A South Philadelphia dog is recovering from a sudden injury earlier this month while providing emotional support to people affected by the Florida condo collapse.
Teddy, a 6-year-old therapy dog who is part Basset Hound and part Labrador Retriever, inexplicably lost his ability to walk on July 14, said owner and handler Sophia Barrett.
The extent of his injuries was unclear, she added, although vets told her he might have a herniated disc.
“He was probably starting to get some wear and tear on that back of his spine that only made it worse after he was this active for several weeks,” Bassett, 30, told Metro.
Barrett and Teddy arrived back in Philadelphia last Tuesday, and he took his first real steps two days later, she said after funding chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage treatments through a GoFundMe that raised nearly $ 50,000.
“It’s incredible and humiliating,” said Barrett, who works for a local suicide prevention organization. “I knew Teddy was special and I’m so glad the world could see how special he really is.”
Barrett grew up in Hollywood, Florida, about 10 miles from Surfside, where the 12-story building unexpectedly collapsed on June 24, killing 97 people.
She had planned a trip to South Florida and was pulling her flight after hearing the news. Barrett and Teddy last year joined Crisis Response Canines, a South Jersey-based nonprofit that uses dog handler teams to deal with mass shootings and other traumatic events.
Along with six other CRC pairings, Barrett and Teddy visited centers where family members of the victims gathered and comforted rescue workers who combed through debris during the week-long search.
“To see our dogs put a smile on someone’s face, to give them a second to breathe, it was an honor to be able to do that,” she said.
The experience marked Barrett and Teddy’s first deployment to CRC, an organization that provided emotional support to people affected by the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh and the 2017 mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas.
Andrea Hering, the group’s co-founder, said CRC teams have also responded to other local tragedies, including the 2019 shootout at a Pleasantville High School football game.
“If there is a very tragic event in a community, they will call us to work with law enforcement and other people involved,” said Hering.
The nonprofit also works with local first responders on a regular basis, with weekly visits to 911 dispatchers in Camden County and to operators at the Millville 911 operator. The idea is to allow dispatchers to decompress, Hering said.
She said CRC’s dogs are trained to stay calm in unpredictable and stressful environments. Caregivers are also given instructions on how to speak to someone who has experienced trauma.
Any money from Barrett’s GoFundMe that is not used for Teddy’s ongoing treatments – and a hefty sum is expected to be left over – will be donated to CRC. Barrett recently stopped the fundraiser, which began with a goal of $ 5,000.
Donations poured in after a segment aired on Teddy’s predicament at a CBS affiliate in Miami. At the time, Barrett was stuck in Florida because he had stayed longer than the other CRC teams.
“It was my main priority to get him home,” she said. “Coming through a commercial airport and security check with a dog who can’t walk would have been a total nightmare.”
Executives at Titan Aviation Group, a company that sells aircraft and offers charter flights, flew Barrett and Teddy back to Philadelphia in a private jet after hearing their story.
Now that Teddy can walk again, the goal is to get him back to full health and get back on the streets to put smiles on people’s faces again, Barrett said.
“He loves to work,” she said. “He loves his job and I know he will be really excited and happy to go back to work.”