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Rescued by Lodi police officers, ‘Fiona the fighter’ finds a happy home with reporter

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Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:39 am, Wed Apr 25, 2012.

Fiona, a small terrier-mix puppy, has a tendency to charge at you, mouth spread into a wide grin, then flop onto her stomach and roll over, waiting for you to rub her tummy.

This is the same Fiona who only a month ago was hit by a car and suffered severe nerve damage to her back left leg. She was dubbed "Fiona the fighter."

It was a rainy St. Patrick's Day when Detective Eric Bradley and Lt. Chris Jacobson of the Lodi Police Department rescued Fiona after she had been struck by a car.

They pulled her from the wet road, and gave her a second chance at life.

On Saturday, after visiting her nearly every single day at the veterinary hospital where she was recuperating, I adopted Fiona and brought her home.

At just 4-and-a-half months old, Fiona is a perky puppy, always smiling and following me around the house as if she were my second shadow.

You would never know that Fiona, who weighs only about 10 pounds, was nearly killed four weeks ago.

I first met Fiona just two days after she was hit by the car, when Bradley called me about a potential feel-good story about a puppy who was defying the odds.

Bradley and Jacobson were out on a saturation operation late on St. Patrick's Day, to try and keep the streets free of drunk drivers. They were on Church Street, approaching West Kettleman Lane, when they saw a car swerve.

The car had clearly hit something, but it continued to speed off, and Bradley and Jacobson pulled over to see what the car may have struck. Lying on its back in the street was a tiny, tawny-and-white terrier, motionless.

Jacobson said he thought the animal was probably dead, but Bradley poked at the dog, and she suddenly blinked and squirmed awake.

She was rushed to an emergency veterinary hospital in Stockton, then transferred to Oakwood Veterinary Hospital in Woodbridge the next day.

When I walked into the veterinary clinic, the dog was hooked up to an IV, exhausted and quivering. She had a cast on her leg, and the only person she did not shy away from was Bradley, who had found her lying in the street, stunned and hurt.

She was so quiet and sweet, and something about her broke my heart.

I wanted to scoop her up and cradle her, to tell her that everything was going to be alright.

She was beautiful, just like her name suggests, a name Bradley gave her. Fiona is Gaelic for "beautiful."

"Whoever adopts her, they have to keep her name," Bradley told me.

Looking at her in her kennel, I knew that day that I wanted to take her home.

So I called PALS, and asked to have my name put on the list to adopt her — a list I knew would be very long.

I was not the only reporter covering Fiona. She was all over television later that day. I expected hundreds of people would want to take this beautiful puppy home.

The next day, I went back to visit her. Fiona looked a little better. She did not have the IV in her arm anymore. Her back left leg was still wrapped.

I went back the next day, and the next.

Pretty soon, it became routine for me pop in on my lunch break to see her. The staff at Oakwood Veterinary Hospital knew every time I walked through the door why I was there.

"Mommy's here," they started to say a few weeks ago.

I kept waiting for a call from PALS, hoping to hear that Fiona would come home with me.

Fiona improved daily. Pretty soon, she was hopping along, still somewhat tentative about using her hurt leg.

Four weeks passed, and I finally had my home visit. Nancy Alumbaugh, co-founder of PALS, personally inspected the house.

When she told me I would be able to adopt Fiona, I wanted to jump up and down and give her a hug.

A week later, I brought Fiona home.

And despite needing some physical therapy to help her regain some of the strength and feeling in her left leg, she is just another happy, healthy puppy. She is a hearty eater, especially at breakfast time.

She is a quick learner, and she has a tendency to curl up next to me at night and fall asleep. I have a tendency to allow it rather than put her in her kennel.

Fiona is certainly a fighter. And I know I am so lucky to have brought her home.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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