Badly Burned Lava Fire Dog, Now Looking at a Bright Future Full of Love

I remember that first evening at Rescue Ranch, watching the vet and volunteers tend to a dog with terrible third-degree burns. The poor girl was exhausted, and, despite being somewhat doped up on pain medication, she was clearly suffering.

As you can see in the pictures I took that evening, she had severe burns on her legs, sides, inner thighs, and face. In some places the fur had burned away, leaving behind dull, black, leathery patches.

The skin on her right leg had split open, revealing snow white tissue against the bone. Her lovely face had been exposed to extreme heat, and her eyes were sticky and thick with mucus.

Despite her obvious discomfort, she allowed the team to work on her.

Firefighters find seriously injured dog in the burn zone

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Ari Savar, a young firefighter and EMT with Cal Fire, who was kind enough to share the circumstances of her rescue and the pictures he took of Lady on the scene.

Ari and his fellow first responders were in the burn zone in the Shasta Vista area, on June 30. He explains that there were handcrews, “all on the 97, just trying to hold [the fire] back while we were on the other side waiting for it to jump and burn everything through again, ’cause it already went through there once.”

He and his colleagues were going in with their engines and laying thousands of feet of hoseline, preparing to battle the fire if it came back their way. It was there that Ari spotted something on the ground, not far from a gate they were passing through:

“I said, ‘I think I see a dog over there,’ and my captain looked over, and he’s like, ‘yeah, I think it’s a dog’ and she was just sitting there just watching us. I was thinking, ‘that’s weird.’ I went over to her, but she didn’t stand up. I was kinda sticking my hand out, and I saw her trying to kinda get up to defend herself. She wasn’t sure, you know, if I was a threat.”

Then Ari saw that the poor animal was terribly injured.

“God man. she’s messed up, she’s burnt!” and his captain replied, “OK, we’re gonna hang tight here with her.”

Burn dog saved by firefighters with the help of Siskiyou Animal Control Officer

Speaking now, Ari refers to her correctly as “she,” but, initially, he thought the dog was an elderly battle-worn male. The animal’s face was swollen and its fur was patchy. He thought of the dog as an old man. When he learned she was a female, he changed the name to Lady, as in “old lady.” Little did he know that Lady was actually only about two years old! One thing for sure, though, she is definitely a Lady!

According to Ari, the best explanation for her injuries is that she was near a propane tank when it exploded, and the contents rained down on her, burning through her fur and the top layers of her skin.

By the time they found her, it was 7 or 8 p.m., too late to call anyone to pick up the poor dog. So, the firefighters watched over her, as they worked their shift through the night, and waited till morning to get her the help she needed.

Although in pain, she was friendly, and, in Ari’s words, she “hung out” with them all night. They gave her water and even offered her some cat food brought over by a neighbor. “She didn’t really want to eat any of that,” says Ari. “But I had some jerky, so she ate all of that and a ham sandwich.”

He made several calls the next morning and couldn’t find anyone who was willing to come out; until someone suggested he contact Siskiyou Animal Control. A Siskiyou County ACO came out right away and transported her to Rescue Ranch for safe keeping.

Ari came by to visit her when he got off shift, and has been closely following her progress for more than a month now.

Rescue Ranch arranges weeks of veterinary treatment for Lava Fire burn dog

Lady was in terrible condition. She received treatment at the ranch, but her burns were so bad that we feared for her life. Thankfully, we were able to transport her to Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center, in Central Point, Oregon, to receive the urgent care she needed. She spent two weeks in the facility before being transferred to Ashland Animal Medical Hospital for another two weeks or so. The staff at AMH fell in love with Lady, and as you can see in the pictures I took when I attended her bandage change, the feeling was mutual.

Lady began to heal. The black leathery burned skin had sloughed off and was slowly being replaced by healthy tissue. Some of the wounds still looked red and raw, but she was recovering beautifully and was clearly in much better spirits.

They changed her bandages every other day until she could do without them. In addition to any medication, the ointments applied by the vet techs, contained honey to help prevent infection, and collagen to promote healthy skin growth.

Lady returns to Rescue Ranch to meet up with rescuer, and convalesce with other burn dogs.

Finally, at the beginning of August, she was ready to come finish her convalescence at the ranch, or possibly with an adopter. A few days later, Ari, who had also visited her in Ashland, came over to Rescue Ranch after a busy 24-hour shift on the Antelope Fire. Lady was obviously happy to see him; it was lovely to see them reunited.

Miraculously, Lady’s paw pads were not injured. Given her terrible third-degree burns, that might seem like small consolation, but it is in fact a real blessing.

Rescue Ranch is currently treating two burn dogs, Paws and Presley. Their injuries, while serious, did not require the same kind of extended veterinary care as Lady’s. That being said, as you can see below, their paws were severely burned.

They have been at the ranch for more than a month, now, and receive regular bandage changes like Lady did. They will have to wear protective coverings on their feet until they are no longer in danger of infection or reinjury. Volunteers and staff use honey and silver sulfadiazine to treat the wounds. Both dogs are doing so much better. Paws, the smaller black dog, is a little bit further along than Presley, but they are both on their way to recovery.

They are such wonderful dogs. They barely put up a fuss even though they must be so sick and tired of their treatments. Unfortunately, their pads have fused, especially Presley’s. As a result, they will most likely need painful surgery to cut and separate their toes.


Lady the burn dog, now looking at a bright future

Lady still has months of recovery ahead, but she’s not the sad, confused dog we met in early July. She is now a happy, smiling, tail-wagger. She’s received nothing but love and care since she she was found and even has a promising adoption prospect. (Update: her rescuer, firefighter Ari Savar, has since adopted her. The best outcome ever!)

Rescue Ranch is in awe to Ari and his fellow firefighters for their tireless work against the flames. We are deeply grateful that they stopped to help a lonely injured dog. She who would never have made it without them. We’d also like to thank the Siskiyou County ACO who answered their call and brought her to us.

We love happy endings. This story will be even better when Paws and Presley also find  forever homes and all the love they deserve.

Click here to donate to the Rescue Ranch Wildfire Relief Fund

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Natalie Golay