FORT GEORGE — An Uptown woman who slept outside in the freezing temperatures to help save a feral dog was recently recognized for her efforts with an award from animal-advocacy group PETA.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gave Denise Lauffer a Compassionate Action Award for her efforts to save Charlie, a wild pup who lived in Highbridge Park for years.
"Denise Lauffer literally put herself in this dog's place to save him from this winter's sub-zero temperatures," said PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. "PETA hopes her extraordinary efforts will inspire others to come to the aid of animals in need — especially with no end in sight to this potentially deadly freezing weather."
Lauffer, who was surprised by the award, was quick to give credit to others who have been helping care for Charlie.
“I told them it was probably better that Tina [Ilmet] get it because she’s the one who has him now,” she said. “Him being in her house, I mean, that’s the hard part.”
Lauffer will receive a framed certificate and a box of vegan chocolates from PETA for her efforts.
Lauffer and Ilmet are two of at least a dozen neighbors who have cared for Charlie over the years, leaving food, piles of hay and blankets for the dog at his favorite spots in the park. Some neighbors also knew the pup by the name Ricky.
Over the past few weeks, Lauffer and others became concerned that Charlie, who they estimate is about 10 years old, would not survive the bitter cold. To care for Charlie and gain his trust for a rescue attempt, Lauffer said she spent two full nights with the pup in a makeshift shelter she built in the park.
On Feb. 15, a handful of neighbors, including Yuliya Avezbakiyeva and her mother Yelena, were able to coax Charlie into a car and take him to the veterinarian.
Charlie is now staying with Ilmet, while Lauffer, Avezbakiyeva and others continue to help by taking him for walks and transporting him to the vet.
Lauffer said that despite some health complications, including Lyme disease, Charlie is just fine.
“He’s doing well,” she said. “He’s such a good boy and very playful.”
Two fundraising pages set up to help cover the pup’s medical bills have raised more than $17,000 combined.
Lauffer, who noted that saving Charlie has been a group effort, has been very touched by the outpouring of support.
“I didn’t expect any of this,” Lauffer said. “You read some of the messages from the people who’ve donated and it’s amazing. [It’ll] bring you to tears for sure.”