Taka, a 9-Year-old Shiba Inu, is helping burn victims cope with their own injuries in a way that no other therapy dog could. Because unlike other therapy dogs, Taka understands the fear and pain that many burn victims experience. On a fall day in 2018, Taka’s entire life changed when his Georgia home caught fire.
The fire was so massive it quickly destroyed the family’s porch, and tragically, Taka fell through the quickly-deteriorating floor. The terrified dog managed to escape, fleeing to a neighbor’s house – all the while, Taka was still smoking from the fire. The alarmed neighbors jumped into action, contacting a local vet named Crystal Lesley who rushed to meet Taka without hesitation.
At first, it seemed unlikely that the traumatized dog would make it. They sedated him to prevent him from feeling the unbearable pain of his injuries – even with her years of experience, Lesley had never seen burns this severe. Lesley saw Taka’s determination to survive and posted a fundraiser on her clinic’s Facebook page to help get Taka to a specialist.
The community generously stepped up, and before long, Lesley and Taka left to meet the South Carolina specialist.
“He and I lied on the floor in the waiting area crying together,” Lesley told AKC. By this point in time, Taka’s owners had surrendered him to the vet – they were unable to take on the financial burden or the immense amount of care Taka needed.
Taka spent a month and a half at the specialist, with Lesley driving up to visit every weekend. After being released into Lesley’s care, the determined vet spent weeks tending to his wounds around the clock. News of Taka’s story spread, and soon Lesley was contacted by the Joseph M. Still Burn Center who volunteered their services free of charge.
“We were incredibly humbled and awestruck at the magnitude of service they provided for this amazing dog,” Lesley says.
Against all odds, Taka made a full recovery. Lesley had selflessly poured her heart into caring for the injured dog, and unsurprisingly, fell in love with him. When Lesley realized she couldn’t part with the 9-year-old pup, she made the adoption official.
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News of Taka’s recovery spread around the community, and a local nurse realized that Taka could fill a very special role. “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,” Lesley recalled.
The pair began training together, and soon, Taka passed his certification tests with flying colors. It truly did take a village to get Taka where he is today. From those who supported Taka financially to those who offered monumentally important services free of charge, no role was too small when he came to helping Taka in his time of need. And now, tail-wagging, Taka is happily back to others when they need him most.