Hearing whimpers coming from a burning trash bin in a frigid Minnesota night, a passing truck driver looked in to discover a puppy engulfed in flames at its bottom.
Clayton Van Wert explained that he was visiting the garbage dump on the edge of the Red Lake Indian Reservation on Friday night when he found the dog.
Despite the flames, Mr. Van Wert, a father of three, reached into the trash bin and pulled the puppy up to safety, while burning his hands and hair in the process. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Truck driver Clayton Van Wert took this heart-wrenching photo just minutes after pulling this tiny puppy from a burning trash bin in Minnesota. He said his fur was the color of charred marshmallow.
2. The 5-month-old husky mix is lucky to be alive after being pulled from a burning trash bin by a Good Samaritan Friday night in Minnesota.
The trucker believes that the puppy, a Husky mix, was too small to jump into the 4-foot-tall garbage container on his own, which indicates that someone had purposely thrown him in and left him for dead.
Mr. Van Wert contacted a tribal conservation officer, who then took the badly burned canine to a rescue shelter on the reservation. From there, the puppy was taken to Act V Rescue and Rehabilitation — an animal shelter in Bloomington.
Dr. Vicki Schulz, a vet who has been treating the dog, now named Phoenix (what else?) after the mythological bird that rose from the ashes, explains that most of his hair was burned to a crisp.
3. The puppy’s fur was charred and had to be shaved off so that the medics could assess his skin.
4. Phoenix is five months old, but doctors say he was brought in weighing only 19 lbs.
The rescue team wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday that Phoenix is five months old. He was brought in weighing only 19 lbs, which is about half of what he should weigh.
Severely malnourished, the puppy’s most serious burns were on his knees and two of his paws, which left him in pain that requires medications.
Mr. Van Wert, who owns a towing and auto recovery company, recounted his heroic rescue in an interview with The Minneapolis Star Tribune. As he fought back tears, Mr. Van Wert described the moment he reached into the burning trash bin and picked up the whimpering puppy with his gloved hands.
5. The malnourished pup suffered the most serious burns on his knees and two of his paws.
6. Phoenix will undergo several rounds of skin grafting for his burns.
A lifelong dog owner, Mr. Van Wert said that as soon as Phoenix was out of danger, he walked over to him on his burned paws, showing no sign of fear.
The trucker added that the top of the dog’s fur was the color of toasted marshmallow and crumbled to ashes at the lightest touch.
Phoenix is now recovering, but he still has to go through several rounds of skin grafting for his burns. The staff at Act V, who are treating the puppy, are asking for donations to cover the costs of his care.
As of Monday night, police have not found the person who dumped the dog in the burning bin.
7. Clayton Van Wert, the truck driver who rescued the pooch, said given Phoenix’s size, there is no way he could have jumped inside the 4-foot-tall trash bin on his own.
8. The dog now splits his time between the South Hyland Pet Hospital in Bloomington and the home of Dr. Vicki Schulz, one of its veterinarians — a Star Tribune report.
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