The grand spirit and will to live of her tiny Pomerian is heartening Jackie Graciano as she heals from a domestic violence attack last month in which Graciano was stabbed and her dog, Papi, was left severely burned.
“Papi is my child, my everything, and what is keeping me going,” said Graciano last week as she recovered from surgery for the abdominal stab wound she suffered, allegedly at the hands of her former girlfriend, who is also charged with setting a couch on fire in Graciano’s Lawrence apartment.
Lawrence Police charged Yohanna Estrella, 34, of Andover, with arson, assault and battery on a household member, and battery with a dangerous weapon with the intent to murder. The June 21 fire left 12 people homeless.
As Graciano, 38, was transported to Lawrence General Hospital, firefighters brought Papi and a daschund — who lived in an upstairs apartment and did not survive — to the MSPCA Nevins Farm in nearby Methuen. Mike Keiley, the facility director at Nevins, said the rescue center does not have a veterinarian on staff, but by chance a spay/neuter clinic was being held that morning.
“We were lucky to have a criticalist here who was able to assess and stabilize Papi before he was taken to Angell,” said Keiley. “Firefighters carried him in a crate literally soaking wet from the fire hoses and covered in ash.”
Three-year-old Papi, once a 7-pound ball of apricot-colored fluff, does not look the same as he lay in the intensive care unit at the MSPCA-Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston. Papi’s severely burned tail had to be removed along with most of his ears and part of his lip, said Dr. Kiko Bracker, the emergency doctor who is caring for Papi.
The dog’s coat was singed and eventually needed to be shaven when the damage exposed second- and third-degree burns. Papi underwent a two-hour reconstructive surgery on July 10, when skin stretched and collected from his abdomen was used to repair a gaping wound.
“Initially Papi didn’t seem too bad, but we soon realized it was just the tip of the iceberg,” said Bracker. “There were discussions as to what was the right choice. All along, Papi was happy and wanted to eat and is still eating well. A really sick animal is not going to want to eat.”
Prior to her dog’s surgery at Angell, Graciano and Papi were briefly reunited at Nevins.
“When Jackie came out of surgery, she thought Papi had died,” said Keiley. “When he saw her, he wagged his tail and tried to lick her face, which I’m sure had to be painful given that his tongue was singed. Both of their spirits were lifted. They need each other.”
Papi’s medical bills are estimated at more than $10,000, said Rob Halpin, spokesman for MSPCA-Angell, where a fund has been established to offset costs. While an anonymous donor has contributed $6,000 for Papi’s care, funds in excess will go to the organization’s Pet Care Assistance Fund. Papi will require at least one more surgery, but Bracker expects that he can go home soon.
Graciano is working on rebuilding her life with the help of her family.
“My sister and sister-in-law are right now fighting over who is going to take care of Papi,” she said.