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Veterinary technician Sabrina Alexander comforts Shadrach, a 3-month-old puppy who lost his vision in the Blackwell Hill fire. - Bob Pennell

Survivor of fire in need of a home

They call the mixed-breed pup Shadrach. For, like his biblical namesake, he survived what should have been a fiery death, say veterinarians at Best Friends Animal Hospital in Talent.

But this four-legged Shadrach did not emerge unscathed from the 315-acre, fast-moving wildfire that raged Sept. 12 in the Blackwell Hill area. Animal control officers told staff the chocolate-colored pup had been found by a passerby "rolling down a hillside" in the burned area, said Lori Slate, clinic manager.

When county officers brought Shadrach to the clinic for emergency care, the frightened pup had a high fever and his eyes were tightly closed.

His immediate needs included fluid, antibiotics and pain medication, said Dr. Jennifer Wicklund. "The next day his temperature was down," she said.

But Shadrach's eyes have not been so easy to heal. Doctors say the 3-month-old pup's vision has been permanently damaged by intense heat, burning ash or both.

"The first day he opened them he looked like an alien," Wicklund said.

Shadrach's opaque-colored eyes show severe cornea damage, which is still being treated with special ointments, as are the burns to his tummy and other parts, said Dr. Margarita Garcia.

"His eyes still look scary," she said. "But he's getting better."

The pup seems to be able to differentiate between light and darkness. But while the injuries to his eyes are healing, veterinarians don't know whether his sight will improve, she said.

After 10 days in the hospital, Shadrach is well enough to be released. But no one has called the shelter to claim the 20-pound fire survivor, said Slate.

"Whoever might have owned him might have thought he burned in the fire," she said. "But no one even called the shelter to see. You'd think that would be the first thing they'd do."

Regardless of how Shadrach came to be alone on that fiery hillside, he was not in particularly good condition before the fire, said Garcia and Wicklund, saying that in addition to his injuries, the pup was underweight.

But since he's been getting regular groceries — and tons of TLC — he's grown physically and psychologically, said Slate.

"He's a demanding little stinker," Slate said, with a chuckle. "He's so friendly. And his tail just goes like crazy."

Shadrach is now well enough to be released. He is in need of a permanent home with a loving owner and a safe, enclosed yard, she said.

"He needs a seeing-eye person," said Slate. "He needs someone who can take care of a blind puppy."

Anyone considering adopting Shadrach should not fear they'll be stuck with a large medical bill for his 10 days of care, said Slate.

"They would just pay the normal adoption rate to the shelter," she said.

But Jackson County Animal Care and Control Center could use some donations to help cover the pooch's costs. The shelter has a standing order with the clinic to provide help to animals such as Shadrach who arrive at the clinic in dire need of emergency care, Slate said.

"We're hoping someone can adopt him from the shelter," Slate said. "And we're hoping to generate a fund that can help cover some of the costs."

Shadrach wags a whiplike tail as he wanders back and forth between veterinarians and technicians Wednesday, getting pets and praise for being such a good patient.

He stands like a little soldier as Garcia removes not one, but two foxtails from his ears. Shadrach emits a single muffled yelp as the second foxtail is plucked from deep inside his right ear, before giving his tail another wag, and offering a slurp from his tongue.

"When they're really sweet and good, it's even a bigger tug on our hearts," said Garcia.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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