Meet the newest recruit of South Carolina’s Hanahan Fire Department: Jake the dog!
The 13-month-old pit bull has been named an honorary firefighter in the small southern city, an almost inconceivable plot twist considering he was severely burned as a puppy just one year ago.
“Seventy-five percent of his body had second or third-degree burns,” firefighter William Lindler, 42, who rescued Jake from a burning shed last April, told PEOPLE.
The canine’s original owners couldn’t afford his medical care — including antibiotics, daily medicated baths and laser treatments to regenerate the skin — and decided to give him up. So Lindler, a father of two with a Rottweiler named Bella also at home, decided to adopt him: “My wife, April, said, ‘He was always meant to be yours.’ “
After adopting Jake, the Lindler family’s life became a bit more hectic because Bella was also just a year-and-a-half-old at the time. Thankfully, Bella and Jake “took to each other like two peas in a pod,” says Lindler.
Now, a year later, Jake, who loves riding in the fire truck every chance he gets, has made a full recovery and accompanies the department when they visit schools to teach fire safety.
“He’s just so lovable and cuddly,” says Lindler, who is saving money to train Jake as an arson-detection dog. “I planned on getting him certified as a therapy dog for burned children, but the fact that he’s still young [means] he’s very, very hyper and doesn’t like to sit still for every long. So, at this point in time, he wouldn’t be well-suited as a therapy dog.”
As for Jake’s scarring, Lindler, who has been a firefighter for 23 years, sees the marks as a symbol of the dog’s will to live.
“He has a badge now, but I always considered his scars to be his firefighter badge,” he says. “Jake survived conditions that most humans would have perished in.”