Three years ago, a dog’s life changed forever when he was caught in a house fire and left with severe burns.
But he hasn’t let his injuries hold him back — on the contrary, he’s found a new purpose bringing inspiration to others just like him.
In October 2018, a family’s home caught fire, with their pet Taka, an 8-year-old Shiba Inu, trapped inside a screened-in porch.
The family was unable to save him before they had to flee the burning home. Taka was able to get out on his own, but unfortunately suffered severe burns from the fire.
He was taken to Care More Animal Hospital in Martinez, Georgia for burn treatments. “He had burns around his eyes, his mouth, his ears, his belly,” vet Emily Martin told The Dodo at the time. “We really didn’t know how severe his injuries were initially, just because we had to worry about inhalation burns.”
Despite the traumatic experience, Taka proved to be a fighter.
“He went through something so traumatic and so painful, and yet he doesn’t give up,” she said. “He’s so resilient.”
Taka’s family made the difficult decision to surrender him, for the sake of his health recovery. But he soon found a new home with one of his carers, a vet tech named Crystal Lesley.
“When you’re seeing somebody through or an animal through something like this, the bond is so strong,” Crystal told WJBF. “The thought of him kinda going anywhere else was stressing me out.”
“I just feel like he was meant to be mine.”
While Taka initially didn’t get along with Crystal’s other dogs, the dog underwent behavioral training and was described as a “very good dog.”
Taka the therapy dog
In fact, they realized that Taka had the potential for a very fitting new career: becoming a therapy dog at the burn center, giving hope and support for burn victims just like him.
“He’s got the right temperament for it,” Mandy Foster, founder of the Canine Training Project, told WRDF. “Of course he has the scars to show for it and he can relate to a lot of the people there so I think it’s going to benefit both him and the patients there.”
Taka underwent training to become a therapy dog. There were some difficulties to overcome related to his eyesight, but Taka’s smarts and determination prevailed.
“There were a lot of things we had to work on. He has to be able to sit outside of a room and stay until I tell him it’s OK to come in. He has to know if gurneys are coming down and step to the side,” Crystal told FOX 5 DC. “Those were difficult for him because of his vision. He really has no depth perception. But we worked on it, and he did great.”
Soon, Taka began his career as a therapy dog, and has over the past three years brought a lot of joy to patients.
“The people in the Burn unit LOVE Taka,” Crystal told The Dodo in a recent update. “They want to pet him and get his picture and hear all about his story. He definitely brightens their day.
He’s so popular that Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America called him a “four-legged superhero” and recently celebrated him with his own coloring book.
“Taka is the hero of a new coloring book that was made and put out by the burn center, so he got to go around and help [hand] them out to the children,” Crystal said. “He seemed to love it.”
Crystal said that Taka is getting older and beginning to slow down, so he’s been making fewer visits to the burn ward lately, but he still makes appearances, delighting everyone he meets.
Despite all he’s been through, Taka has prevailed as an inspiration for so many people.
“When you have a bad day or start feeling bad about your life, look at Taka,” Crystal told The Dodo. “He is the epitome of strength … He has changed my life greatly. He is my inspiration.”
Taka is one incredible dog. We’re so glad he survived everything he went through and went on to help others like him.
Please share this beautiful dog’s story!