Celebration for Kali
When: 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Laurel Park
Donations: Clermont Veterinary Hospital, 5243 Cleveland Highway, Clermont; 770-983-7851; or visit the Kali fund Facebook page
A woman awoke to barks the morning of Dec. 30 after strong winds knocked over a heat lamp in a shed approximately 20 feet from her house.
Alerted by her dog, Kali, she was able to extinguish the fire. But Kali suffered second- and third-degree deep tissue burns on over 50 percent of her body.
Four months later, Kali, the chocolate Labrador retriever with a heart of gold, will be honored by caretakers and fans alike for her remarkable recovery.
“It’s just a family event. We want the community to come meet Kali,”said Kimberly Hayes, Kali’s primary caretaker, during her healing and now. “It’s to mark the closing of her journey that started Jan. 2.”
The family event Sunday at Laurel Park in Gainesville is scheduled to feature music, face-painting for children and a Hall County Fire Truck, Hayes hopes.
She’s hoping to avoid April showers.
“At this point I’m just going to be positive, but if it rains, it rains,” she said.
The shade cover of clouds could actually be a positive for Kali, whose grafted skin is sensitive to sunlight.
“She will have a shirt on to protect her,” Hayes said. “She can be outside, but if it’s too hot, she’ll go under a shaded area.”
When Kali’s owner brought her in to the Clermont Veterinary Hospital after the fire, it was clear they would not be able to afford to take care of her.
An hour of plucking charred hairs from Kali’s back, side, ears and tail, revealed devastating burns on her body.
As she healed, Kali spent her days in the hospital’s front office, under constant care and supervision.
Kali’s pain was managed with a fentanyl patch. She was able to come off that drug by late February, transitioning to anti-inflammatory drugs.
It was a “miracle,” Hayes said, that Kali didn’t get an infection, as is often the case with the extent and severity of deep tissue burns.
“Even the doctors at UGA were extremely impressed. They couldn’t imagine how she did not get an infection this whole time, that we kept it under control,” she said.
Hayes said they managed Kali’s care with fresh daily bandaging, which alone cost $100 a day to administer, not including the hours of volunteer work contributed at the animal clinic.
But through all the stress and trauma, Hayes said, Kali was a fighter.
“She was so cooperative and accepting and willing for us to just help her. She knew we were trying to help, and her desire to live is what helped with the healing process, and people all over, pouring out their prayers,” she said. “People in Colorado, New England, Connecticut, New Jersey, France, Texas. Students giving up their ice cream money so we could collect money for her fund.”
In total, Hayes said, the clinic raised approximately $11,000 needed for Kali’s surgery, which was generously priced at a subsidized rate by the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia.
Head surgeons said they had never seen an animal survive such extensive wounds, Hayes said, and that students who assisted may never see such a case again.
“They said they’d never seen burns that involved and just that horrific,” she said. “They head surgeon for the surgery and student vets they said they’ll probably never see a case like this again.”
Hayes, a Gainesville High School graduate, doesn’t have formal veterinary training, but picked up skills in animal care from working in animal clinics since the early 90s.
Hayes took Kali home to monitor her care away from the clinic. She stayed up until 2 a.m. some nights to make sure Kali was still breathing.
“It was stressful,” Hayes said, of taking on the responsibility.
But the effort was worth it; Kali’s resilience is an inspiration, she said.
“I just feel very blessed and very lucky to have such a wonderful dog,” she said. “I think she’s taught all of us, no matter how bad things may be for us, whether it’s an accident, whatever is going on in our lives. She’s taught me to love and to trust.”
Hayes has encouraged the general public, rain or shine, to come out Sunday and see for themselves how far Kali has come.
She encouraged people to bring their pets as well. But health first, she said, noting any dogs should have up-to-date rabies vaccinations.