Margot Ayre turned to see a woman frantically running toward her, yelling her name.
Ayre, a water meter reader for De Soto County, had met the woman earlier that day in Arcadia.
"A dog has been set on fire!" the woman recounted breathlessly.
Within moments, the two women were down the street staring at a mixed-breed puppy that looked like a red and black Dalmatian.
Large patches of her skin were cooked red. She was foaming at the mouth. Still chained, remnants of another collar pierced her neck.
"I was so shaken I can hardly remember what was going on around me," Ayre, 53, said of the March 20 incident.
The dog's owners, sitting on a porch, said medical help was not necessary. They would rub motor oil on the skin, then wrap the dog in a blanket.
Ayre could not look at the owners. "That's not going to happen,'' she said.
She put the dog in her car and sped away to an animal clinic one county to the north.
"Her skin was literally just falling all off," Ayre said, "and she still just wanted to sit in my lap."
• • •
At the Hardee Animal Clinic, help was waiting.
Fifty percent of the animal's skin was burned to various degrees, and her corneas were scorched, veterinarians said.
"Horrific," said Leigh Sockalosky, president of the Hardee Animal Rescue Team, on which Ayre is a volunteer.
Bandages, antibiotics, intravenous fluids and pain medications at the small clinic would not be enough. The puppy, about a year old and known as Queeniebell, was transferred temporarily to a veterinary clinic in Bonita Springs before being admitted days later to the Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa. There, she would have her own ophthalmologist.
Euthanasia was never an option.
"We saw when she came in here that she wanted to live," Sockalosky said, "and we were going to make that happen, one way or another."
On a regimen of opiates, eye medications, antibiotics and loving care, the puppy was tended by experts around the clock.
And they gave her a new name:
• • •
As Hope recovered, another story developed.
Larry Wallace, 66, was arrested Monday at his Arcadia home on a warrant accusing him of arson and animal abuse, both felonies. Details of the charges have not been revealed by Arcadia police. Wallace was released on bail Tuesday and is scheduled to be in court May 19.
Wallace was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1994 after pleading guilty in the stabbing death of Willie C. Knight, a 47-year-old fruit picker. Wallace claimed self-defense after the two got into a fight outside a bar in Umatilla.
Wallace spent three years in prison, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The day after Wallace's arrest in Arcadia, Sockalosky remembers holding Hope tightly.
"It was the final step to the justice she deserved," said Sockalosky, who drives 144 miles round-trip every day from her home in Wauchula to visit Hope in Tampa.
The dog's plight has generated scores of donations, including orthopedic beds, toys, blankets and more than $50,000 for medical expenses.
Sockalosky's mother, Sharon, 74, sometimes accompanies her daughter on the long trips to visit Hope.
"I feel like Hope has touched so many people," Leigh Sockalosky said. "She teaches them no matter what you're going through, there is hope at the end. Don't give up."
• • •
Veterinary technicians at Blue Pearl chose a cow print for Hope's daily bandage. They carefully cut off Hope's neon pink bandages and swabbed her with an antiseptic.
Although some pus and blood still ooze from her body, Helga Bleyaert, Hope's primary veterinarian, said those are good signs. Nice pink and healthy tissue means skin is growing back.
"It has taken a big metabolic toll on her," Bleyaert said. "She's lost some weight, but it does zap a lot of the energy to try and heal herself for the extent of the injuries she has."
Her underbelly and genitals remain scarred.
But Hope is clearly recovering and may be going home within the next week.
Where will home be?
With seven dogs already, Sockalosky and her mother haven't decided whether to adopt Hope.
The dog will stay with them through treatment at Hardee Animal Clinic. What happens after that is undecided.
But the Sockaloskys are optimistic.
"She's come a long way," said Leigh Sockalosky. "Everybody knows this animal would not be here today without hope."
Times researchers John Martin and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Colleen Wright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow on Twitter @Colleen_Wright.
This story has been edited to include the following correction: A story about a severely burned dog named Hope that appeared on page 1B Saturday should have attributed this quote to Leigh Sockalosky, president of the Hardee Animal Rescue Team: "I feel like Hope has touched so many people. She teaches them no matter what you're going through, there is hope at the end. Don't give up."
Also, the story should have said that the Sockaloskys haven't decided whether or not they will adopt Hope.