Saving Sparky

November 29, 2012  

A firefighter rescues a dog from a burning building and others step up to help this special pit bull recover

By Dale Jenssen

My son Zack Jenssen is a firefighter in Richmond, Calif. One night on shift, his crew was called to put out a fire in a shed attached to an apartment building. As they tore apart the shed and put out the fire, they saw a badly burned dog chained inside, lying unconscious. They pulled him out, and Zack began giving him oxygen with a pedi-mask. He thought it might be a futile effort, but persisted. After 20 minutes, the dog began to breathe and soon struggled to his feet. He huddled under Zack until he was transported to Martinez Animal Shelter some time later.

At Martinez, over the next few days the shelter vets utilized all of their limited resources to try to stabilize this little courageous Staffordshire Terrier, who was fighting for his life. Burned over 45 percent of his body, suffering major smoke inhalation, his collar melted into his neck, unable to see through burned corneas, this sweet dog captured everyone’s heart. But he was suffering, and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him. Zack the firefighter had been checking in on this dog’s condition every day, and when he was told that he was going to be put to sleep, Zack rushed out to Martinez, adopted him, named him Sparky and transported him to a 24-hour veterinary practice, Berkeley Dog & Cat, that had experience with burns. And for the next month, Sparky received the specialty care that saved his life. The dedicated staff showered Sparky with love and expert medical attention, and some even came in on their days off to check on him. His eyes healed, his lungs healed, and slowly but surely, his skin began healing. And Zack fell in love with this amazing dog who greeted him with such joy on their visits.

After five weeks and thousands of dollars later, Sparky was ready to leave Berkeley Dog & Cat. He still needed daily dressing changes and vigilance to make sure that his open wounds didn’t become infected. Zack, who works 48-72 hour shifts and couldn’t have a bully dog in his apartment, contacted friends at UC Davis who were studying at the renowned veterinary school there. They took Sparky in, and for the next few months he lived with wonderful vet students who watched over him, trained him, played with him and sometimes even took him to class. Sparky became the unofficial mascot of the vet school and was loved by everyone. Then the school term ended, and Sparky again needed a place to stay.

The next step in Sparky’s journey brought him back to Berkeley to live with us, Zack’s parents. We agreed to foster him until a more permanent home could be found. We foster Labradors for a local rescue, and I must admit we weren’t confident about fostering Sparky, the non-Lab. But he won our hearts, including our Lab Sante, and kept us laughing at his antics. He is a warm, funny, super-intelligent, totally responsive, wanting-to-please dog, whose enthusiasm for life after all he has been through is totally inspiring.

Sparky is now back at Davis for the school year, living with three vet students in a house with a big back yard. One student in particular, Spencer, adores Sparky and will keep him if my son can’t take him back in June. So this little dog is once again the toast of UC Davis vet school.

Sparky’s remarkable journey has been possible only because of a “village of heroes” stepped up to save him – Zack, the vets at Martinez Shelter, the staff at Berkeley Dog & Cat, the vet students at Davis, our Lab Sante and the countless others who have treated him with kindness and devotion. And the amazing thing is that to all of them, and to us, Sparky is our inspiration and our true hero.

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2 Responses to “Saving Sparky”
  1. JeneenBurns says:

    Took a lot of people to love this dog back to health.

    • StubbyDog says:

      It sure did, it’s the proverbial ‘it takes a village’ story. And we applaud all who cared so much about Sparky.