http://thetimes-tribune.com/lifestyl...tack-1.2140530

The chance to save a furry friend outweighs the risks associated with animal rescue for Shannon Ceccoli.

The owner of Shannon Ceccoli Pet Grooming and director of Northeast PA Pet Fund and Rescue, Miss Ceccoli, 43, faced the dark side of saving animals Dec. 27, when a dog she fostered — Bandit, a brindle-coated mutt — attacked one of her pets, American bulldog Jack. A bloody backyard brawl between the dogs ensued, and the incident resulted in serious injuries to Jack and to Miss Ceccoli’s hands, the main tools of her trade.

Friends, family, clients and anyone else touched by Miss Ceccoli’s good nature came together to help. They started a GoFundMe campaign, which raised $7,300 in three days (donations are now closed), and organized a fundraiser to help the city woman with her medical bills as well as operations at the rescue.

Rescuing the Rescuer takes place Saturday, Feb. 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Twentieth Ward Social & Athletic Club, 2028 Pittston Ave. Since Miss Ceccoli normally gives to others, the outpouring of support feels “so weird” but also “so wonderful” to her.

“I don’t think what I do is a big deal,” she said of her more than 30 years of experience working with animals and connecting them with individuals and families. “I love it and don’t see it as anything other than what I do every day.”

During the dogs’ fight, Miss Ceccoli remained more steadfast than ever in her everyday mission: to protect those who cannot protect themselves. That day, the groomer left work for a rescue inspection at her home, where her six pet dogs and two foster dogs, including Bandit, were outside in her large backyard. Then, Bandit lunged at Jack.

Miss Ceccoli said Bandit, had some small prior incidents, and she was working on a different rescue placement to increase his adoption chances.

“I’ve been working with animals since I was a kid, and dogs that do what this dog did — he was just not wired right,” she said.

Bandit mercilessly bit Jack, clamping down and refusing to let go. Miss Ceccoli flew outside to protect her bulldog, throwing Bandit off Jack several times, but Bandit never let up. When Jack screamed in fear and pain, Miss Ceccoli felt an instinct to protect.

“It was terrible,” she said, becoming emotional. “He was going to kill my Jack. He was just going to keep biting him until he was dead. I thought, ‘I will kill this dog with my bare hands. No way I’m letting my Jack go.’”

After “the longest 10 minutes” of her life, Miss Ceccoli separated the dogs. After Bandit was secured, Miss Ceccoli and Jack were rushed to care. She was transported to a local hospital, then to the hand surgery center at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where her hands were sewn back together. Jack also went in for emergency surgery.

The “only rational decision” was to euthanize Bandit, Miss Ceccoli said, because if she “did not do that and placed that dog in a home, with kids or anyone, really… you can’t tell what could happen.”

Since she and her dog returned home, volunteers, friends, family and others lifted her and Jack’s spirits. Rescue volunteer and former board member Lisa Kanavy thinks the outpouring of support is a testament to Miss Ceccoli’s kindness.

“She’s very generous and helps with various animals in the community,” Mrs. Kanavy said. “She dedicates a lot and gives most of her free time to the rescue. She’s just very kind and giving.”

Miss Ceccoli said she would never want to be in the same situation, but she has no regrets about how she defended Jack and would do it again. Though the feeling in certain parts of Miss Ceccoli’s hands hasn’t returned yet, she may lose part of her index finger, and the risk of infection is still high, she does not give up hope. She plans to regroup at Northeast PA Pet Fund and Rescue and will return to work when she’s fully recovered since she can still groom while missing an index finger.

“I just can’t (stop),” she said. “I know some people might think that’s crazy, but I love animals. That’s in me, and I will never stop doing rescue.”