A chocolate lab who charmed people by trying to wag her tail even while bandaged and burned from a house fire has recovered enough to go home after strangers donated $40,000 to finance her care at the SPCA.

“I hate everything that happened to her. … If it wasn’t for the SPCA, my dog would be dead,” said Afia Lott.

Lott took her dog home Friday to Buffalo.

“I feel blessed,” Lott said. “I would never have been able to afford to take care of Rocsi.”

Rocsi, who is about 3 years old, was being looked after by East Eagle Street neighbors when fire broke out in May. She was so badly burned by melting Christmas decorations that Lott struggled to find, and pay for, veterinarian care.

When she realized she couldn’t alone help her dog heal, Lott took Rocsi to the SPCA. News of the dog’s burns and her spirit – she was eager for affection even when in pain – went out to the media and online, and attracted 643 donors, who sent $42,351 to pay for her treatment. More than $12,000 of the money came from 138 people in places as far away as Colorado; Washington, D.C.; and Canada.

“For an animal to be in dire straights like that and not turn aggressive in any way – it’s amazing,” said Gina Browning, director of public relations for the SPCA of Erie County. “She was suffering and was still trying to wag that tail and give us kisses.”

Rocsi’s plight provoked a debate on Facebook, she said: People were critical of the medical expense and of working so hard to heal a dog who might have preferred death to prolonged suffering that was part of getting better.

“Our response was, ‘Come on in. Take a look at this dog in the eyes, and you tell us what your choice would have been,’ ” Browning said of the decision to continue Rocsi’s care.

The chocolate lab Lott bought as a pup from a breeder is beloved for her thoughtful intelligence: When Lott was sick, Rocsi lay beside her.

She can also tell what different people prefer and act accordingly. Her daughter appreciates licks on the face; Lott doesn’t.

“She’s so smart that she knows the difference,” Lott said. “I’m so glad she’s coming home.”

Lott, who is earning a bachelor’s degree at Bryant and Stratton and working as an $11-an-hour assistant at Neighborhood Legal Services, shared the dog with neighbors. They were helping to look after Rocsi in May when fire broke out near a space heater.

Now that Rocsi is well enough to leave the SPCA, Tonya Jackson and Kim Sieber are looking forward to helping to take care of their old friend once again.

“You can’t help but love her,” Sieber said. “She’s just a gentle giant.”