All six dogs and ten cats are now safe after an electrical fire destroyed the W-Underdogs animal shelter in Atlanta, Georgia.
Firefighters and volunteers alike rushed to save the building after it caught fire, but one of the heroes who helped save the animals came as a surprise to many. Keith Walker is a homeless man who has built a special relationship with the shelter’s staff, and the W-Underdogs facility even feeds and shelters his own dog, Bravo. Keith returned that kindness by risking his own life to run into the building and save every pet in the shelter before they succumbed to the smoke and flames.
The organization, which states its mission as “[unlocking] potential of at-risk youth by teaching leadership, empathy, and compassion through caring for abused and neglected animals,” shared an emotional post thanking Keith for his life-saving efforts:
“Tonight we thank our guardian angels. The homeless man that ran into our burning house and rescued our animals. The fire department and @fultonanimalservices officers MJ and Joan for quick action. Our animals are safe and thanks to the incredible response from the community, everyone is settled and safe warm and secure. We just wanted to say THANK YOU to all our friends and volunteers for coming to our immediate aide. We will need you in the next couple days and weeks as we recover. But we are in your good hands… we definitely have angels among us. We are all safe. @ginnymillner @victoriastilwell for always being there for us.”
Thankfully, the organization had just started a new lease at a location that would serve as its new headquarters, and though it’s not ready to be the animals’ permanent home, it was enough to keep the dogs and cats safe for the night as volunteers rushed to get supplies and care sorted out for the pets in the meantime.
After the story spread across the internet, people began to reach out and ask how they could help Keith. W-Underdogs responded with compassion and wisdom, having worked with people in the community (and Keith specifically) for some time now.
“We have received a flood of requests on how people can help Mr. Keith Walker, the hero who saved our animals from the fire. Rest assured we have Mr. Walker’s best interests at heart, and are exploring how to best manage donations that have come in on his behalf. Please understand that the issues surrounding Mr. Walker’s homelessness are complex, and we need to proceed with care. Toward this end, we will be seeking an organization experienced in working with homeless and vulnerable populations to be his advocate and ensure that his needs, wishes, safety and well-being are taken into account. This will take some time, as we are currently stretched to the limit resource-wise and are still operating in crisis mode.
There have been suggestions that we give Mr. Walker a job and place to live at the new facility. In fact, we have already been working with Mr. Walker for a quite some time now, giving him various jobs throughout the years. Additionally, we have always provided food and shelter to his dog Bravo. This will not change in our new location. However, due to the fact that we are first and foremost a youth organization, there are constraints on the kinds of jobs we are able to offer him. And for this reason, as well as the building being zoned as a commercial facility, we are not able to offer him lodging there. But, in the end, we will do our best to ensure that Mr. Walker is cared for, always with consideration and respect as to how much help he wishes to receive.”
All images via the W-Underdogs Facebook page