9 min read

Dog Who Was Injured Finds The Perfect Friend To Help Him Heal

“When they first met, they just looked at each other like they knew exactly what the other had gone through.”

Just before Christmas last year, Sue Naiden got an unimaginable call.

A man had reportedly hung a young golden retriever by his neck with a rope and threw acid onto his back. The dog miraculously survived the attack, and Trio Animal Foundation was contacted after the man dropped him off at someone’s house and never returned.

“The family was too afraid to go on the record about him to the police,” Naiden, president of Trio Animal Foundation, told The Dodo. “We offered a $5,000 reward if someone would come forward with more information so we could catch this guy. They never did.”

dog burnt acid chicago
Trio Animal Foundation

The dog, whom rescuers named Charlie, was in horrifying shape. He had been living with the acid burn wounds for days before he got any medical help. The painful burns covered most of his back and shoulders.

The rescue arranged immediate medical care at Delavan Lakes Vet Clinic in Wisconsin, which specializes in treating burns. Although Charlie didn’t require any skin grafts, he had to undergo a few procedures to remove any dead tissue to encourage new skin growth.

dog burnt chicago
Charlie at the vet | Trio Animal Foundation

He was also treated with special burn creams and medicated baths, and was frequently wrapped in bandages to protect the sensitive skin as it healed. Although he was starting to feel better, it was easy to tell that he couldn’t forget what had happened to him.

“He was very, very wary of us putting a leash on him because he had been hung,” Naiden said. “Since had such sensitive wounds on his back, we couldn’t put him in a harness. We went super slow with him and he just flourished.”

dog burnt acid chicago
Trio Animal Foundation

After two weeks of intensive care at the veterinary hospital, Charlie returned to the rescue in Chicago. There, he met the rescue’s resident therapy dog, Hazel Grace.

Like Charlie, Hazel Grace was also a burn victim. Before being rescued from the streets of Chicago, she had been set on fire by a group of kids — leaving her entire stomach and back covered in burns. She needed skin grafts and was hospitalized for seven weeks. Naiden adopted her in the process.

“When they first met, they just looked at each other like they knew exactly what the other had gone through,” Naiden said. “They sniffed each other’s burn areas, and when they started playing, were very careful of the other’s sensitive skin.”

charlie dog burnt acid chicago
Charlie and Hazel Grace | Trio Animal Foundation

Instead of being a therapy dog for people, Hazel Grace’s main job is to provide emotional support to other dogs. But her relationship with Charlie was extra special, Naiden said.

charlie dog burn chicago
Charlie at play group with Hazel Grace | Trio Animal Foundation

“They bonded instantly — and it seemed like Charlie looked up to her a lot even though he was bigger,” Naiden said. “Like his case, the people who did this to her were never formally charged. Everything has been on hold for at least three years now.”

Since Charlie is only about 2 or 3 years old, he has a ton of energy. When he wasn’t hanging out or playing with Hazel Grace, he was with other dogs in the rescue’s playgroup.

dog burn acid charlie
Trio Animal Foundation

As the weeks went on, Charlie’s burn scars kept healing and he wore a sweater or T-shirt while playing to avoid getting scratched. By late January, the perfect family decided to bring him home.

“When I first heard his story, I just felt this overwhelming urge to go see him,” Karen Lagioia, Charlie’s new mom, told The Dodo. “We weren’t really looking for another dog — but as soon as we met him, my husband just looks at me and goes, ‘So we’re bringing him home, right?’”

charlie dog burn chicago
Charlie with his new family, including dog brother Moose | Trio Animal Foundation

Lagioia’s children, a teenage boy and girl, fell in love with him instantly, too. Since the rescue had preapproved them before their meeting, the family was able to welcome him home that day.

Although Charlie’s skin is healed now, his scars will require special care for life. In the summer, he’ll have to wear sunscreen, and will always have to wear a shirt when playing with other dogs to avoid getting scratched. But it doesn’t faze him at all.

charlie dog burnt acid chicago
Charlie with his new sister | Karen Lagioia

“Any concern with his special needs being too hard or too time-consuming were completely out the window,” Lagioia said. “He’s just the smiliest, happy guy — we really feel like we hit the jackpot. We talk about every single day how perfect he is.”

At home in the Chicago suburbs, Charlie spends his days lounging with his big brother, Moose, and playing outside with the kids.

charlie dog burnt chicago
Charlie and his brother lounging | Karen Lagioia

The only problem, Lagioia said, is that the kids bicker about whose bed Charlie will sleep in at night.

“They are over the moon for him,” Lagioia said. “They can’t wait to get home from school every day to see him.”

charlie dog burnt acid chicago
Charlie with his brothers | Karen Lagioia

While there are no updates about the man who abused Charlie, Naiden is confident that he is on the police’s radar — and hopes the people with enough information to formally charge him will come forward.

After everything the dog has been through, Naiden couldn’t help but tear up when she first saw him meet his new family.

charlie dog burnt acid chicago
Charlie taking a nap at home | Karen Lagioia
Anyone with information about Charlie’s case is urged to contact the Chicago Police Department at (312) 746-6000. To support the continued care of dogs at the rescue, you can make a donation to Trio Animal Foundation.