Burned dog teaches children dangers of fire

Dempsey was found burned in a New Castle alley.
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A puppy that escaped a potentially deadly situation is now keeping local students safe.

Eyewitness News first told the story of eight-week-old Dempsey, a boxer/mastiff mix last June. A stranger found him nearly dead in a New Castle alley after someone had set the puppy on fire.

Most of Dempsey's four paws had been burned off, along with most of his tail.

"He's your living example of what fire can do," says Eileen Orban, who eventually adopted Dempsey, now 90 pounds and struggling still to walk on his deformed paws.

Orban is with Pike Township Fire Department and has used Dempsey in dozens of fire safety programs in schools and at camps for children with burns.

"I wanted to bring a special friend with me today. His name is Dempsey," Orban tells a group of 40 first graders from Eagle Creek Elementary School.

She shows the students the scarring on Dempsey's stomach and legs.

"See right here? This is where he got burned by the fire," Orban said. "He doesn't want any of you to go through what he's gone through. I wanted Dempsey to come see you, that way you guys could see the damage fire can do to us. And if it can do it to Dempsey, it could do it to you."

Having the injured dog in front of them helps deliver his message.

"They see him walk or they see him move, you know, it kind of melts their heart and they take in that message that he has to share from that," Orban said.

Life could get a little easier for Dempsey as he continues to spread his fire safety message. Orban says this summer, a local veterinary clinic plans to reconstruct all four of Dempsey's paws.

"They're just trying to make his mobility better for him, make it easier for him to get around," Orban said.

Even if veterinarians are successful, though, Dempsey will still have scars as powerful proof of the dangers of fire.

"Don't touch fire, because you will get burnt," said first grader Jacob Smith about what he learned after meeting Dempsey.

"People can get burned really, really bad and they can die, too," added classmate Laniya Williams.

It's a sobering lesson for children so young. It's a lesson made easier, though, because it comes packaged with a wagging tail.

In the next few weeks, Eyewitness News will have more information on Dempsey's surgery and the effort underway to get the public involved.