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Group helps comfort dog injured at Fla. condo collapse return home

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 9:30 AM CDT
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) – A dog who served as an emotional relief canine after the Surfside collapse is now home resting in Philadelphia.

Teddy, the trained crisis-response dog, got hurt while helping dig through the rubble.

That injury made returning home difficult until a good Samaritan stepped in.

“Teddy has a personality that just seems to draw your heart out,” Jeff Barrett said.

In an environment with little hope like the rubble pile at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, the comfort dog did just that for first responders.

“It’s horrible what’s happening in Surfside, and to be able to be that bright spot in people’s days was a privilege,” said Sophia Barrett, Teddy’s owner, who now lives in Philadelphia.

She and the 6-year-old rescue, a trained crisis response dog, spent three weeks in Surfside until he was injured. His back legs just stopped working.

“Teddy is a basset hound lab mix, and he has a longer back, so his owner believes maybe that, along with a combination with being out on top of the rocks and the heat for about three weeks, may have led to the injury,” Nicole Linsalata, of Fort Lauderdale, said.

Teddy’s vet said flying home commercial would be too stressful, and a long drive would be too hard on him, so Sophia Barrett made an appeal for help.

“When I’m having a bad day, my dog puts a smile on my face,” said Titan Aviation Group Owner Dirk Vander Sterre. “What he was doing down there was great. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to be involved.”

Titan Aviation Group offered a ride on a private, Hawker 800 XP 8-seater aircraft.

“Teddy will have first-class service, of course,” pilot Jim Rozman said. “He’s going to be on a private jet and air conditioning, of course, and I’m sure he’ll have some access to water, as well.”

While the comfort dog needed some help getting up the stairs and some guidance making his way through the cabin, he had a comfy couch all to himself.

Once he was settled and happy, the jet took off for Philadelphia and the rescue of the rescuer was just about complete.

“He was out there and worked his heart out to meet all those people and to give them a lick and be friendly with them,” said Jeff Barrett, Sophia Barrett’s father.

“Big men that are in these rubbles were grabbing the dog’s face and just giving them a hug,” said Rene Barrett, Sophia Barrett’s mother. “It brings them relief.”

The donated flight would normally cost $10,000.

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