Pit bull who saved family gets hero's treatment at Small Animal Hospital
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
To get Onyx the medical care he needed, Trevor Myres almost had to give up the 9-month-old pit bull whose bark saved his family's life.
Now, thanks to the veterinarians at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital and the kindness of strangers, Onyx is on the path to recovery.
Myres, his fiancee, Sierra Plair, and their son Cyrus reunited with Onyx on Tuesday evening when they picked him up from the hospital where veterinarians had been treating him for burns he sustained in a fire at Myres' Tallahassee home.
At about 2:45 a.m. on Sept. 26, Myres and Plair were in bed when they heard Onyx's frantic barking. A fire had started in the patio, where Onyx was in his crate.
"He's a hero," Myres said. "If it wasn't for him, we would have still been sleeping."
Myres rushed to the patio to find Onyx in flames. He quickly extinguished him with a garden hose.
Word of Onyx's bark apparently saving the family quickly spread and included a story in publications including USA Today.
While Myres, Plair and their two sons escaped without injury, Onyx wasn't so lucky, suffering first- and second-degree burns on more than 30 percent of his body. Although parts of his legs and trunk were burnt, the worst damage was to his face.
When Myres tried to get his dog treatment, he learned he would need to pay more than $100 just for a veterinarian to see him. Worried he wouldn't be able to afford his dog's medical expenses, he took Onyx to Tallahassee Leon-Community Animal Service Center.
"We were to the point we were willing to give him up just to get him the medical attention he needed," Myres said.
When word got to staff at Northwood Animal Hospital in Tallahassee, they knew something had to be done.
The veterinarians at Northwood took Onyx in later that morning and began a PayPal campaign on their Facebook page to help pay for his treatment. The original post had been shared more than 1,800 times as of Wednesday, and the majority of Onyx's expenses had been paid for, said Northwood Associate Veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Cavell.
"We really do appreciate everybody donating, as well as all the doctors putting in the time and effort to save our dog," Myres said.
It soon became apparent that Onyx would need specialized care, so Northwood veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brumfield drove him to the Small Animal Hospital on Sept. 29, where Dr. Bobbi Conner was on emergency duty. Conner said that while Onyx's injuries were severe, they did not appear to be life-threatening.
"In some ways, he was very lucky that he escaped major life-threatening burns, though they could have been," she said.
In the following days, veterinarians anesthetized Onyx to remove charred tissue and assess the extent of the damage. Blood tests initially showed signs of kidney damage, but his kidney levels began returning to normal with treatment, Conner said.
"Burn victims can lose a lot of fluid through damaged skin," she said. "We're trying to maintain balance and provide him with the nutrition he needs."
On Oct. 3, surgeons removed the tips of his ears, which were damaged beyond healing.
"He'll probably look like he has more teddy bear ears than dog ears," Conner said.
Over the weekend, veterinarians focused on Onyx's eyes, which Conner said received some of the worst damage. The intense heat of the fire essentially melted the top layer of his corneas and burned much of the flesh around his eyes. Although ophthalmological specialists worked to save his eyes, she said one or both might have to be removed.
Despite being in constant pain and having to eat through a feeding tube, Conner said Onyx was in relatively high spirits, especially when he got the chance to stretch his legs outside.
"He has his good moments and bad moments," she said. "When you call him a good dog, he wags his tail. You can tell he hears that a lot."
On returning to Tallahassee, Onyx will continue treatment at Northwood. As of Tuesday, he needed eye drops every hour. Although he likely will never regain full vision, Conner said he should be able make an otherwise full recovery.
Though Onyx may have saved his family, Conner said also impressive has been his ability to take a terrible situation in stride.
"Anyone who can go through all that and still wag his tail is pretty heroic in my opinion," she said.