Police spokesman Michael DeGeorge said.
“Detectives are making progress in the case,” he said.
He also encouraged anyone with information regarding Phoenix’s case to call the confidential tip line at 847-2255.
The vets have added some antibiotics to Phoenix’s mix of medications and sent him out on a morning field trip to another veterinary hospital that offered to give him free laser therapy to kill off bacterial cells and help his healthier tissue regenerate.
It likely will be months before Phoenix can be adopted. But according to Friends of the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, the nonprofit group that raises money toward the care of shelter animals, it appears the group has the money to cover the puppy’s veterinary care, though complications could arise.
Judi Bunge, a senior vet technician at Buffalo Small Animal Hospital who has been looking after Phoenix, said his care could cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as $8,000, depending on how many surgeries he needs and whether skin grafting is required.
If the group has any donated money left over once Phoenix regains his health, it will go toward the care of other sick and injured animals at the shelter, Laba said.
She pointed out that the nonprofit’s vet bills amount to about $4,000 a month.
Aside from raising money for animal care, the all-volunteer group also fosters recovering animals and those in need of socialization skills. The group also works hard to get every animal adopted.
In fact, Phoenix isn’t the only injured Jack Russell terrier at the city shelter. Another one is in a foster home now after coming to the shelter with an abscessed tooth and injured hips, Lana said.
If Phoenix can recover and raise awareness of the needs of the hundreds of animals that still need good homes, he will have done a remarkably good deed, she said.
“Sometimes it’s good that people know that this happens,” Lana said. “It’s not a one-time event here.”