BLUE ASH, Ohio – The heroic dog that had people around the world praying for her recovery is off the ventilator and giving the strongest signs yet that she is going to pull through.
Firefighters said they found Carmen, a 9-year-old boxer, covering her owner's face during a house fire last Thursday. Ben Ledford, 33, was trapped in the basement and died. His funeral was Tuesday.
The fire and smoke severely damaged Carmen's lungs, but vets finally weaned her off oxygen Tuesday afternoon. She is conscious and alert and breathing through her nose, which is a very big step considering she was gasping for breath only a few days ago.
"She's doing very well. We're very happy with where her progress is at this point," said Dr. Marlo Anderson, the critical care specialist at Cincinnati Care Center.
"Initially when we take them off the ventilator, there's a chance she may need to go back on for a few hours as her body is adjusting … but so far she hasn't needed any of that."
And the fact that she is breathing through her nose is a very good sign.
"Prior to her going on the ventilator she was breathing very hard through her mouth. Dogs breathe primarily through their nose, so anytime they are breathing through their mouth you know there is a problem," Anderson said. "The fact that even though she had a lot of discharge from the burns she is still trying to breeze through her nose - that's a very good sign for her."
People from Brazil, the United Kingdom and all over the world have sent well-wishes to Carmen.
"We are so thankful for all of the huge amount of support that she's gotten. I think her story has gone worldwide at this point and I'm sure the family they are very appreciative of all the support that they are getting," Anderson said.
It has been an emotional time for the Ledford family, who were holding services for Ben and praying that his heroic dog would recover.
"There was nothing in this world that Ben loved more than Carmen and there was nothing that Carmen loved more than Ben," said Emily Leford, Ben's sister.
Emily said Ben was a huge Ohio State fan and named his dog after "Carmen Ohio," OSU's alma mater. Ben was buried in an Ohio State jersey, she said.
Emily said the outpouring of support for Carmen has given her family great comfort.
She said her brother Philip plans to take the boxer home.
For five days, Carmen has had a couple of stuffed animals - including a Brutus Buckeye - and a team of dedicated veterinarians looking over her.
"This is a very special case," said Dr. Daniel Carey. "Even for the cases that we see, I think Carmen struck a real chord with everyone."
"Every staff person who passes by on their way to doing some other task stops and murmurs to her and pets her," he said. "She's getting lots and lots of hands on from us, from her family. They're spending lots of time here each day with Carmen."
The public has been reaching out, too, he said.
"Probably over the weekend we had almost a dozen people calling to see if they could contribute, help the family in any way, financially, supportively."
Ben was staying in the basement of a friend and business partner, Jeremiah Woster, when the house caught fire. The Woster family was able to escape.
Ben and Jeremiah started Grassroots Tree Removal Inc., last March, Emily said.
Emily's family is asking for donations for the Woster family here so they can recover.