Rocky the boxer is fighting for his life after surviving a three-alarm fire at a Houston warehouse. And the badly burned pup has garnered supporters from around the world who are helping him with his recovery.
On Jan. 3, firefighters responded to a burning warehouse in north Harris County. The industrial area of Houston, Tex., is known as a place where people frequently abandon dogs.
When firefighters broke their way into the warehouse, a terrified dog burst from the building and took off running.
A bystander saw the dog take off and alerted Lucy Moreno, an animal rescue volunteer. Moreno reached out to her friend Jae Malik and another friend and the trio went to look for the dog the day after the fire.
When the women arrived, they encountered a frightened homeless man who had been squatting on the property. They asked him if he had seen the dog.
"He said that he had found him that night and did the only thing he could do, which was wrap him up and try to keep him safe," Malik told ABCNews.com. The man, who has his own dog, retrieved the ailing pooch and begged for the women to help save the dog.
Malik said the women initially thought the dog would have to be put down.
"[But then] he raised his head up and looked at us like, 'Hi,'" she said. "We all looked at each other and we're all working class. None of us have any money...[But] we all just went, how much money do you have?"
The volunteers got the dog to a clinic early the next morning. And by then, they had a name for the badly burned canine -- Rocky.
"It was like Rocky fighting," Malik said. "He looks like a Rocky. It fit."
The veterinarians said that treating Rocky would be costly. They estimated his treatment could cost between $10,000 and $20,000.
The volunteers did not have that much money, but Malik said that not helping Rocky was never an option.
"The only other option would be for us to basically euthanize him. We were prepared to make that decision if it was in his best interest. We didn't want to cause any unnecessary suffering for him," she said.
Doctors told the rescuers that Rocky had a 50/50 chance of survival and they knew they had to help him fight.
"He had already survived a day-and-a-half or two days," she said. "He wants to be here. We at least have to give him a reasonable shot at trying to make it."
The women paid what they could out of pocket and knew they would need to raise more money.
They created a Facebook page, "Rocky the Boxer," and a chip in fundraising webpage. The Facebook page already has more than 3,000 supporters and the fundraising page has raised over $13,000.
Malik said the outpouring of well-wishes has been overwhelming and far-reaching.
"We've had people from Norway and Australia. People have emailed me, 'I can't give anything, but I have him in my prayers,'" she said. "It's overwhelming and very humbling."
One message came from a woman battling cancer who said both she and Rocky needed to take things one day at a time. Another woman said she was donating a dollar in memory of each child killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, thinking that they would have loved Rocky.
Rocky isn't out of the woods yet, in terms of his recovery, but he has been doing very well. Malik and her friends are receiving daily updates from Rocky's doctors.
"He just completed week one of his recovery and he's doing well," she said. "They've been able to take him off the IV and he's now able to take his meds orally for pain management. He really wasn't mobile before and now he's standing up and he's barking. He doesn't like a dirty kennel."
The veterinarians have said it will probably be two more weeks until they can determine if Rocky will need skin grafts to help him recover.
"He has one of the most beautiful personalities I've ever seen in an animal," Malik said. "He hasn't snapped or been aggressive at all and we know he was hurting."
Malik said that any extra money in the Rocky fund will be used to start a non-profit to help other area animals in need. Houston has an estimated 1.2 million homeless animals on the street. The rescuers are working to make sure that Rocky has a loving family waiting to take him in when he is fully healed.
"Our intent is to hopefully find him a good, loving home that will appreciate him for who he is and really make him a member of the family," Malik said.
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