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#BraveBernie: Burned dog rescued from Zim storm drain captures hearts

There's been an outpouring of support from within Zimbabwe and beyond for the small dog with horrific burn wounds who was rescued from a storm drain in Harare last week.

Bernie the brave is recovering after being rescued by Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe. Picture: VAWZ

WARNING: This item contains images and information that may upset sensitive readers.

HARARE - A fighter with a big heart, that's Bernie.

The small black crossbreed stray with white paws and a white-tipped tail was rescued from a drain in Harare last week.

What rescuers only saw after they'd rescued him from the drain was the extent of his injuries: he'd suffered horrific burns, probably from having boiling water poured on him.

Bernie - who's been named after Bernard Ndlovu, one of his rescuers - is currently being treated at a Harare veterinary surgery and may require a skin graft if some of the wounds don’t heal on their own.

His courage and his plight have captured the hearts of hundreds on Facebook where a campaign is being run to raise money for him.

“He’s eating, he’s drinking, he’s being taken for little walks,” said Mel Hood, director of Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ), the group that rescued Bernie.

Carers have had to swaddle him each day in fresh gauze and bandages. Initially they had him on a drip too.

Bernie’s wounds are treated daily with special gel and fresh bandages. Picture: VAWZ

“When we first got him to the surgery, he was actually quite friendly,” Hood told EWN.

“He’s now a little bit nervous but I can see why. Every time somebody goes to pick him up, it’s to change his bandages. It must hurt like heck," she explained.

“I’m sure once he starts healing and the pain subsides he’ll be back to his friendly self.”

Bernie was spotted last week along Harare’s busy Glenara Avenue by several residents. For hours the VAWZ inspectors and volunteers couldn’t find him again, until someone spotted him hiding in a storm drain beneath the road.

Hood said that VAWZ animal welfare inspector Bernard Ndlovu crawled into the tunnel to bring him out.

This isn’t the first time she’s seen a dog injured by boiling water, but it is “one of the worst”.

“With the current economic situation there are a lot of dogs not being fed properly. I think he was probably scavenging and somebody didn’t like it. He may have stolen their food,” she said.

She said keeping Bernie on a drip at the surgery wasn’t easy. The little dog kept chewing through the intravenous tube until the vet felt he didn’t need one anymore.

VAWZ has been posting updates on Bernie’s progress on its Facebook page, and the outpouring of support both from within the country and overseas has been “absolutely amazing”, Hood says. Burn Gel needed to treat the wounds is being brought from South Africa.

Despite his injuries, Bernie has shown incredible trust in his carers, Hood told EWN.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she said. “We’ve actually had a couple of people interested in giving him a home once he’s better.”

Bernie was named after Bernard Ndlovu (kneeling), the VAWZ inspector who crawled into the drainage ditch to rescue him. Also pictured is Livison, who also helped with the rescue.