Donations collected for care, reward offered
Despite being wrapped almost head to toe in bright, colorful bandages, Riona enters the room wagging her tail. She quickly warms up to strangers, licking her hands and burying her face in the legs, revealing the sweet pup beneath the blistered skin and burnt fur.
On June 22, residents of the Nutbush area saw Riona, a one-year-old pit bull mix, running down the street engulfed in flames. They rushed to put out the fire and she was taken to Memphis Animal Services, where Tails of Hope Dog Rescue took on her case. She was then transferred to a veterinary clinic for treatment.
“All you could smell was gas,” said Mallory Mclemore, manager at Bluff City Veterinary Specialists, where Riona is being treated.
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Mclemore said it took them two hours to shave and bathe Riona and clean her wounds. They determined that she had been doused with gasoline beforehand and suffered fourth-degree burns to the left side of her face and body. They also found signs that she was tied with a rope around her neck.
Mclemore, who is caring for Riona, brought her home this weekend to give her 24-hour love and care.
“She’s always wagging her tail,” Mclemore said. “That’s what makes it even worse, I guess. Not that it would ever be OK, but just being so nice and having someone do something like that to her. She just loves everyone.
The Tails of Hope Facebook page shared Riona’s recovery, garnering hundreds of comments, likes and shares on each post from people as far away as Canada and Scotland. The organization raises money for his care through the sale of t-shirts and donations on Facebook, in addition to offering a $5,500 reward for information leading to the person’s arrest and conviction. responsible for his injuries.
Pet supply store Hollywood Feed also got involved. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, donations made at the 11 Memphis locations will go toward medical bills for Tails of Hope and Riona, and Hollywood Feed will match those donations up to $5,000.
The clinic is also accepting direct donations of supplies through an Amazon wishlist compiled by Mclemore.
“There’s an entire room next to us that’s almost completely filled with bandages and stuff that people have donated,” said Cory Fisher, the clinic’s small animal vet.
Fisher treated Riona’s injuries upon arrival and said that although she showed signs of trauma, she otherwise appeared to be in “good spirits”.
Staff said that for the first two to three weeks of his treatment, they will monitor his condition and provide supportive care by giving him medication and refreshing his bandages. Then, once the wounds have had time to heal on their own, they will assess where she needs surgical skin grafts.
Fisher said that in these extreme cases, they often receive comments on social media telling them to euthanize the animals instead of prolonging their pain. However, veterinary specialists in Fisher and Bluff City have experience treating serious cases like Riona’s. In 2018, the clinic fully rehabilitated another of the dogs rescued from Tails of Hope, Apple, who had suffered four broken legs and a broken pelvis.
“Apple is a great example of that,” he said. “If they have the money, these rescues can give them a normal life.”
Ginger Natoli, founder of Tails of Hope, hopes to achieve this. Her rescue is a preferred placement partner of Memphis Animal Services, typically taking on the medical cases of animals that are injured and need treatment before they can be adopted.
“When my husband and I started Tails of Hope in 2010,” Natoli said. “You have to decide which dogs you take out of the shelter. That’s easier said than done.”
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Natoli has worked with other rescues before, but she said she felt uncomfortable with some of their practices. She decided to open her own shelter, where she could make sure all her cases were treated and cured properly before being put up for adoption.
Now, thanks to Tails of Hope, she said she can take care of her rescues “from start to finish.” In Riona’s case, that includes helping catch her attacker.
“The problem is, someone who did that is dangerous,” she said. “As a rescue we see abuse, we see neglect. It was torture.
As of June 30, Memphis police have made no arrests in connection with the case. Natoli hopes offering a reward will inspire someone to come forward and lead to the arrest of the perpetrator.
For now, she is focusing her energy on Riona’s recovery. Although clinic staff suspect it will take another two to three months before she fully recovers, once Riona is given the all-clear, Natoli and Tails of Hope will take care of her reception and care. adoption, a long and intense process.
“There will be a lot of applications for her,” said her current adoptive mother, Mclemore. “But they absolutely want to make sure she goes somewhere where nothing like this will ever happen to her again.”
Niki Scheinberg is a news intern at The Commercial Appeal. She can be contacted at [email protected]
Report a tip
If you have any information on who is responsible for what happened to Riona, you can private message the Tails of Hope Dog Rescue Facebook page or leave an anonymous tip on CrimeStoppers at crimestopmem.org.