Adopted Puppy Helps Student Heal After a Shooting

Lilly was there when Drew needed his best friend most.

Drew + Lilly

When Drew adopted a puppy named Lilly, he never imagined that she would help him through a traumatic event, too.

"She made my recovery brighter by doing goofy stuff like chasing her tail or flopping on her back for belly rubs. Once when I came home, she was somehow standing on the kitchen island."

I thought “School Shooting” was just a headline until it happened to me. As I sat in my last class of spring semester at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a gunman burst through the door and started firing with a handgun. I was shot in the back and fell to the floor, bleeding from my back and abdomen. I could hear the fading breath of the others who had been shot and the screams of classmates as they escaped.

The bullet entered my back about one inch from my spine. I endured multiple surgeries and spent 27 days recovering in the hospital.

Adopted Dog Lilly

Then I came home to Lilly.

I adopted Lilly last Christmas from Peak Lab Rescue. She was about 10 weeks old. Like every college kid, I wanted a dog for companionship, to set me up with a healthy routine, and to have someone to care for. I suffered from some anxiety and depression and I thought Lilly might also help with that. Neither of us knew how important she would actually turn out to be!

Adopted Dog Lilly

When I first got home from the hospital and reunited with Lilly, I did exactly what the doctor told me not to do. I picked her up and held her in my lap. We were both so excited to see each other, but it was clear that Lilly knew I was hurt. She is normally a very high-energy puppy but now she was gentle and careful with me. After what happened, there were days when I wanted to stay in bed. There were days when I felt guilty that I couldn’t do more to stop the shooter. Without being asked, Lilly would come snuggle and help me relax. Now every day I wake up to her front paws on my shoulders as she licks my face. She’s the best alarm clock.

While I healed, I couldn’t do anything except hang around the house. Lilly just wanted to be with me all the time. She made my recovery brighter by doing goofy stuff like chasing her tail or flopping on her back for belly rubs. Once when I came home, she was somehow standing on the kitchen island. I told her “no” and “get down” but it was so hard not to crack up.

Adopted Dog Lilly

Honestly, I know Lilly is a dog, but I treat her like a child. I say her name and she looks at me, and I ask if she’s having a good day. She makes my life better. My girlfriend, Erin, says we are “attached at the hip.” Especially after what happened, I guess we are.

I decided that I needed to return to UNC-Charlotte for classes this fall. I still have emotions to deal with, but I couldn’t run from what happened. For now, my focus is not on the long-term recovery but the short. I’m back in school. I make it through one class, and then the next.

And every day I come home to Lilly.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Drew won Peak Lab Rescue in Apex, North Carolina a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.