Charlie the dog needs a forever home.
Los Alamos-based dog rescuer Jen Curtis has been helping the dog recover from severe burns he sustained in a domestic dispute that ultimately resulted in the death of his owner and landed the man’s son in jail.
“Obviously his dad raised him really well because he’s a good dog,” Curtis said of Charlie. “He’s just a good, solid, well-trained dog. Despite his circumstances, he is a very happy dog and he was obviously loved very much by his person.”
Charlie, about 3 years old, is a mutt who weighs about 50-60 pounds — with a terrier appearance mixed with a husky’s talkativeness, she said.
“He must be hoarse at times because he’s very talkative,” she said, adding that Charlie will chat with his toys or when he sees the leash.
Curtis often visits the Santa Maria Animal Shelter to help find homes for dogs or bring them to a friend’s rescue in Oregon.
During a visit to the animal shelter, she saw Charlie recovering in a hospital room and learned some of his story.
The dog was burned on June 11 when Joseph Ashley Garcia, 40, of Lompoc, allegedly set fire to his father at their home, police reports said.
Officers responded to a report of a father-son argument at 3:30 p.m. at an apartment building on the 200 block of North D Street. They also received a report that the son hit the father.
When officers arrived, they asked Garcia to open the door so they could check on his father.
When he failed to do so, the officers forcibly opened the way into the apartment.
“Once the door was kicked in, officers could see that the father’s head was completely ablaze,” prosecutors said in a filing, adding that the fire was quickly put out.
Charlie’s was also on fire and ran out the front door, according to legal records.
The father, 68-year-old Joseph Michael Garcia, had third-degree burns and was flown by helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital before being transferred to a burns center.
He died on June 21 and his son is now facing murder charges.
Charlie fled the home but was later captured and taken to the Santa Barbara County Animal Service.
His burns were limited to his right shoulder and an area toward his ribs. His also had a singed ear and fur.
“It was painful for him,” she added.
When Charlie joined the Curtis family, she continued to care for him, applying cream and antibiotic spray to the burns and dressing the dog in a shirt for extra protection on outdoor trips.
Nearly two months later, his burns have mostly healed, she said.
Charlie loves people and other dogs and enjoys car rides, Curtis said. He likes to play with his stuffed animals, tossing them around while of course talking to his toys.
“There’s a bad aspect to this story, but the great thing is that he’s a happy dog and loves people and other dogs and just talks to you,” she said.
Anyone interested in adopting Charlie can email Curtis at [email protected]
Meanwhile, the son’s lawyer has expressed doubts about his client’s mental abilities and a judge has ordered a review by two medical experts.
However, Garcia refused to meet with a third doctor.
He also tried to fire his attorney, but the judge denied the attempt, along with another request to represent himself in the case.
Garcia remained in custody at Northern Branch Jail without bail Monday night.
He faces charges of murder and one special count of torture, which means if convicted he could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
His case returns to Lompoc High Court on Wednesday.
A celebration of life for Joseph Michael Garcia will be held on August 13 at 1:30 p.m. at 211 American Legion Post, 636 North H St., Lompoc.
Funeral arrangements are handled by Starbuck-Lind Mortuary.