Keith Walker has been homeless since he was 13 years old. The one constant in this 53-year-old’s life these days: his dog, Bravo. Never certain of his own circumstances, to keep him safe, Walker arranged with Gracie Hamlin, founder of W-Underdogs, to let Bravo spend his nights at the facility.
On December 18, as Walker arrived to take Bravo for a walk, he found the shelter engulfed in flame. Without hesitation, Walker rushed into the inferno to save the animals.
“I was nervous as hell, I’m not going to lie. I was really scared to go in there with all that smoke. But God put me there to save those animals,” he told CNN. “If you love a dog, you can love anyone in the world. My dog is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here without him, so I knew I had to save all those other dogs.”
According to Hamlin, the firefighters at the scene had called animal control to take charge of rescuing the home’s furry residents, but with the fire raging, Walker refused to wait. Scared as he might have been, Walker pulled every one of the animals—six dogs and 10 cats—to safety.
“He is my guardian angel…I can’t thank him enough for saving my animals,” Hamlin said. “I’m still in disbelief… I’ve been around a fire and I know how fast they flare up.”
The fire, which started in the kitchen, ultimately rendered the facility uninhabitable. Fortunately, the animals were already slated to be moved into W-Underdog’s new Atlanta-based facility in a week’s time, and all are doing well.
As word of Walker’s bravery spread, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to make life a little more certain for “The Atlanta Animal Shelter Hero” and his sidekick, Bravo.
“…Mr. Walker, you’re an extraordinary gentleman, risking life and limb to save not only dogs, but the cats in the shelter as well, which would have been far more difficult,” commented a donor who made a $50 contribution. “I can’t wait to see you on the news in a fresh apartment with a new start. You’ve earned it, man.”
That sentiment was echoed by many. So far, more than $37,000 has been raised.
While dealing with a person caught up in a cycle of long-term homelessness “is complicated,” the campaign’s founder has vowed that all monies taken in will be put toward making a better future for the man who risked his own life to save the lives of helpless animals.