Any road to recovery is often a whole lot easier when you can connect with someone who has gone through something similar. But what if that connection is with a pet? A golden retriever found badly burned in the high desert in 2015 has now become a therapy dog for burn patients.
Fergus, a burn survivor, and the patients he meets in the burn unit, often form an immediate connection.
"To know the dog has been burned and survived. That’s nice to know," patient William Montoya said.
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"He’s [Fergus] been through it," he added.
NBC4 has followed what Fergus has been through ever since the summer of 2015 when the then 1-year-old stray dog was found in Lancaster – severely burned.
"You get an animal like this that is so trusting and so loving, it’s not hard to get close to him and then just pour something down his back," Dr. Alan Schulman said in 2015.
While treated for third degree burns, hundreds of requests to adopt him flooded in from around the world. But, a couple from Calababas – Anngel and Victor Benoun – got to take him home.
The couple enrolled Fergus in training – and even enlisted famed "dog whisperer" Cesar Milan to help train the dog to become a therapy dog.
The journey took nearly two and a half years, Anngel Benoun said.
"He went through it. He has been burned, he survived, he’s gone through the surgeries and here he is now to give back and help others heal, too," Victor Benoun added.
Burn patient Yahaira Urbina has found common ground with Fergus, whose name means courage.
"It’s really nice to see someone in a similar situation can uplift you and bring you joy," she said from her hospital bed.
Their shared experience prompts shared compassion.
"Maybe in the future I can do that for somebody else too, just from seeing him. So that’s kind of awesome," Urbina said.