Local dog a true survivor

Jenny and Ben Williams, of Stephens City, sit with their dog Ciaphas outside Ben's parents' home in Woodstock on Thursday. The couple's townhouse was destroyed by fire on June 12 while they were away, and Ciaphas managed to rescue himself from his kennel and run out the front door of the home. The dog suffered burns and, after several surgeries and medical treatments, is on the road to recovery. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Dogs can teach their humans a thing or two. They’re loyal, friendly and loving, and one Stephens City dog has also been giving his humans a crash course in determination and resilience.

Ciaphas, a 1 1/2-year-old male Australian cattle dog and Norwegian elkhound mix, has been impressing his owners and doctors after he was burned in a June 12 fire that damaged three units of a townhouse complex on Township Court in Stephens City.

The dog’s owners, Ben and Jenny Williams, were not home at the time of the fire. Upon their return, they were confronted with frightening sight.

“We were out helping her (Jenny Williams’) mom move furniture that day, this was on the 12th,” said Ben Williams. “On our way home, both of us drove separately, and we both got passed by fire trucks on the way home. ADT had called me, but I was driving and didn’t pay attention to it and apparently they were calling us to tell us our neighbor’s house was on fire.”

The Williams arrived home not knowing what to expect. They had three pets in the house – Ciaphas and two cats.

Jenny Williams, of Stephens City, sits with the family dog Ciaphas. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We got home and there were fire trucks everywhere. We spent 20 minutes trying to figure out what was going on and found a neighbor with him (Ciaphas). He looked pretty bad at the time but we were just kind of grateful he was there… We then took all three of them (the animals) to the Winchester emergency animal hospital across from Costco… They took care of them that night and suggested to us that we take him to Leesburg’s Life Center… We took him there and they watched him for almost a week.”

During the fire, Ciaphas was in a crate on the townhouse’s first floor, but he was able to force his way out of the crate and get to relative safety. Ben Williams said the fairly large plastic crate was recovered after the blaze was extinguished and was roughly the size of a microwave.

The cats were released after receiving treatment at the emergency veterinary office and didn’t have to make the trip to Leesburg.

The week Ciaphas spent in Leesburg would be the beginning of an arduous and surprisingly hi-tech road to recovery.

“He had two treatments every day in the hyperbaric chamber,” said Jenny Williams.

Ben Williams described the chamber and its function.

“It almost kind of looks like a decompression chamber for deep sea diving,” he said. “It seals him in there and they can monitor him while he’s in there. It floods it with an oxygen-rich environment and it’s supposed to stimulate his healing. It’s devoid of germs and things like that.”

In addition to the hyperbaric treatment, Ciaphas has also been receiving laser surgical treatments from Dr. Bruce Coston at Seven Bends Veterinary Hospital in Woodstock.

“He (Coston) has also been amazing,” Ben Williams said. “They have a laser that helps the skin and deep tissue, sort of, reactivate and heal faster.”

The dog’s left rear leg is where the worst of his injuries are.

“Saturday we were able to bring him home (from Leesburg) and his back leg here was all scabbed over and they basically told us they knew they were going to have to remove the scab and go from there; kind of see how bad it was going to be because they were second- and third-degree burns. He’s got a number of first-degree burns as well.”

The Williams opted for the surgery and said the idea of having Ciaphas put down never entered their mind. The couple said they love the pointy-eared pup like a child.

“Basically the next day when we picked him up, they talked to us about a number of options… We decided to go with the third option,” said Ben Williams. “It was kind of, in a way, braces, was the way they described it to us. We just tighten the bands and over time, it stretches his skin closer and closer. It grows back closer.”

“(The wound) was much more open the first day we brought him back from surgery,” said Jenny Williams. “It’s worked really well.”

Such technology-involved treatment comes with a hefty price tag, and she said Ciaphas has incurred medical costs of about $13,000. However, the couple said they have been touched by the support that has come their way. Jenny Williams said that people at her job and others have been collecting money to help.

“Once the word spread, everybody started setting up donation efforts,” she said.

One such donation effort came from the Leesburg animal hospital itself, called the Life Center.

“The Life Center has an ongoing fund called the princess fund that they do,” Ben Williams said. “Basically for the week that he was there, they designated that any donations they received for that entire week would go towards his care.”

“On top of all that,” said Jenny Williams, “Banfield Hospital in Winchester, where I normally take him, some of the ladies that work there who knew us found out what happened and contacted Banfield corporate, who then started sending money as well.”

While Ciaphas’ wounds appear painful, one would have no idea based on his current attitude.

“His spirits are getting higher and higher every day,” Ben Williams said. “He’s getting more mobile every day… He’s getting more normal every day, back to his old self.”

The Williamses, who are staying in Woodstock with Ben Williams’ parents during the process of repairing their house, said they’ve been told that their townhouse will be ready in six to nine months.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com