Strength Fanned by Flames PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sara Celi   
Monday, 20 June 2011 08:04

Strength Fanned by Flames
In February, a house fire took the founder of Recycled Doggies' Norwood home and 11 dogs she was fostering. See how this devastating event is now her source of strength to move forward.
Shannon Debra holds onto her dog Zoey on March 1, at the MedVet animal hospital after being treated for burns she suffered in an overnight fire in Norwood.

It might sound cliché to call February 28 the worst day of Shannon DeBra's life, but that's truly what it was. It's a day she never expected to experience, and one she never wants to repeat.


She came home to her Norwood house on fire. Smoke lapped the front windows; heat radiated from the front door, and she could hear the cries of her pets and beloved foster animals trapped inside. At the time, she was sheltering 16 dogs and three cats as part of Recycled Doggies, a foster program she founded in 2009. Most of the pets were in kennels inside the house, and DeBra couldn't save them. The fire stood between them and her, and 11 dogs died that day.


"I wanted to go into the house and save all of them, but the smoke was too thick," says DeBra, now four months removed from that devastating moment.


Cincy Chic caught up with her to see how she's doing. DeBra is still living in a temporary apartment and says she doesn't want to go back to living in that house. DeBra is also in the middle of sorting through the mountains of paperwork and red tape that comes with a major fire.


"All I could think about when it happened was 'how do I get everything back into place?'" she says. "I owed it to the dogs to keep on going."


Four months later, the Recycled Doggies rescue operation is back to business. You can find DeBra and other volunteers at the Milford Petsmart on weekends, taking with people about pet adoption and the dogs they have available. She's also back to planning fundraisers and other events for Recycled Doggies, which is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.


"The dogs would want me to do this because that is how they got saved," she told Cincy Chic, her voice cracking. Talking about the fire is still a difficult thing for her to do.


"When I think about what I went through, well, you have to pull your strength from somewhere," she admits. "There were days that were pretty bad. The night of the fire, that was really bad."


DeBra believes this devastating experience has made her so much stronger and more focused on her rescue work. It's made her determined to keep on saving dogs other people have abandoned and keep on with the work that has given her a chance to rescue more than 500 dogs thus far.


"It really is just amazing how you can see yourself respond," she says of her journey from victim to survivor. It's a trip she says she's making small steps toward every day.


"You just don't know what is there until you need it, but somehow you are able to pull it together," she admits. "I really don't know how I did it. I don't even know if I could repeat it."


But as she heads into this summer, DeBra says she's in a much better place than she was this winter. She optimistic now and still able to do what she feels she is meant to do in life. She's still rescuing pets, and still helping out ones that have no advocates. She's becoming a survivor, and she's doing it in the name of the animals she lost.


Photo Credit: The Enquirer/Ernest Coleman

Sara Celi -

Sara Celi is a contributor to Cincy Chic and a reporter for FOX19. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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