October 07, 2010 03:25 PM

It isn’t easy to look at Firu.

Raw, red, still-open wounds cover what should be a white body, and it will take the 2-year-old American bulldog mix a long time to recover from the incident that left him with these scars.

On Sept. 16, the dog’s caretakers left Firu tied to the bumper of their pickup truck while they visited a friend in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County. A few drinks later, having forgotten about the dog, they drove on paved road for more than a mile – with Firu still tied to the back. A witness tried to get them to stop the car, and when they didn’t, animal control officers arrived to assist. The two men in the truck surrendered Firu at the scene.

The next day, an email went out from animal control to its network of registered rescuers, including Samantha Hodge. “I knew somebody had to do something,” she tells PEOPLEPets.com. “I stepped up for him.”

Firu (pronounced fee-roo) had severe road rash over his shoulder, chest and back legs. All of the pads on his paws were gone, he had lost his toenails, and the tops of his paws had been stripped of their skin, all the way down to the bone.

Hodge had Firu transported to her vet’s office, and for the past few weeks, the dog has been under constant medical care. This past Saturday, he received his fourth surgery, this time draining and sewing up the 11-in.-long gash on his right shoulder. Since then, the wound has started to open up again, and Firu has been found to be heartworm positive.

Despite all this, Hodge is hopeful. “He is doing phenomenal,” she says. “He’s soaking up all this attention. I kiss him right on the snout –a lot –and you can tell he’s not used to that. So far, he’s been very forgiving of humans.”

Firu’s story has received national attention, and his struggles have inspired thousands of dollars in donations toward his medical care. Ellen and Portia DeGeneres sent Hodge a personal check for $2,000, PetSmart has donated $2,500, and $500 came in from someone that found out about Firu through Facebook. All told, $7,500 in monetary donations have arrived so far, and Halo Pet Food sent a supply of kibble to the animal hospital where Firu is staying.

Hodge visits Firu every day during her lunch break and after work. “His wounds? I don’t see them anymore,” she says. “I have to readjust because people come to see him and they’re shocked, going, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’”

The wounds are so invisible to Hodge that she embraces the dog and finds her clothes covered “in some type of blood, puss or ooze over me.” It’s a small price for a rescuer to see the dog she helped save get better day by day. Earlier this week, Firu laid on a blanket outside to sunbathe and took it all in. After a few months, he should be able to go home to a new family.

“He’s very strong,” Hodge says. “I don’t see him as an injured dog anymore. I don’t see him as a victim.”

To find out more about Firu’s progress, visit his Facebook page, Firu’s Journey.

Meet more inspiring dogs on PEOPLEPets.com:
Wheelchair-Bound Dog Makes Historic Mountain Climb
Adopt Me! Vandy the Boxer is a True Hero

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