Former burn victim cared for dog that was set on fire – August 4, 2006

Former burn victim cared for dog that was set on fire

Web-posted Aug 4, 2006

Of The Oakland Press

PONTIAC – Raw wounds on his face and back, the puppy was likely doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire. He was found Monday in Pontiac and brought to a local shelter. A woman who could relate to his pain cared for him, hoping for three days to see him recover. “This is really, really, really one of the nastiest things we’ve ever seen,” said Pam Porteous, who fostered the dog in her Oakland County home.

Erika Dembo, 26, heard her own dog barking and saw an odd-looking puppy wandering in front of her home on Pleasantview near the McDonald’s at Woodward and South Boulevard. Without getting a close look, she went inside to get it a bowl of water. When she came out, the dog was between a garbage can and the house, whimpering.

“I felt so bad,” she said.

She took the pitbull mix to the Michigan Animal Rescue League shelter in Pontiac. Porteous, the manager of a rescue group call the Animal Care Network, picked him up and took him to a vet.

At her house, Porteous rubbed cream on his wounds and gave him food, antibiotics, pain medicine and IV fluids.

She called him Melvin after a man in the bed next to her at a burn unit at a hospital in Ann Arbor.

When Porteous was 16 in 1977, she was in a car accident that left her with severe burns over her face, head, arms and upper half of her body. Her friend was driving and trying to swat away a bee when the vehicle crossed the center line, rolled into a ditch and exploded.

Porteous was in the hospital for four months. She underwent about 20 skin graft surgeries.

“It’s a long, painful process to get through,” she said. “I know what it’s like. When I saw the puppy, it just kind of brought that back.”

Like the dog, Porteous’ hospital roommate had burns on his face after being set on fi re.

It’s unclear how far the 3-month-old dog wandered before reaching Dembo’s house. Pleasantview is a quiet street.

“I live on a hill, and everyone up here is senior citizens, and he definitely did not come from somewhere on my street,” Dembo said.

When brought to the rescue league, the dog had a scorched smell.

The burns were most severe on Melvin’s face, head and right side legs. The marks seared through the black fur on his back were shaped like splashed liquid.

“It hurts for him to eat,” Porteous said. “He cries.”

Before heading to another appointment with the vet, the little dog curled in a ball on a purple towel on Thursday at the rescue league. When he stood, and Porteous gently stroked an area on his lower back that wasn’t burned, he froze with his tail between his legs, like he was bracing for more pain.

“I’m going to see him through this,” she said earlier, “that’s for sure.”

Porteous was worried because he wasn’t eating Thursday. At Ross Hospital for Animals late in the afternoon, he was running a high fever and had a weak heartbeat.

Porteous didn’t want to prolong his suffering. Melvin was put to sleep.

Porteous has worked for the Animal Care Network for three years. She and volunteers bring food, water and doghouses to outdoor animals in Pontiac. Prior to that, Porteous worked for the Rescue League for 12 years. In both jobs, she’s seen heart-wrenching examples of abuse. Also on Thursday, someone brought a puppy with a broken jaw to the shelter.

Melvin’s case seemed particularly cruel.

“It’s just ridiculous that anybody would even think to do that. You know how it hurts, a little cigarette burn,” she said in a shaky voice.

“The puppy was wagging his tail and stuff, even after it happened…

“When you’re used to seeing something all the time, like starving dogs, you kind of get used to it. Then you get smacked in the face again, when you see something like this puppy.

“I don’t cry as much as I used to, but it still affects me.”

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