A Parkland man and his dog Ruby remained hospitalized in serious condition Thursday after an attempt to rid the animal of fleas and ticks went horribly wrong and the terrier erupted in flames, leaving both severely burned.
"It shouldn't have happened, I don't understand how it happened, but it did," Jesus "Jess" Olivas said Thursday from his bed in the burn unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. "It seemed to take two seconds."
In an incident that Coral Springs firefighters described as unlike any they have heard of, Ruby caught fire Tuesday after Olivas and his wife treated the 10-year-old dog with a highly flammable insecticide and then lit a barbecue starter to kill the bugs that leapt off the dog. The dog ignited when it go too close to the flame.
With the small dog ablaze, Olivas said he scooped up Ruby, took two steps from the couple's Fox Ridge family room to the swimming pool and jumped in.
"I am fairly certain this is the first time we've had a dog catch on fire," said Coral Springs Fire-Rescue spokesman Mike Moser. "It was definitely an unusual situation. But we know that people will go to great lengths to save their pets."
"My heart is breaking," said Telma Botcherby, who watched as both her beloved companions were engulfed in flames.
Olivas, 48, was taken to Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach and transferred to Jackson's burn unit. He said he will be hospitalized for two weeks and must have skin grafts to repair damage to his forearms.
Ruby, burned over 50 percent of her body, is being treated at the Margate veterinary clinic of Peter Krolikowski. "She is definitely uncomfortable," he said. "It is too painful for her to sit or lay down. This is going to take some time because often it takes days for the extent of the trauma to show."
Ruby is receiving pain medication and fluids intravenouosly, said Krolikowski.
Olivas said he and his wife had bathed Ruby in soap and water, and then applied the pest control liquid. He said they did not read the flammable warning on the container.
After Ruby got too near the starter's flame and began burning, Olivas said he acted instinctively, first opening the door to the pool patio and then picking up the dog.
"We were in the pool in seconds," he said. "And the fire went out."
In addition to burns on his arms, Olivas said his lips and face were singed.
The fire was ruled accidental, said Moser. Damage to the couple's home was minimal.
The incident is the latest in a rash of recent misfortune for the couple, said Olivas, who designs computer programs. His wife was in a car crash that required back surgery and left her unable to run her cleaning business.
And his injuries will put a crimp in his sideline, raising koi for sale.
"Life has become extremely challenging," said Olivas. "The moral of story: You definitely don't use any flammable liquids on pets."