Hero Dog Gets His Own Helping Hand
Donations support treatment for canine angel.
When his dog Chief fell during a search-and-rescue training exercise, Lieutenant Brian Smithey of Tampa Fire and Rescue didn’t realize he was injured. It wasn’t until later that night, when Chief couldn’t jump up on the bed, that Lt. Smithey realized something was wrong.
Chief is one of 200 dogs in the country who is a FEMA Certified Urban Search and Rescue dog. The dogs are trained to find live people buried under up to 30 feet of rubble. Many of these dogs flew to Haiti after the devastating earthquake. The handlers receive a small stipend each year, but it’s barely enough to cover food and a routine check-up for the dogs.
Lt. Smithey took Chief to the vet, who recommended x-rays and other diagnostics at the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital. The tests showed that Chief had a fibrous cartilaginous embolism, or FCE, which is a stroke in the spine.
Linda Hart at BluePearl explained the treatment Chief is receiving for his FCE. “It’s not something you treat surgically; it’s something you treat medically. He started medications, began laser acupuncture, underwater hydrotherapy,” she said. The rehabilitation is designed to help build his muscles back up so that he can return to work.
Because the costs of his treatment exceed the handler’s stipend, BluePearl worked with the search and rescue organization to set up a fund for Chief. BluePearl already had Frankie’s Friends, a nonprofit arm of their business designed to help owners in an emergency for unexpected care, to help with cancer treatments, and to research a cure for canine lymphoma.
“Through Frankie’s Friends we set up a special fund for Chief, and anything we raise over will be set aside for the search and rescue team,” said Hart. The rescue organization sent out a release asking for help. To date, they have raised over $2,500.
According to Hart, the response has been tremendous. Not only are people in the Tampa Bay community reaching out, they’re receiving donations for Chief’s care from all over the country. Hart said that many of the donations come with touching notes thanking Chief for his service.
With hurricane season underway – one of the busiest seasons for search and rescue dogs – everyone is anxious for Chief to get back to work. “The official statement from his veterinarian is that he’s improving every single day,” said Hart. “He’s in several times a week for therapy. His vet says he’s getting better every day. He’s getting stronger every day. I am hopeful for a full recovery. We’d like to see him get back to work.”
To learn more or to contribute to Chief’s recovery, visit www.frankiesfriends.com. If you are making a contribution, type “Chief” or “search and rescue” in the form to specify where you want your tax-deductible donation to go.
Pictured: Chief sits with his owner and handler, Lt. Brian Smithey. (Photo Courtesy of BluePearl Veterinary Partners / Frankie’s Friends)
Have you heard about search and rescue dogs injured in the line of duty? Tell us below!
4 years ago
I read a book based on a true story called the dog who rescued cats this female dog would find cats in need of help with out any training her owner rescued her from the humane socitey. One time when on a walk the dog ripped free of her owners grip on her leash he ran after her she would not come back he thought this was weird cause she always came back when she was called. Finally he caught up with her she was in an alley digging in a box filled with broken glass her paws were bloody but when she turned she was holding a small kitten by the scruff of it's neck it had been in the box it survived and the dog got her paws treated but the man said he was blessed to have such a great dog he said it was a miracle to find a mixed breed that had been a stray her entire life that would rescue cats all of them no matter what happens to her as long as the cats are okay.
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