New hope and new lives are coming for a pair of burned puppies rescued from a house fire. For the second time, 17 News visited the Kern County canines, nearly everyone thought would die.
The dogs are about to start training to become therapy dogs for burn survivors. 17 News traveled to Thousand Oaks on Wednesday to cover their remarkable story of recovery.
Natalia and Phoenix are home from the hospital and healing. Once they are old enough, they will help inspire burn survivors at the Grossman Burn Center.
Three months after suffering third degree burns, Natalia and Phoenix are gnawing on each other's paws and giving kisses to the man who saved their lives, one of the best burn doctors in the country, Dr. Richard Grossman.
"I never thought they'd survive. They're just war veterans," said Dr. Richard Grossman.
Two months ago, the tiny pups were brought by Zach Skow of Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue in Tehachapi to the Pet Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Thousand Oaks with third degree burns over 60 percent of their bodies.
"Their skin was peeling off, just like unzipping a sweater. It wasn't by any means a done deal. It's not like we assembled this team and everything is good, smooth sailing from here. There was a strong chance they weren't going to survive," said Skow.
With little chance of survival, Dr. Grossman and his team stepped in to care for the pups, free of charge. "This burn was all the way down to the bone and to the muscle. You usually have to take a skin graft. But, these puppies were eight weeks old. That would get infected. Fortunately, we didn't have to do that. It closed in by itself," explained Grossman.
As the puppies continue to heal, they will be placed in permanent homes. Natalia will be adopted by an assistant who helped her heal.
"I didn't really want anyone else to have her. She's really taught us all, it's not about what you look like. She's just happy to live life," said veterinary assistant Chelsea Cummings.
The puppies soon will help other burn victims, especially younger survivors recovering at the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles. "You look at them and say if they can survive, I can survive. If they can survive a lot of people can," said Grossman.
The puppies go to their new homes next month and will become service dogs in the next year.