If you are a victim of domestic violence in need of help and a safe place to go, contact Hope Villages of America at their 24-hour hour hotline by calling 727-442-4128. Confidential and free consultations are available by calling 72-7441-2029 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A dog severely injured in a case of animal cruelty visited victims of domestic violence in Pinellas County on Thursday to provide some comfort.
Denali was a victim of arson in 2018, suffering severe chemical burns. She spent two weeks receiving treatment at BluePearl’s intensive care unit before being released. She was adopted by the Suncoast Animal League volunteer who transported her to get help.
“I said if she were to survive, I would love to foster her because I am a medical foster for Suncoast Animal League. And so she came home with me and continued on that journey with bandage changes and everything and she bonded with my dog Lexi,” Karey Burek said. “And months after she was medically cleared to be adopted, I couldn’t let her go.”
Becoming a team to provide therapy for others wasn’t initially in Burek’s goals. But as Denali recovered, she let her knew owner know she was ready to help others. They are now a certified therapy team through Project Pup.
Burek said Denali’s “greatest joy in life” is meeting new people.
“Honestly she’s the one that’s taken me on the path for us to be a certified therapy team. That kind of wasn’t in my wheelhouse but once she was healing, the shelter would get a lot of calls for her to come and visit,” Burek said. “People wanted to meet her because she just became this larger-than-life story in the Tampa Bay area when it happened and Suncoast Animal League has a huge social media following, so everybody was following her story and they basically looked at her as more than a dog. She was a symbol of overcoming trauma and hope and kindness and forgiveness because when you see her, she just is love. She wags her whole body.”
That hope Denali brings to victims of domestic violence is something Tracy Wiecking, the vice president of abuse services at Hope Villages of America, sees every week Denali visits the shelter.
“It’s a story that makes Denali a living example of a creature whose most basic trust in humans for safety and for love was violated and that parallels so often [with] our guest’s stories, too,” Wiecking said. “And so the remarkable thing is kind of that story of if Karey can, you know – through her care of Denali – has allowed Denali to overcome this, and you’ve seen her first hand, [she] is just full of love and energy that maybe that’s a lesson that all of our guests can learn, and our staff too, that we’re all capable of regaining trust and love again and deserving of it.”
Hope Villages of America is hoping to soon become a pet-friendly shelter, and Denali is helping them through that transition. Wiecking said 48% of people who have pets that are thinking of going to shelters for safety do not because they are worried they won’t have adequate places for their pet to stay.
It also lifts the mood of his staff, as well.
“It’s not only for our guests but also even our staff, because many of our staff have also gone through abuse situations in their own life and, of course, it’s a high-stress job from time to time and so having Denali come in felt like the right thing to do to give people that sense of just calming and slowing things down,” Wiecking said.
Burek said Denali has no lingering physical issues from being burned and is doing well.
“She just kind of is enjoying life and she also at home, I continue to be a medical foster, and so she fosters the puppies and the dogs that come in and kind of helps them be a dog again. It’s really something special to see how she is with other animals and with people. She just is like a magnet. People are just drawn to her because of that,” she said.
Hope Villages of America’s Outreach Center offers a variety of domestic violence services, including safety planning, support groups, legal advocacy, 911 cell phone distribution and more.
You can follow Denali and Burek’s journey of helping others on Instagram.