Dog who was horrifically burned makes miracle recovery

Dog who still had ‘fight in his eyes’ after being horrifically burned in a house fire makes a miraculous recovery after vet technician who rescued him refused to let him be put down

  • Taka, the Shiba Inu, 13, was horrifically burned in Georgia house fire 
  • Neighbors alerted Veterinary technician Crystal Lesley, 50, on social media
  • Experts at specialist center said he’d have to be put down but she took him home
  • After being nursed back to health he is now a therapy dog for children  

A Shiba Inu who was horrifically burned in a house fire has made a miracle recovery, despite vets saying he would have to be put down.

Taka, now 13, was trapped on a back porch in a blaze in a house fire in Georgia in 2019, and only managed to escape after the flames burned through the floor.

Terrified Taka suffered excruciating burns all over his body, especially to his back and face.

Veterinary technician Crystal Lesley, 50, from Martinez, Georgia, was the first to come to Taka’s aid after someone tagged her on a social media post about his injuries.

He was ‘still smoking’ when he arrived at the Care More Animal Hospital where she works alongside vet Dr Martin, and from the moment they met, Crystal said she knew it would be a battle for the dog to survive his dreadful injuries let alone make a recovery.  

Taka was so badly burned vets said there wasn’t much choice but to have him euthanized, but Crystal Lesley was determined to save him.

The family home in Georgia was in complete ruins, and Taka fell through when the floor collapsed before running to the neighbors’. The family were too devastated to continue to care for Taka after the fire and signed his care over to the vets.

Crystal said: ‘When I saw the photo I was tagged in on social media my heart dropped. ‘There was a dog who had obviously been severely burned.

‘I immediately made some calls to reach out to the person who tagged me. I told them to get that dog to me asap. 

‘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.

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

Taka undergoing surgery after suffering horrific burns that stripped off most of his fur.

Taka pictured after the fire, after he took a turn for the worse at the center in Georgia

Taka’s owners signed the care of Taka over to the vet, because they claimed they were ‘dealing with the tragedy of the fire’ that destroyed their home, and didn’t have the resources to care for him at that moment. 

The entire community came together to help raise thousands of dollars to send Taka to a specialist. After two days, Taka took a turn for the worse and his pain seemed unbearable.

That’s when Crystal left work and drove him to the South Carolina Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care in Columbia.

Crystal said ‘After two days we took him to a veterinary school at a university which might have been able to offer emergency care. 

‘But within 48 hours of us being there they decided the best course of action was to euthanize Taka but we knew there was no way we could do that. 

‘He had too much life and fight in his eyes so Dr Martin and I picked him up, he was in rough shape, but he was so brave. He had a look in his eyes that told us he wanted to live. 

‘If we thought he was ready to give up or it wasn’t fair to keep him around then we were prepared to humanely euthanize him but so far that was not the case. 

‘Taka came home with me that night so I could watch him and care of his burns and give him meds as needed.’ 

But after a few days, Taka was in so much pain he was screaming and Crystal could no longer touch him or comfort him. 

‘I put him in carrier and drove him to another emergency hospital an hour away in Columbia, South Carolina,’ she said.

‘We waited in the lobby with Taka in the carrier and crying out in pain and I was laying on the floor of the hospital next to him sobbing.

‘I will never forget how scared I was and the sound of his screams still haunts me years later. ‘

Taka stayed in the specialist center for a month and a half, so on weekends, Crystal would make the drive to visit him, as by this point the pair had formed a special bond. Once he was done at the specialist, Crystal took him home.

When Taka was ready to leave the hospital his injuries had healed significantly but the skin around his eyes had undergone something called ‘drawback’ meaning he could no longer blink 

She said ‘After weeks of daily bandage changes and wound care we quickly realized Taka couldn’t blink.’

Taka’s story spread and a nurse from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center saw his ordeal and soon after, the center called offering skin grafts and reconstructive surgery on him to allow him to blink.

Taka now. Crystal said in 2018 ‘We waited in the lobby with Taka in the carrier and crying out in pain and I was laying on the floor of the hospital next to him sobbing. I will never forget how scared I was and the sound of his screams still haunts me years later.’

The adorable Shiba Inu, Taka. The Shiba Inu is a breed of hunting dog from Japan. AIt is regarded as a small-to-medium breed. 

Taka’s skin grafts have given him a unique look, and a lot of his fur has now grown back.

Taka in the bath, having a wash from his loving owner Crystal.

Crystal Lesley,50, with Taka now and his GCG award. He is now a therapy animal for children and is said to ‘love kids’. Crystal now has full ownership of the dog.

Crystal, a vert from Georgia, ‘lovd Taka’ too much to let him die. Even though specialists said there was no choice but to euthanize, she took him home and nursed him back to health after treatment at several centres.

Crystal said ‘We were incredibly humbled and awestruck at the magnitude of service they provided for this amazing dog now he can blink again.’

In 2019, the family, who signed over Taka’s care to the vet, allowed Crystal to become his official owner. 

Now Taka works with children who are burn victims, as a therapy animal. After his story spread through the community, he found a new role as a therapy dog. 

Crystal said ‘I was approached by a nurse at the burn center about Taka coming in to visit burned children, in hopes of giving them something to relate to.

‘He loves kids and people. He is the perfect mixture of silly and sweet. I thought about it and decided that he was too special not to share him with the world.’

 In order to work in the burn unit, Taka would need his Therapy Dog certification. This is what started Crystal  on a journey of training. 

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 a little while to do that out in public,’ Crystal said. ‘But honestly, he has flown right through it. He is so smart!’

Taka took the CGC test on July 26 2019 and passed. Crystal was beyond happy.

She said: ‘I am so incredibly proud of him.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.’

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