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Brave Shiba Inu burned in fire becomes therapy dog for human burn victims

Shiba Inu recovering from burns dog-happy
© Care More Animal Hospital - Facebook

Dogs make incredible companions and always pick us up when we are down. But what if your dog knew exactly what you were going through and had shared the same experience?

By Zoe Monk

Published on the 04/11/2019, 08:00, Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:22

Some people rely on their canine companion to help them through difficult times. Their dog can keep them company and sometimes even just be there for cuddles.

But while dogs are full of enduring love for their owners, they can’t always understand just what we are going through. However, imagine if the dog had been through the exact same experience as you and had to deal with the same anguish, pain and struggles.

Meet Taka

Taka is a very special 9-year-old Shiba Inu.

In October 2018, Taka was badly burned in a house fire in Georgia in the U.S., that left him without much of the fur on his face.

But despite this traumatic experience, Taka is now helping humans who have also gone through the same experience.

Severe burns

Following the fire, Taka was taken to vet Crystal Lesley who treated him at Care More Animal Hospital.


Taka was evaluated by the surgical team this morning and will undergo his first procedure this afternoon. Please keep him close to your heart!! This sweet guy needs everything he can get.

Posted by Care More Animal Hospital on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Once Taka had undergone a number of gruelling operations, Crystal then adopted Taka and brought him home to the house she shared with her other dogs.


Crystal giving Taka one last kiss

Posted by Care More Animal Hospital on Friday, January 4, 2019

However, Taka struggled to settle in and would often misbehave and fight with Crystal’s other dogs.


Crystal told WRDW: “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep Taka and it was breaking my heart.”

But Crystal was determined not to give up on Taka and put him into training. Although she hoped it would help him, Crystal wasn’t convinced it would be effective for the dog because of his age. However, she was very pleasantly surprised.

Taka took to his training straight away.

Impressive performance

Mandy Foster who trained Taka was also impressed with Taka’s performance. She said: “He’s nine years old and he has flown through his training. He’s brilliant.”

An important element of Taka’s training has been working on his ability to focus and ignore distractions. The first stage of his training saw him work at local burn centres where it’s hoped he will achieve his Canine Good Citizen award from the American Kennel Club.

This award will reflect Taka’s ability to follow certain commands and react well in specific situations such as meeting new people and being left alone for short periods.

Therapy training

Once Taka has achieved this, Mandy plans on getting the dog to reach the standard of a trained therapy dog for people who have also been through the same experiences as Taka.

“He’s got the right temperament for it,"Mandy said. “Of course, he has the scars to show for it and he can relate to a lot of the people there so I think it’s going to benefit both him and the patients there.”

Progress in pictures

Crystal has posted a number of photos on the animal hospital’s Facebook page that show the great progress Taka has made. From when he was first brought in to more recent pictures.

Some of his fur has grown back, but there is obvious scaring and it’s not clear how his sight has been affected.

Honoured at charity benefit

Taka’s bravery and training to help human burn victims were acknowledged at a special event for patients and their families who have experienced burns. Taka has also taken up the important role of official ambassador for the JMS Burn Center who initially treated him, while also being named one of America’s Dogs of the Year.

Crystal is understandably delighted at the progress Taka has made and thanks to his training with Mandy, she now has no doubts about keeping him.

She said: “To see that he could be an encouragement or at least a light at the end of the tunnel for a child or anybody that has gone through what he’s gone through is what all of this is about."

Well done Taka!