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Students crowdfund operation for foster dog, Iko

Roommates+John+Dombalis%2C+a+senior+appropriate+technology+major%2C+and+Richard+Oakley%2C+a+sophomore+psychology+major%2C+play+with+Iko%2C+a+pit+bull+and+Labrador+mix.+Oakley+adopted+Iko%2C+who+needs+an+operation+to+prevent+the+amputation+of+his+leg+after+being+hit+by+a+car.+Photo+by+Josh+Farmer++%7C++The+Appalachian
Roommates John Dombalis, a senior appropriate technology major, and Richard Oakley, a sophomore psychology major, play with Iko, a pit bull and Labrador mix. Oakley adopted Iko, who needs an operation to prevent the amputation of his leg after being hit by a car. Photo by Josh Farmer | The Appalachian

Two students and next-door neighbors have raised more than $1,500 in less than a week to cover the cost of a life-altering medical procedure on Iko, their newly adopted pit bull, Labrador mix. The money was raised online, through a GoFundMe page, and came from around 60 different donors, the majority of whom are students at Appalachian State University.

Juniors Tiffany Flood and Richard Oakley first found the dog and brought him to Boone after being alerted through their mutual friend Courtney Colella,

Roommates John Dombalis, a senior appropriate technology major, and Richard Oakley, a sophomore psychology major, play with Iko, a pit bull and Labrador mix. Oakley adopted Iko, who needs an operation to prevent the amputation of his leg after being hit by a car. Photo by Josh Farmer  |  The Appalachian
Roommates John Dombalis, a senior appropriate technology major, and Richard Oakley, a sophomore psychology major, play with Iko, a pit bull and Labrador mix. Oakley adopted Iko, who needs an operation to prevent the amputation of his leg after being hit by a car. Photo by Josh Farmer | The Appalachian

whose mother found Iko at a busy intersection in Belews Creek.

Colella’s mother kept Iko in a barn for about a week, she said, but the injured dog started scaring the family’s cats away from their food. The dog had to find a new home, or else be surrendered to local facilities that might have put him down due to his breed and issues with space.

The search moved to Boone, where Flood, as an animal lover, volunteered to come get Iko as a foster. She ended up bringing Oakley, a psychology major, along for the ride, and he immediately fell in love.

“You can tell that he has never been with a loving family,” said Flood, a junior sustainable development major. “As soon as we let him out of the car he always comes back. He will try to follow you to class, or if you walk another dog. He has tried to follow us in our cars a couple times.”

Love at first sight, however, also came with the realization that Iko would need medical help to keep up with life in Boone. Colella’s mother believes the dog is less than 2 years old, and thought he had been hit by a car sometime in the past year.

When they got to Boone and took him to the vet, the pair was told that Iko would require an operation costing more than $1,000 to shave off the bulge of bone that sticks off of his hip to relieve pressure caused by a possible dislocation. If he doesn’t get the surgery soon, his back legs might shrivel up, and signs of this have already started, Flood said, with the dog’s tendency to arch his back to avoid putting pressure on his less developed legs.

The vet suggested they try raising money through their friends and family before exploring their options. Less than a week after setting up a simple page, their goal had been met.

“We were thinking we would get maybe $300 – and that would have been awesome,” Flood said.

Oakley said by the end of the fundraising period, around 60 people had donated, mostly friends, relatives and family friends, and few donors who surprised him – acquaintances from high school and parents’ friends who hadn’t seen his family in years.

Oakley also noted that a majority of the contributions came from fellow students.

“There were a lot of people donating $5, $10, $20 or just whatever they could afford,” he said.

The two were prepared to split any remaining cost themselves, at the risk of amputation if Iko’s problems were more complicated than anticipated.

“I’m really just overwhelmed by the response so far, and how many people came together on this,” Oakley said. “It’s a great breath of fresh air to see how great people can be and how fast this happened.”

Since reaching their initial goal, they have since discovered that Iko’s surgery will need to be from a specialist, and could amount well over $2,000. Another fundraising page will soon be up, Oakley said, as the pair continues to figure the operation out.

Eventually, Oakley hopes to get Iko well, and keep him active, as his first pet living on his own.

“Where we live there’s basically 18 dogs that all run loose together,” Flood said. “The first day we brought him home he wasn’t limping that badly at first, but after the first thirty minutes of playing with dogs outside you could tell he would bring his paws together or let his hurt leg dangle as he walked. He loves all the other dogs. He wants be out there playing with them 24/7.”

You can donate to Iko’s cause at www.gofundme.com/f7ca68

Story: Lovey Cooper, Senior A&E Reporter

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