When Ryan Craig, a Philadelphia firefighter and veteran, went to work July 1, he was prepared to leave the firehouse for an emergency. But he was not expecting an emergency to come running through the station door.
"This dog just comes running underneath the engines' doors," Craig said. "We saw she was completely lacerated, oozing maggots."
Craig said he and his fellow firemen coaxed the gray pit bull out of its hiding spot beneath the captain's desk and immediately contacted animal control.
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The Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia took the dog in, but the shelter was at full capacity, he said. And the agency holds strays for just 48 hours. If an owner doesn't come forward during that time, the dogs are either put up for adoption or – in some cases – put down, according to shelter policy.
Shelter workers said the approximately 3-year-old pup -- coined Guinevere by animal control, or Gwen, by Craig -- was hung by a steel cable that was wrapped around her neck. They also told Craig the injured pit bull, who had been through the animal control system previously, was unlikely to be adopted.
The dog's situation weighed on Craig, who has a dog and two cats with his fiancée. He said he had two choices: help Gwen or let her be euthanized.
“I wanted to get this dog out of animal control, but [she was] going to require some expensive surgery,” Craig said.
So later that night, he created a GoFundMe page for Gwen’s surgery and shared it on social media.
Four hours after the page went live, dog-lovers had already donated $1,000. By the next morning, the entire $2,200 needed had been raised.
Craig said he rushed to the animal shelter to pick up Gwen and take her to his vet for surgery.
After a successful operation,Craig and his fiancée decided to foster Gwen until her wounds were healed and a permanent home was found, he said.
About three weeks after her surgery, the CEO of Dogs for Heroes heard about Gwen through social media and approached Craig. The organization rescues dogs and trains them as companion and therapy dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“As a combat wounded vet myself, I could think of no greater calling for her than to help a disabled veteran,” Craig said.
Craig and his fiancée took the 18-hour round trip drive to North Carolina to meet Gwen’s new trainers halfway. The husband, who is also a firefighter, and wife from Florida are professionally trained to rehabilitate dogs.
“It’s all gone full circle,” he said.
When Gwen passes training, she will be paired with a disabled combat veteran.
“It’s a good happy ending for her,” Craig said. “It’s about as fairy tale as you can get.”