When Cotton, an 11 year-old black Labrador retriever, was rescued from a house fire, it was just the beginning of a long fight to save her life. But she was never alone in her journey to recovery. Cotton’s story touched the hearts of the community that rallied around her, and her sweet disposition won the hearts of those who cared for her. 

“It's the worst fear of many of us pet lovers,” says Linda Linda Torelli, director of marketing for the Brandywine Valley SPCA, which managed Cotton’s case. “Her owner had gone off to work, and a fire had started while she was home alone in the house.”

Luckily for Cotton, the first responders who rescued her from the fire happened to be equipped with a special oxygen mask that is designed specifically for animals. Once resuscitated and stabilized, Cotton was brought to VCA Newark Animal Hospital in Newark, Delaware for additional care.

When Cotton first arrived at VCA Newark, she did not appear to be very ill. 

“She was ambulatory, she had some corneal burns,” recalls Emily Kupprion, DVM, one of the emergency and critical care specialists who cared for Cotton. “And then in the days that followed, her condition declined considerably, and she spent the better part of two to two and a half weeks fighting for her life.”

Cotton was treated for smoke inhalation, aspiration pneumonia and eye abrasions.

With her life hanging in balance, each of the emergency and critical care specialists who cared for Cotton became heavily invested in her care – and they weren’t the only ones. Cotton had the first responders who saved her life and the community rallying around her for support.

Since Cotton’s owner couldn’t afford the cost of her care, Brandywine Valley SPCA (BVSPCA) stepped in and vowed that the owner would not have to surrender Cotton because of treatment costs. As the cost of Cotton’s high level, specialized care grew to $20,000, BVSPCA started a Facebook fundraiser to help pay for it. Thanks to a partnership between VCA and BVSPCA, the care was discounted by 50 percent. And with the generous outpouring of support from the community, the remaining cost of her care – about $10,000 – was completely covered by donations. 

Meanwhile, Cotton was making a miraculous recovery. Her fighting spirit and sweet nature made an impression on Dr. Kupprion.

“I have never seen a dog come back from something like this,” says Dr. Kupprion. “And she was very compliant to care – never bit anyone or growled during treatment.”

Cotton was fortunate to be brought to VCA Newark, which is staffed with veterinarians 24 hours/day, who have intensive, specialized training in handling critical care for pets. 

“The folks who took care of Cotton at VCA Newark were just amazing with her, and little did we know, a very special bond had been forming, in the meantime,” says Linda.

“When I talked to the Brandywine Valley SPCA and said, ‘Hey, Cotton is ready to go home, she is ready to not be in the hospital anymore,’ they said, ‘We have an issue,’” recalls Dr. Kupprion. 

BVSPCA informed Dr. Kupprion that Cotton was not going to be able to be reunited with her owner, and they felt strongly that Cotton should not be sent to a shelter. They asked Dr. Kupprion if she knew anyone who would adopt her.

“And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Very impulsively, ‘We will,’” says Dr. Kupprion.

“We were absolutely delighted that the vet who had treated and nurtured Cotton for weeks was then going to be her forever home,” says Linda. 

Cotton has recovered from her injuries but does need special care. She has a cough from residual pneumonia and upper airway scarring. But according to Dr. Kupprion, it doesn’t seem to bother her. Cotton remains very active and seems very happy.

Linda points out that while Cotton is getting the spotlight, BVSPCA sees animals who are in just as precarious but different situations every week. VCA Newark is BVSPCA’s life-saving go-to for emergency care and anything that can’t be handled at their clinics. Their partnership with VCA ensures those animals get the specialized care they need.

“Cotton's just one example of a really important tenet for us at Brandywine Valley SPCA, and something the folks at VCA really believe in as well,” says Linda. “And that is, families hit tough times sometimes, and we want to be there for them."

When the unexpected happens, every minute matters.  VCA Animal Hospitals are here for you.  Visit our website to locate the closest 24/7 emergency veterinary center near you


“Cotton has recovered from her injuries but does need special care. Cotton remains very active and very happy.”