Vets fight to save hero dog who tried to shield owner from house fire

Posted at 7:26 AM, Feb 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-09 08:59:05-05

(CNN) — Deadly flames licked all around her, but a heroic dog in a suburban Cincinnati basement refused to leave her owner. Now that dog, a 9-year-old boxer named Carmen, has a team of vets fighting around the clock to save her life.

Carmen was injured Thursday when a fire broke out in the basement of the home where she lived with her owner, Ben Ledford, in Goshen Township, Ohio.

First responders on the scene found Carmen, a 9-year-old boxer, on top of Ledford, trying to shelter his face from the heat, smoke and flame, according to CNN affiliate WCPO.

Ledford, 33, was taken to a hospital where he later died. Carmen ended up at Cincinnati’s Care Center, a critical care veterinary hospital, where the vets there have placed her on a ventilator.

“She’s doing OK. Considering what Carmen has been through we think she’s doing as well as can be expected,” Dr. Daniel Carey, a vet at the hospital, told WCPO.

Carey said Carmen is battling severe lung damage and is not strong enough to breathe on her own yet. The doctors had hoped to get her off the ventilator by now, but as of Sunday night, it just wasn’t happening.

“It’s not unexpected that she’s not ready to come off (the ventilator). It’s just that in our best case scenario (we thought) maybe we could’ve hoped to get her off (Sunday) afternoon,” Carey told WCPO. “Whenever they put a patient on a ventilator they’re looking at a 50-50 chance of getting them off breathing on their own. The smoke ventilation cases are often the hardest to manage off the ventilator.”

Despite her breathing problems, Carmen has shown improvement in other areas. She is mentally alert and showing no signs of neurological problems, the vet said.

“She’s resting. She’s very heavily sedated so that she won’t fight — you know, that she’s got a tube down her trachea or windpipe. She seems very comfortable.”

Ledford’s family and friends, while mourning the loss of his life, are still doing what they can to help Carmen save hers. They’ve turned to crowdsourcing website CrowdRise to raise funds to help pay Carmen’s hospital bills. On the site, they thanked the doctors and expressed gratitude at the “generosity being offered to help Carmen.”

The hospital is also providing updates on Carmen through social media, using Facebook to post pictures of the dog resting on a pink blanket and keeping company with a pair of stuffed animals.

Dr. Marlo Anderson, another vet at the hospital who is caring for the dog, told WCPO she was not at all surprised that Carmen tried to save her owner.

“A lot of dogs instinctively know when there’s a crisis going on and so a lot of them do go to try to protect their owners, so she very well may have been trying to protect him,” she said.