CENTRAL POINT — One of nine puppies injured in a March 7 structure fire, a tiny female named Enya, has died from her injuries, and two of her siblings are battling for their lives.
Fire District No. 3 crews pulled the litter of squirming, 5-week-old bull mastiff mixes and their mother out of an early-morning fire in the 2000 block of Randall Avenue.
District officials posted a photo of the wriggling brown pups bearing a handful of scorch marks, but they otherwise appeared healthy.
Within days, however, the scorch marks dried out, and large blisters appeared. Veterinarians determined that much of the skin on at least three of the pups would soon be lost.
On Thursday, two surviving pups, a boy and girl dubbed Phoenix and Sage, were covered in nearly full-body wraps.
Sage, the female, gnawed on a volunteer's chin and cried, seemingly in protest of her head wrap.
West Medford resident Donna Jones is serving as foster mom to the pups with the worst injuries.
Two other foster parents are caring for three pups each whose injuries were less severe.
"Initially, everyone was relieved that they seemed OK," Jones said. "They didn't seem to be burned too bad. ... But by the weekend, they got very dehydrated and it appeared that underneath their skin there were giant blisters that started opening up, and their skin started to peel off."
Jackson County Animal Shelter kennel technician Randi Coleman, who said officials were still working to decide whether a reunion with the mother dog is a possibility, said the puppies' survival had hinged on the foster parents who stepped in to help.
Jackson County Fire District 3 public information officer Ashley Lara said interest in the puppies has been constant since the fire, with calls coming in from around the region and as far away as Portland and Seattle.
"I honestly think we have enough people even just at the district who would want to take them home. And who can resist them? They're tiny puppies," Lara said. "We've had so many people calling to ask how they're doing. It's pretty heartwarming to see."
Coleman said county officials are not accepting adoption applications for the puppies. Pain management and long-term antibiotics are the primary focus at the moment, she added.
"We're focusing on getting them healthy — and spayed and neutered — before even considering adoptive homes. So we're not even really taking applications or even doing a wait list," Coleman said. "They've been through so much already. We're taking as long as it takes."
Danielle McCabe, hospital manager for VCA Jackson Animal Hospital, said while the six healthier pups were likely closer to being eligible for adoption, Sage and Phoenix have a long road ahead of them and may have long-term issues that will require special care.
"It's a really, really sad deal, and at least these two are going to need extensive long-term care. Some of them lost toes and large areas of fur, and it's very heartbreaking to see. But each day they're showing more and more strength, and we get these little signs that they're continuing to fight," McCabe said.
"We'll hold them next to each other, and they'll play with each other. At this point, they're wrapped like little Eskimos in their bandages. We're all hoping no infection sets in. So far, so good," she said.
"The community has really stepped forward, so it's important for us to do our part. So, at this point, if Donna needs to go to work, our place is open for her to bring them during the day," McCabe said. "We'll have a little day care set up for them. The interaction is good for them, and they need to have someone keeping an eye on them, too. They're still pretty critical."
A gofundme page has been set up to raise money for the puppies' care. As of Friday evening, $1,190 had been raised. For details, see https://www.gofundme.com/burned-puppies-support-fund
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org