TAMPA, Fla. (TheBlaze/AP) — When a venomous Eastern diamondback rattlesnake appeared in the backyard of a 7-year-old girl, her German shepherd, Haus, came to her rescue, refusing to back down even when the snake bit him three times.
To his family, Haus is a hero.
"It shows you that a rescue dog, for us, paid it forward by protecting my family," Adam DeLuca of Tampa said.
Now hundreds of donors are coming to the family's rescue, quickly topping the goal of $15,000 Friday on a GoFundMe account to help pay for the antivenin needed to keep the dog alive. By Saturday morning, nearly $50,000 had been raised for the dog's care.
Haus is still recovering in the Intensive Care Unit of Tampa's Blue Pearl Emergency Veterinary and Specialty Hospital, and is being treated with anti-venom and painkillers, Dr. John Gicking said.
"Without the pain medication, he's in pain. He's responsive, he's alert and his leg is swollen and uncomfortable," the doctor said.
Molly DeLuca's grandmother was watching her play with the 2-year-old shepherd in their backyard when the dog suddenly jumped in front of the girl and reared up several times. It wasn't clear what happened at first, but they could tell Haus was bleeding, and brought him to the vet.
When his leg was shaved, three bite marks could be seen — telltale signs of the rattlesnake.
The family lives near a state park that is a habitat for rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, and dangerous critters can slip under their fence from the wilderness, her father said.
The snake's venom damaged the dog's kidneys. Vets said they expect a full recovery, but it won't be cheap: Each day in the ICU costs between $1000 to $1500, and each vial of anti-venom costs $618. Haus is averaging 4 or 5 vials per day as the poison leaves his system.
A family friend started the fundraising effort. DeLuca said the response has been "overwhelming."
The family adopted Haus just two months ago from a rescue organization, but they already had no doubt he would risk his life to save Molly or her four-year-old brother.
"He just exceeded our expectations all the way around," said DeLuca. "Right away, the kids were hugging and loving on him, he always took it, he never did anything. Whenever anyone came to the door, he would start barking and try to be protective. He has just been an amazing dog."
Cherissa Vandergriff updated the GoFundMe page early Saturday morning with a happy announcement:
We love the donations for Haus - it's so moving to see your giving spirit! I don't want to end the page so the story can be shown! But I ask you visit http://heidislegacydogrescue.com
And donate, adopt or rescue instead. Haus has enough money to meet his needs. Many other beautiful German Shepherds like Haus are waiting on you! Thanks so much!
Haus is expected to be hospitalized for another couple of days.