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Last year, Hendrick & Co. launched a campaign for Tuffy, a 6-week-old puppy who suffered severe burns caused by having a pot of boiling water thrown on him for chewing on his former owner’s cell phone.
What happened next would have killed most people. Tuffy was thrown from a fourth-floor balcony, onto concrete.
And he would certainly have died had it not been for the “miracles of kindness” that followed.
When 30-year-old designer Yan Yingying saw him lying there, he was on the edge of death. Not thinking twice, she picked him up, determined to help.
The sight must have been so horrific. Many people would have walked past and pretended not to see. But she didn’t. She took Tuffy to a local vet in Chengdu and paid for his veterinary care. That saved his life.
But while Tuffy was kept alive, the local vet’s knowledge of how to treat such awful ailments was limited. Ms. Yan brought him to the vet every day for two weeks – but she soon saw there was no progress. And Tuffy was in terrible pain.
Through an online veterinary advice service called Pet Quest, Ms. Yan found Animals Asia. She drove an hour to bring him to Animals Asia’s China sanctuary, with Tuffy held still in a padded box. Tuffy was so weak and wracked with pain, he could barely open his eyes.
When Animals Asia’s vet saw Tuffy, they were shocked and sickened to the core. Never had they seen an animal in so much pain.
Animals Asia is best known for rescuing bears from the bear bile trade. The team has rescued over 570 bears – many of them in the most unimaginable condition, after spending up to 30 years in coffin-sized cages.
Founder Jill Robinson has been present for most of these rescues – but she was still shaken by Tuffy’s appearance.
Rescuers wondered if it was too late to save Tuffy, but they were determined to give him a chance.
The team came together around Tuffy. They balanced middle-of-the-night injections with the daily work caring for the bears that the sanctuary shelters. Little by little, he got stronger.
Animals Asia set up a schedule and checked him every three to four hours, gave pain medication, cleaned his wounds and tended to his needs.
Within 24 hours, his eyes became brighter. And the day he ate – everyone celebrated. They knew then that he could survive.
Though his progress continued, Tuffy was in bandages for months. His elbows and knees were fused to his body from the burns, his ears pulled back – making it impossible for his eyes to close, even when he slept.
Tuffy had a lot of help in his recovery – by specialists whose expertise is as valuable as Animals Asia’s vets, donating their time just as Animals Asia’s staff did.
Dr. Alane Cahalane, a specialist surgeon from the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Hong Kong who has consulted and performed surgery on Animals Asia’s bears, flew in for one day to perform Tuffy’s first surgery – to release his fused legs as well as his eyes.
Dr. Kieren Maddern, of Veterinary Anaesthesia and Pain Management Consultants, also consulted for free, with ideas on wound care and pain management for Tuffy.
As time passed, the bandage changes became easier. Tuffy became more used to them, with each one taking him one step closer to recovery.
Tuffy quickly learned that being gently lifted onto the surgery table would mean an uncomfortable few minutes as his bandages were changed. His whimpering in anticipation was especially upsetting for his carers, before the sedation took hold and he fell asleep.
In time – as he grew stronger – he was able to stay awake through this daily ordeal. Sedatives were replaced with distracting snacks, as he grew used to the bandage changes and was able to handle them better.
Then, as he healed, the vets needed to do a skin graft – to loosen skin pulled tight by the healing scar tissue. But where could they take skin from on Tuffy’s burned body? The team found an inventive solution.
The vet team gently explained that one of the healthiest places to take the skin for the graft was from his scrotum. Tucked under his body, this had been a place where the boiling water hadn’t reached – so Tuffy was duly neutered, with nothing left to waste.
The graft took – and soon, bearing a proud and shiny scar that joined all the other scars covering his skin, Tuffy was almost walking normally.
But the biggest part of his recovery was his spirit, urged on by the love he was shown.
In time Tuffy began eating properly. He was able to close his eyes and sleep properly. He even began playing like a normal puppy.
While the China staff attended to Tuffy, others saw his recovery take miraculous shape.
When the burns cover over 50 per cent of the body, animals are not expected to survive. Tuffy survived with over 60 per cent of his body burned. How his life started was horrific.
Animals have the ability to bring out the best in people, and it’s true for Tuffy. His strength and bravery was incredible – but Ms. Yan was equally determined he would live.
But for all his toughness and his bravery, Tuffy has a softer side. Amazingly, Tuffy still sees the good in people. He still comes to us for love and warmth.