Survivor: Rescued Hanahan fire station dog has become world famous

Hanahan firefighter William Lindler and Jake, a pit bull who found online fame after being burned in a blaze, collected donations for Carolina Children’s Charity recently at Tanner Plantation.

A firefighter pulls a half-dead puppy from a fire last spring and brings him back to life by breathing into his mouth.

The badly burned dog survives, his scars a perpetual reminder of his ordeal.

Hanahan firefighter William Lindler names him Jake and documents his progress on Facebook.

The little pit bull’s feisty spirit inspires people. City officials take notice and give him an oath of office signed with a paw print and an official firefighter badge.

And then it happens. Somebody else posts his story on the Internet, and he becomes an international celebrity. Jake’s spirit, his close link with the Hanahan Fire Department and the aspirations people have for him to become much more than a mascot have caught fire worldwide.

Lindler said he has no idea who put “jake the Fire Dog” on Reddit on March 3. The site contains a collection of content and notable Internet links contributed by users.

The post contains a series of photos, lifted from the Facebook page that Lindler maintains for Jake, and little blurbs that tell the dog’s story. It shows a sad-looking puppy with holes burned in his fur and a big fireman hugging the helpless creature against his chest.

Then, after the pup grows slightly older, the post shows him playing with a ball, sitting in a fire truck, surrounded by children in a classroom with Lindler. It shows the oath with a paw print and Jake with his badge.

Hardened Reddit users admitted crying.

“Brilliant,” somebody posted. “Now I’m crying in a pub. A fully grown man, in a suit, crying into his pint.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m crying in a tub,” another responded. “I hand in my man card, now, right?”

News sites around the world picked up the story — ABC News, The Huffington Post, Mashable, Bored Panda, The Daily Mirror in London and others from Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Brazil.

The stories on the Internet vary, so Lindler recounted what actually happened.

On the afternoon of April 21 in his neighborhood near Goose Creek, he was washing his pickup truck in his yard when he smelled smoke. He ran to the neighbors’ house and saw flames coming from a detached building they had made into a “man cave.” One of them was yelling that there were dogs inside.

Lindler ran back to his truck to grab his gear and returned to see the mother dog and several puppies running from the burning building. Another pup was coming out when a burning chunk of ceiling fell on him. The little fellow wriggled out from under the flames and crawled back inside.

Lindler couldn’t go inside because the smoke was too thick. He didn’t have a mask. He tried to reach the dog by kicking a hole in the corner of the building with his steel-toe boots. No luck. An anxious few minutes passed until a crew from the Goose Creek Rural Fire Department pulled up.

Lindler grabbed an oxygen mask and went inside. By that time, the thick smoke made it too dark to see. But he found the pup lying in a corner, not moving.

He took the dog outside, told one of the residents to fetch a wet blanket and started breathing into his mouth. A firefighter brought a small oxygen mask designed for pets. The dog started moving again and tried to stand up.

Another fire crew arrived and took the dog to the Animal Medical Clinic of Goose Creek.

“At that point, I felt pretty good about it,” Lindler said.

People on Reddit would call him a hero.

It wasn’t until later that Lindler learned how badly the dog had been burned.

“My heart kind of sank,” he said.

The dog’s owners decided that the vet bills would be more than they could afford, and they gave the dog up. Lindler said he would handle it.

As it turned out, the clinic had an emergency fund that paid for the months of recovery. For the first several weeks, veterinary technician Danielle Cromb took him home with her every night to change his ointments.

“Without those guys, he wouldn’t be the little rock star that he is,” Lindler said of the clinic staff.

The Hanahan City Council recognized Jake as an official firefighter at the December meeting. He got his badge in February.

Lindler takes him to schools to teach children about fire safety.

He became an online celebrity a couple of weeks ago, and the attention hasn’t let up.

Mail for Jake comes into the station every day from around the world, Fire Chief Bo Bowers said. Somebody from Kenya sent three or four bags of dog food.

“Right now I feel I’m Jake’s secretary,” Bowers said with a laugh. “But any publicity for fire safety is good.”

Lindler hopes to train Jake as an arson sniffer. It has been suggested that he could inspire burn victims with his tenacious spirit and outgoing personality.

Last week, Lindler and Jake were out collecting money for Carolina Children’s Charity at the Tanner Plantation shopping center. People kept stopping to see the dog before dropping some money into the boots. Did they notice him?

“Oh, yeah,” Lindler said. “They’ll say, ‘There’s that dog that was on the Internet.’ ”

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.

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