Hope, the burned dog, helps others find homes

Naples, Florida (News-Press) -- Hope, a midsize dog, prances around a Naples PetSmart in search of her new owner.

If it wasn't for the bright pink bandages that cover her front legs and the patches of pink furless skin all over her body, no one would guess that over two months ago a team of caregivers were trying to decide whether the pooch should live or die.

The Staffordshire terrier mix dog was doused with kerosene and lit on fire March 20. Her previous owner, Larry Wallace, of Arcadia, has since then been arrested and charged with arson and cruelty to animals, according to the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office.

Hardee Animal Rescue Team President Leigh Sockalosky, also Hope's new owner, said thousands of dollars have been donated by people from all over the world, including Poland, China, England and Australia, to pay for Hope's treatment.

Hope's story has inspired others, Sockalosky said.

One woman dropped off a sign off at the PetSmart that read: "Hope is my super hero."

"She said seeing Hope's progress helped her come through what she's going through," Sockalosky said.

Though there was outpouring of support from the public, Sockalosky and her team also received a lot of angry calls and emails asking why they would put Hope through more pain including the surgeries and treatment she would need to recover.

"We had a lot of people question why would keep her alive," Sockalosky said.

Sockalosky said she watched Hope walk into the pet hospital on her own when she was first brought in for care. "She licked us in the face wagging her tail."

Sockalosky estimates the bandages on Hope's legs will come off in about a month. Because fur no longer grows on spots that were heavily burned, Hope will need to wear a shirt to keep her safe from sunburns in addition to wearing sunblock.

Sockalosky said Hope will act as an ambassador for the team. The plan is to take Hope to schools to teach children about pets and what to do if they witness animal abuse. Also, when Hope hits the road, she'll be accompanied by other dogs the team nurtures that are in need of owners. Most of the dogs come from a kill shelter in Hardee County.

On Saturday, the group brought seven dogs to Naples for adoption. Three of them ended the day with owners.

Beejay Rouse and her daughter, 11-year-old Kayle, didn't expect to adopt puppies when they went to PetSmart, but that's just what happened.

"We lost our puppy yesterday and our second dog is lonely," Rouse said.

People interested in donating to Hope's care should make donations directly to HART, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps animals, via their website at hardeeanimalrescueteam.weebly.com


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