Fireman’s Dog Dies

We hear about stories in the news such as the hero dog from Afghanistan who foiled a suicide bomber’s attempts to blow up an American barracks, and was later adopted by an Army medic who had witnessed the dog’s bravery. The dog, whose name was Target, was flown to the U.S. to live with his new family in Arizona.

The happy ending was short-lived, however. Target escaped from their yard, was captured by the dog catcher, and euthanized by mistake before the family could reclaim him. Target had captured the hearts of millions, and all around the world, people who’d never met Target the dog cried for him.

For every dog story that makes front page news, there are dog stories which live only in the hearts and minds of those directly involved. One such story broke my heart. The only reason I know of this story is because I personally know the dog owners and have been following their heartwrenching tale on Facebook.

It is the story of a fireman, his beloved wife and children, and their three dogs: Charlie, Maggie Bean and Doolie. I have never before witnessed such love in a family as this family shares. When you read their conversations on Facebook you can feel the love that fills their home and you cannot help but smile. Theirs is a family full of love, light, and heroism.

The fireman has saved the lives of countless people in his career. He has saved homes from burning to the ground. He saved a stranded woman from drowning during the floods of 2009. He is a quiet hero, known only to his friends and family, but not the world at large.

Their story began on a happy note as many stories do. The fireman and his wife had gone to the beach for a few days of vacation, with hearts of love floating all around them. They were celebrating their wedding anniversary. The horror began when they came home.

All three of their dogs had gotten loose while they were on vacation. Someone had been watching the dogs, and the dogs ran out the door while under the care of the dog sitter. It’s hard enough to go away and leave your dogs behind, especially for the fear of something like this happening.

No matter how hard we try to keep our dogs in, sometimes they get out. There are so many ways that a dog can get out despite our best efforts to prevent it.

Many moons ago before my husband and I got married, I had taken my dog Gypsy Rose to spend a weekend with my not-yet husband. I didn’t know it when I let Gypsy Rose out into the fenced yard, but the gate was open. I let my dog out, she found the open gate and off she went to explore.

A half hour later when I went to let her back in, my dog was long gone. I went all up and down the street looking for her, to no avail. I called and called but there was no sign of her. I went to the next street over, walking down the street and calling out to her. Nothing. Not a sign.

Being close to a major road I was beginning to panic. There were so many directions she could have gone in, and so many cars barreling down that big road that could hit her. I didn’t know which direction to look, and I felt like I was searching for a needle in a haystack. Being on foot, my progress was painfully slow and I wasn’t making any headway.

As I walked back up the street, a pickup truck pulled up next to me and asked if I was looking for a dog. I said yes, and described Gypsy Rose. They had found her wandering around and put her in their fenced backyard. I had walked right past their house never knowing that my dog was in their backyard. She was a quiet dog and hadn’t made a peep.

They gave me and Gypsy Rose a ride back to the house, and Gypsy Rose went on to live with me until she passed away at fifteen years old. Thankfully our story had a happy ending. It could so easily have been otherwise. I never let her run loose intentionally, and yet she got out. It happens.

And so it happened to the fireman and his family. All three of their dogs got out together. Like me, they went searching for their dogs and at first, they reported their dogs as being lost. They kept searching and they finally found all three dogs, but their dogs did not have the happy ending that Gypsy Rose did.

Their dog Maggie Bean had been hit by a car and left by the road to die. By the time the fireman found her, their beloved Maggie Bean was dead. Maggie Bean had been a gift for their first wedding anniversary and thus, she held a very special place in their hearts.

The second dog, Doolie, was fine. Doolie’s feathers were a bit ruffled but otherwise fine. Doolie had escaped the wheels of oncoming traffic.

The third dog, Charlie, had also been hit by a car and left to die, presumably the same car that killed Maggie Bean. Or perhaps Charlie had stayed close to the dying Maggie Bean to protect her, and was hit by a different car. We will never know exactly what happened to the fireman’s dogs on that fateful night.

The fireman found Charlie severely injured and immediately took him to the vet. They’ve been trying to save his life ever since. All through the Thanksgiving holiday they battled for Charlie’s life, and it looks like their Christmas will be filled with the fear of losing Charlie as well.

It’s been touch and go for their dog Charlie who is struggling with his many injuries. His face and eyesocket were injured. His legs and hip were injured. This fireman and his family lost one dog, and are now facing the holidays with the battle to save the life of their other dog.

It is heartbreaking to read their tale of loss, and their battle to bring Charlie back to health. Charlie has good days and bad days and he’ll make progress forward, only to lose ground and fall backward again.

During a recent backslide the fireman’s wife was beside herself with anguish. She said, “My Charlie is not doing well, and I just don’t think I can handle the loss of another dog. He’s not eating, not moving, and we had to carry him to the vet. He hasn’t been the same since the accident. He just keeps getting worse.”

It broke my heart to hear her anguish. Her friends all rallied around her with attempts at comforting words, but truly there is no comfort when you are battling to save a life. The vet said that Charlie was full of infection and put him on more antibiotics.

They’ve been struggling for words to answer the questions of their children. With one dog gone, the kids have been asking about Charlie, and their fireman father has no answer. A home that had been so full of love and light and laughter was now full of sadness and death. This family had lost one dog and was battling valiantly not to lose another, and Charlie began his fight for life traveling back and forth from his home to the vet.

I looked through the photos they’d posted of their three dogs. It showed a life of love, with the dogs in the center of it right up there next to the kids. I saw a dog lying on the couch next to his daddy, dogs swimming in the lake, dogs playing fetch with sticks, and even a dog in the bathtub for a bath. These were not backyard dogs ignored by their owners or left to roam loose. These dogs were beloved family members who lived indoors with their family.

The bottomless pit of grief worsened for this valiant family when the vet discovered a horrific deed while he was working to restore this beloved dog back to health. The vet found a BB lodged in the dog. No one knows when the horrible deed occurred, or who had done it. No one knows whether it was done as the dog laid dying in the road after being hit by a car, or whether it had been done an hour or week or months before.

This family who was battling to save the life of their dog, had to live with the horrible knowledge that someone had shot the dog with a BB gun. What would go through your mind? Did the driver of the car who’d hit the dog attempt to finish the job with a BB gun? Did a later passerby attempt to euthanize the dog rather than calling a vet or animal control?

Or had a neighbor shot the dog long before the accident that brought the dirty deed into the light? The question would always hang heavy on your mind. You’d never be able to look at any of your neighbors the same again. This couple whose home had always been full of love and laughter, would now look at their neighbors and wonder: Did one of them shoot the dog? I know I would.

Here is a fireman, a hero who saves lives, protects property, and risks his life for others, having to live with the knowledge that someone shot his dog with a BB gun while he was out saving lives. He has to live with the knowledge that while he and his brethren risk their lives to pull people out of burning buildings, someone left his dogs to die by the side of the road.

No one who loves their dogs as a family member deserves to live through the horror of losing a dog, and battling for the life of another. After a several week battle to save Charlie’s life, they finally had to let go. Charlie was not able to recover from his injuries. They lost two of their three dogs while they were celebrating their wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The next time you see an injured dog, or worse, hit a dog with your car even if accidentally, consider the family behind the dog before you drive away and leave the dog to die.

Do not assume that the dog was just a stray wandering loose. Do not assume that the owner was lax in his ownership and allowed the dog to run loose. Stop and help the dog — give the dog a chance at life — his daddy may be the man who saves your life someday.

  • Bad Dog to Best Friend


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