On Oct. 23, 2018, a fire broke out in Georgia. The family had time to gettheir kids out, but there was no time to go back in for Taka, their nine-year-old Shiba Inu. The fire burned the entire porch, causing the floor to collapseand Taka to fall through. Taka was able to run to a neighbor’s house. Uponseeing a dog on fire, the neighbors panicked and reached out to CrystalLesley, a veterinarian at Care More Animal Hospital on Facebook.

“When I saw the picture I immediately called her and told her she needed tobring him to me!” Lesley says. “She was able to get some help and they broughthim in. He was still smoking when they found him. We had never encountered aburn victim as severe as Taka before and we were terrified that he wouldn’tmake it.”

Because they couldn’t touch Taka without him screaming in pain, they sedatedhim to assess his injuries. They realized this would be a lot of work, butLesley was determined to help the dog.

A Community Effort

After posting a photo of Taka to the clinic’s Facebook page, it took off andthe entire community came together to help raise money to send Taka to aspecialist. But things still weren’t looking good. After two days, Taka took aturn for the worse and his pain seemed unbearable.

That’s when Lesley left work and drove him to the South Carolina VeterinarySpecialists and Emergency Care in Columbia, South Carolina. “He and I lied onthe floor in the waiting area crying together,” Lesley says. He ended upstaying for a month and a half, so on weekends, Lesley would visit him.

Once he was done at the specialist, it was Lesley’s turn to care for him.“Weeks of daily bandage changes and wound care,” Lesley says. “We quicklyrealized Taka couldn’t blink.”

One of the nurses at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center fell in love with Taka’sstory and soon, the center called offering to do skin grafts andreconstructive surgery on him to allow him to blink — all at no charge!

“We were incredibly humbled and awestruck at the magnitude of service theyprovided for this amazing dog,” Lesley says. Today, Taka can blink again.

A Future for Taka

Because of the medical care Taka needed, his previous owners signed him overto the vets. They chose not to get him back due to his injuries and not beingable to care for him properly.

“I had been taking him home with me every day, so eventually I realized Icouldn’t part with him,” Lesley says. That’s when Taka officially becameLesley’s. “After months of recovery and the impact he had on the community. Iwas approached by a nurse at the burn center about Taka coming in to visitburned children, in hopes of giving them something to relate to.”

Lesley knew right away that Taka’s personality was perfect for this job. “HeLOVES kids and people,” she says. She describes him as the perfect mixture ofsilly and sweet. “I thought about it and decided that he was too special notto share him with the world.”

CGC & Therapy Dog Training

In order to work in the burn unit, Taka would need his Therapy Dogcertification. This is what started Lesley on a journey of training Taka. Shestarted working with trainer Mandy Foster, and Taka immediately loved it andwas proud of himself.

The first step to therapy dog training is the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.The most difficult part of CGC training was teaching Taka to stay. “He took alittle while to do that out in public,” Lesley says. “But honestly, he hasflown right through it. He is so smart!”

Taka took the CGC test on July 26 and passed. Lesley was beyond happy. “I amso incredibly proud of him,” she says. “Just thinking back to how far he hascome and where he is now, is just so emotional. The amount of love and respectI have for him is profound.”

Lesley says she hopes she and Taka can start visiting the burn center andinteracting with other burn victims as soon as possible.

Source: Miranda Carney __

Image: In October 2018, Taka was burned so badly in a house fire that mostthought he wouldn’t make it. Today, he is working on becoming a therapy dogfor children in the burn unit. His owner, Crystal Lesley, hopes burn victimscan relate to Taka.

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