This Abused Pit Bull Has Made an Unlikely Therapy Dog


The jury is in, and it’s official. Pit bulls can be gentle, gentle dogs.

The story of Phoenix proves it, if it needed proving. When he was only a puppy, Phoenix’s first owner tied him to a tree and set him on fire. Somewhere in the abuse, Phoenix’s hip was also shattered.

It looked like his life would be quite short and miserable, but he was miraculously rescued and taken to a shelter. From there, he was transferred to Furry Friends Adoption and Clinic in Jupitor, Florida where a hyperbaric chamber was deployed to help him recover from his burns. That’s where he was introduced to Canines Aiding Military Veterans (C.A.M.O.), an organization that provides rescued dogs to veterans in need of therapy animals.

1544549_621266917954745_821663960304622133_nThen Derek Butler came into the picture. Butler had PTSD from a three-year stint in Iraq. At twenty-seven, he was so disabled that he was unable to hold a job. He was a perfect candidate for a therapy dog. C.A.M.O. introduced him to a number of dogs in their collection. On a whim, they also introduced him to Phoenix, even though the puppy was still badly disfigured by his burns and other injuries.

Butler, who had recently been through hell himself, could relate. Phoenix looked like just the buddy he needed—someone who understood pain and was fighting through to the other side of it.

Today, Phoenix is a handsome adult pit bull, his scars well hidden under a healthy fur coat. But the most amazing thing about Phoenix is his personality. He is a charming, affectionate animal, basking in Butler’s love and living entirely in the moment. His horrible history has not made him mean or even anti-social.

In the recent past, people thought that only a small number of dogs had the right personality to provide therapy. And those dogs had to go through weeks of high-stress training. Often the dogs failed their exit exam. Phoenix, though, is proving that a good therapy dog can come from a rough background and provide exactly the kind of companionship that will save a life.

He saved Butler’s.


By his own testimony, Butler got in a black mood one night and was thinking of ending it by flipping his car. He glanced back and saw Phoenix, though, and realized that the dog did not deserve to die. So, instead of committing suicide, he went home and cared for his dog.