Young dog found in burning dumpster being cared for at Twin Cities clinic

By Matt Cory Forum News Service BEMIDJI, Minn. -- His name is Phoenix. And yes, he did rise from the ashes. Phoenix is a 5-month old Husky mix found Friday night in a burning dumpster in Redby who is now being cared for at a Twin Cities animal re...

Phoenix, a 5-month-old Husky mix, found in a burning dumpster in Redby, Minn., on Friday night is recovering at a Bloomington, Minn., animal clinic. (Submitted photo)

By Matt Cory

Forum News Service

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- His name is Phoenix.

And yes, he did rise from the ashes.

Phoenix is a 5-month old Husky mix found Friday night in a burning dumpster in Redby who is now being cared for at a Twin Cities animal rescue clinic.


His prognosis? A long recovery.

"I suspect he will need some skin grafting in the future," Dr. Vicki Schulz, a veterinarian with Act V Rescue and Rehabilitation in Bloomington, Minn., who is caring for Phoenix, said Monday.

"He is liking everyone; he's being very tolerant."

Phoenix suffered burns to about 90 percent of his body -- most of his fur was burned off -- and there are significant patches where he has no skin, Schulz said. His feet and knees are particularly sensitive to ripping open, she said.

RELATED: How to help organizations helping Phoenix, the burneddog rescued in Redby, Minn.

How Phoenix came to be in that burning dumpster is still unknown. Was he tossed into the burning container or put in there and the trash was ignited? He couldn't have jumped into the 4-foot tall dumpster on his own says the man who found him.

So if Phoenix was deliberately doused with accelerant and burned, Schulz doesn't want to know the person who would do that.

"It is a sick form of entertainment, because if they really wanted him dead, they would've just killed him," she said. "But to torture him in this way. . . fortunately there are a lot of really nice people up there that came to help."



Out of the fire

Clayton Van Wert had tossed his bag of garbage into one of the long dumpsters at the Redby transfer station at about 8:30 p.m. Friday.

He turned to head back to his pickup when he heard a "whimper."

He looked around, nothing. There was trash burning in one of the other industrial dumpsters, which is not that unusual; the transfer station is in a remote location several miles from the village of Redby on the Red Lake reservation.

Then he heard howling. . . then a "screaming" sound.

Van Wert went to the dumpster and peered over the edge.

There was a puppy on fire.


Phoenix was desperately trying to get away from the flames, scrabbling over the burning trash as best he could. Van Wert hoisted himself up and reached in to grab a hold of the puppy. He got so close to the flames, he singed the hair outside his stocking cap. His leather gloves were badly burned.

"I set him down on the ground to make sure, you know, that I was OK," Van Wert said. "When I looked around, he was gone. I found him cowering in the corner by the fence."

Phoenix's fur was blackened, he said, breaking apart when he put the dog in the cab of his truck and called Red Lake police.

"I had a sandwich with me. I took the meat out it and he wolfed it down," Van Wert recalled Monday. "I think he was in shock; after a few minutes he started shivering. I always carry a blanket in my truck, so I wrapped him in that."

Van Wert said based on Phoenix's size and the layout at the transfer station, there was no way the dog could have jumped into the dumpster on his own.


A network of rescue

And so began Phoenix's 260-plus mile journey through a network of help to Bloomington.


After calling the police, a Red Lake conservation officer was dispatched to the scene, Van Wert said. From there, Phoenix went to a board member of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue, an animal shelter on the border with the reservation, where he got the name Phoenix, after the mythological bird who rises from the ashes.

Karen Good, director of the shelter, said while there are many great veterinarians in the area, she knew Phoenix would need specialized care, so she contacted Schulz, who has worked with the shelter in the past.

A Robbinsdale, Minn., woman who has helped transport animals to Schulz offered to drive north and she and Good arranged for Phoenix to be picked up in Bemidji.

Schulz said when Phoenix arrived, most of his fur was gone and they had to shave the rest. In addition to being burned, Phoenix was severely malnourished, weighing only 19 pounds, or about half of what he should weigh at five months.

Good said they are working on establishing a reward to help find out what happened to Phoenix. The donation-funded Red Lake shelter has run into cases of animal cruelty in the past, she said, but added the majority of pet owners in the area are kind and would never think of hurting animals. The shelter tries to help control overpopulation, working with spay and neuter clinics, as well as vaccination clinics.

Rosie's Rescue has been posting updates on Phoenix to its Facebook page, and Good hopes more awareness of helping animals can come to light out of the tragic incident.

She said the Red Lake Elementary School holds an annual Kindness Week, where children, parents and staff raise money toward a worthy cause. Just Monday, Good was informed that this year's donation of more than $1,000 would go toward her rescue.


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