Lexi Ann is a dog who has quite literally risen from the ashes.
The 2-year-old boxer and black Labrador mix was nearly burned to death in January when she was involved in a fire that burned her owners’ house to the ground. Her owners survived; Lexi Ann’s litter of puppies and the other handful of pets the owners had did not.
Lexi Ann narrowly escaped her fiery fate when the plastic kennel she was in melted and she was able to break free, albeit with serious burn injuries.
She suffered burns on her face, belly, legs, feet and sides — basically everywhere on her body.
Her owners at the time left her at a veterinary clinic to be euthanized, but one of the vet techs saw Lexi Ann and couldn’t allow it to happen.
She is a survivor. The vet tech saw Lexi Ann didn’t quit on life and decided they couldn’t quit on Lexi Ann either.
The vet clinic placed a call to Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton to see if there were any foster homes that could take in Lexi Ann and help her recover from the tragic accident.
It was an extreme case and Lexi Ann would require special attention and extra care. Ruff Start Rescue paired her with Sara and Tim Hecklinski, of Zimmerman.
“When Ruff Start (Rescue) put out the urgent plea, I snapped at the idea, I thought we could do it,” Sara said. At first, when Lexi Ann arrived at the Hecklinski household, Sara said she was subdued and “we didn’t know her personality at all.”
The days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months. Soon, Lexi Ann had started to heal.
“Her spirit was never broken,” Sara said. “It was fun to watch her want to play. You could get glimmers of her personality starting to shine through.”
The next part was finding Lexi Ann a forever home.
Lexi Ann’s forever home found her.
Travis Oliver, a firefighter from Indiana, learned of Lexi Ann’s story through Instagram.
“I started following her (Lexi Ann’s) page not knowing what was going to happen,” Oliver said. “My heart broke for her.”
Shortly after hearing of Lexi Ann’s story, he decided he wanted to be a part of it.
Oliver reached out to Sara and informed her that he wanted to adopt Lexi Ann when she was ready.
One problem: Normally, Ruff Start Rescue doesn’t accept out-of-state adoption requests.
Initially, his application was denied, and “that was devastating for me,” but he had also written a personal email to Ruff Start Rescue informing them he wanted to adopt Lexi Ann.
Through the powers of social media, the Hecklinskis met Oliver on FaceTime and Oliver was able to show them where Lexi Ann would sleep and the environment she would live in on his 80-acre property.
The two families had strikingly similar commonalities; both had 80 acres of property with a pond; Tim and Oliver were born just four days apart in the same hospital in Lafayette, Indiana; they were both restoring classic cars.
Eventually, Oliver got the good news that he was approved to become Lexi Ann’s owner.
The next hurdle was coming to get her.
“We rented an RV and drove it 11 hours to Minnesota,” Oliver said. “It was horrible on gas mileage.”
Travis Oliver, with his wife, Deanna, daughter, Skye, and dog, Odin, hit the road on their trek to bring home their newest family member.
When they arrived to meet Lexi Ann for the first time, “it seemed like it was meant to be,” Oliver said.
Azure Davis, director of Ruff Start Rescue, witnessed the moment.
“There was a special connection with Travis and Lexi Ann,” she said.
The dogs immediately hit it off well, and following some training, Oliver said he plans to take Lexi Ann with him to camps for kids who have suffered burns of their own.
“Kids are really timid and shy and embarrassed of their scars,” he said. “I’m hoping that it will help those kids open up.”
Oliver also mentioned the integral role fosters play: “If it’s at all possible to open your heart and your home, stories like this are possible.”
For more information on fostering or other opportunities, visit www.ruffstartrescue.org.