Philly support dog, deployed to Florida collapse, recovering from injury

Teddy loves providing emotional support, according to his owner and handler, Sophia Barrett.
PHOTO: Provided

A dog from South Philadelphia is recovering following a sudden injury he suffered earlier this month while providing emotional support to people affected by the Florida condominium collapse.

Teddy, a 6-year-old therapy dog who is part-basset hound, part-labrador retriever, inexplicably lost his ability to walk July 14, his owner and handler, Sophia Barrett, said.

The extent of his injuries are unclear, she added, though veterinarians told her he might have a herniated disk.

“He was probably starting to get some wear and tear on that back part of his spine, that just being so active for several weeks on end exacerbated it,” Bassett, 30, told Metro.

Barrett and Teddy arrived back in Philadelphia last Tuesday, and he took his first real steps two days later, she said, following rounds of chiropractic, acupuncture and massage treatments, paid for through a GoFundMe that raised nearly $50,000.

A rescue worker in Surfside, Flordia, pets Teddy, a dog that lives with his handler and owner, Sophia Barrett, in South Philadelphia.PHOTO: Provided

“It’s unbelievable and humbling,” said Barrett, who works for a local suicide prevention organization. “I knew Teddy was special, and I’m just so glad the world could see how special he really is.”

Barrett grew up in Hollywood, Florida, about 10 miles from Surfside, where the 12-story building unexpectedly collapsed June 24, leaving 97 people dead.

She had been planning a trip to South Florida and moved up her flight after hearing the news. Barrett and Teddy last year joined Crisis Response Canines, a South Jersey-based nonprofit that deploys dog-handler teams to mass shootings and other traumatic events.

Along with six other CRC pairings, Barrett and Teddy visited hubs where family members of victims gathered and comforted rescue workers who combed through debris during the weeks-long search.

“Seeing our dogs just be able to bring a smile to someone’s face, to just let them have a second to breathe a little easier, it was an honor to be able to provide that,” she said.

The experience was Barrett and Teddy’s first deployment with CRC, an organization that has provided canine-backed emotional support to people affected by the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh and the 2017 mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas.

Andrea Hering, the group’s co-founder, said CRC teams have also responded to more local tragedies, including the 2019 shooting at a Pleasantville High School football game.

“If there is a very tragic event in a community, they will call us in to work with the law enforcement personnel and other individuals who were affected,” Hering said.

Teddy, a 6-year-old dog, has been struggling to walk, possibly due to a herniated disk in his spine.PHOTO: Provided

In addition, the nonprofit works regularly with local first responders, with weekly visits to 911 dispatchers in Camden County and emergency call center employees in Millville. The idea is to allow the dispatchers to decompress, Hering said.

She said CRC’s dogs are trained to remain calm in unpredictable and stressful environments. Handlers also receive instruction on how to talk to someone experiencing trauma.

Any money from Barrett’s GoFundMe that is not used for Teddy’s ongoing treatments — and there is expected to be a hefty sum left — will be given to CRC. Barrett recently shut down the fundraiser, which started with a goal of $5,000.

Donations flooded in after a segment about Teddy’s predicament aired on a CBS affiliate in Miami. At the time, Barrett was stuck in Florida, having stayed longer than the other CRC teams.

“Getting him home was my main priority,” she said. “Getting through a commercial airport and the security with a dog that can’t walk, it would have been a total nightmare.”

Executives at Titan Aviation Group, a company that sells planes and offers chartered flights, flew Barrett and Teddy back to Philadelphia on a private jet after hearing their story.

Now that Teddy is walking again, the goal is for him to return to full health and get back on the street to once again bring smiles to people’s faces, Barrett said.

“He loves working,” she said. “He loves his job, and I know that he’s really going to be excited and happy to work again.”