Phoenix’s story is as amazing as it is moving. On March 6, 2008 Mississippi State University’s veterinary student team, dubbed the “Fix ‘em Team”, was winding up their day of spaying and neutering the rescued dogs at Project Hope Sanctuary. Under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Phil Bushby, Professor of Animal Health and Ethics, third year veterinary students receive training and experience in surgery through spaying and neutering shelter animals. Occasionally they also perform other surgeries that they must become familiar with.
The MSU team was completing their sanitation of surgery tables and cages and the Project Hope staff was unloading the last of the dogs and cats to be returned to their quarters to recover when Project Hope supporter Cecil Kirk whipped his jeep in behind the mobile spay unit. Sensing there was an emergency, Project Hope staff joined Cecil at the rear of his vehicle. As he opened the rear door a long eye-lashed puppy who looked as if she’d been rolled over by a vehicle peered back at examining eyes. It looked as if this little dog had severe road burn. Cecil thought she’d been attacked by coyotes.
The little dog was rushed into the mobile unit and Dr. Bushby went right to work on her. After shaving her just a bit he announced that it wasn’t road burn she suffered from - she’d been scalded. Within minutes her wounds were fully exposed and there was no mistaking it, boiling water had been poured on her head, rolling down around her ears and down her back and around her sides. She had to have been positioned with her feet on the person who, without question, intentionally poured the scalding water on her. Had it been another liquid, such as oil, or some chemical, a evidence of the substance would have remained.
Dr. Bushby finished shaving away the hair around the burned area and removed the hanging and decaying skin. This little girl had suffered her torture perhaps days earlier. How she’d survived the initial injury and shock is amazing. Infection hadn’t yet set in.
She was cared for by me until her recovery and adoption. I almost immediately named her Phoenix. Phoenix’s first night was horrid - even with a pain reliever she moaned and whined the entire night.
The first days were tough on Phoenix, but her sweet little spirit was undaunted. She nosed the dogs that shared the staff quarters with and greeted staff with soft little kisses and wet nose nudges. It would be awhile before she was healed enough to venture off the porch.
As Phoenix’s horribly burned body healed the skin surrounding the deeper burns began to pull. Any little bump evoked a cry. Her first shot was an ordeal. Because her skin was thickened and scarred the needle couldn’t easily penetrate. Precious little Phoenix screamed and struggled in terror of experiencing more pain. While she may not have realized this human had intentionally caused her suffering, she was acutely aware of the pain she’d endured and she wanted no part of anymore of it.
This little darling pup had been scalded and then transported and dumped on a rural road with few residences. It was quickly established that she wasn’t the companion of any of the residents. Project Hope sanctuary’s mother organization, In Defense of Animals, offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the torture of Phoenix. So far the perpetrator hasn’t been caught.
When young perpetrators act out their disrespect for life they usually brag. Vengeful adults who act in fits of aggravated anger are usually wise to the need for relishing their satisfaction in silence.
When IDA members and the public learned of the dastardly torture of Phoenix adoption offers poured in. We realized that the offers were well intentioned, but were inspired by sympathy. Phoenix would need an understanding guardian with patience for a little mischief maker. She delighted in getting into things, hiding things, chewing, and skirmishing with the “grazer pack” at Project Hope. The grazers are the dogs with disabilities and personalities that prohibit them from sharing communal quarters with other matched dog groups, but they share a special bond and mischief is their game.
As Phoenix was dearly loved by both Project Hope staff and the grazers there was no rush to place her. I wanted to wait until her image as an abused animal faded. She wanted Phoenix to be loved for the vivacious, delightful imp with Disney character lashes that she was. The smart, strong-willed champion of survival.
Amy White, founder of the MSU “Homeward Bound” student group, matchmaker for regional dogs and adoptive guardians and east coast rescue groups and shelters, called to say Phoenix had been chosen for adoption through an animal shelter in New Hampshire. The Project Hope staff sucked up their tears and rejoiced in Phoenix’s chance for a fresh start.
A week later and Phoenix was on her way. She was transported first to West Virginia where volunteer transporter Glenn Bidwell of Rhode Island met the Homeward Bound group. Glenn would shuttle the dogs on the second leg of the trip from West Virginia to the Salem Animal Rescue League in New Hampshire.
Upon arriving at their destination Glenn and Phoenix had sparked a bound that neither wanted to end. Glenn shared that Phoenix didn’t want to get out of his van and he was crazy about her. With three prospective guardians waiting to meet Phoenix, Glenn rushed home to Rhode Island to return with Samus, his best friend and constant companion.
Back at the Salem Animal Rescue League, Glenn and Phoenix bonded, were approved for adoption, and were homeward bound.
Glenn and I have spoken often and little Phoenix’s fantasy life has been realized. She has a big buddy to pal around with, a work at home guardian with whom she takes many trips to their favorite lake and the beach. Now Phoenix has everything she loves.