Getting Blaze back up to speed: Vail ‘dog celebrity’ receives $2.3K in donations for ACL surgery
The 10-year old, 100-pound German shepherd has been a regular in shops around the Vail Village for years
Daniel Levine has lived in the Vail area for over 11 years. And while he has been an employee at many local organizations and businesses over the years — working everywhere from the Four Seasons and the town of Vail to working at golf courses and as a ski instructor at both Vail and Copper — he is better known as the companion of his 10-year old, 100-pound German Shepherd, Blaze.
“He’s my whole identity,” Levine said. “He’s just a magical, mystical creature.”
Which is why, when Blaze tore his ACL quickly and unexpectedly on May 5 while playing fetch, Levine decided — at the encouragement of some friends — to start a GoFundMe page to raise money for the cost of his surgery.
“He never lets me pick him up but for the first time, he let me place him over my shoulders and carry him home,” said. “I was hoping it might just be a sprain, however, after just returning home from the vet, [I learned] it was a full blown ACL tear.”
Levine didn’t think twice about having the surgery for Blaze. “He’s part of the family. You don’t think twice, you just look for a way to fix it,” he said.
Levine first got Blaze as an eight-week old puppy, only three weeks after moving to Middle Creek Village in Vail. From then on, the dynamic duo have had a morning routine of strolling through Vail Village, making Blaze somewhat of a “local dog celebrity,” according to Levine.
“He knows the village like the back of his paw,” Levine said. “He’ll run over to Yeti’s Grind and all the girls over there give him treats, and then we go over to Local Joe’s, over to Patagonia, they love him over at Patagonia.”
The pair has been through quite a lot over the years. Twice now, first in 2010 and recently in 2019, Blaze has been attacked by other dogs, each time resulting in surgery to reconstruct his face and repair the damages.
“I was really worried that might make him a little skittish or traumatic but he is just the most gentle dog. It was like nothing ever happened, he’s just such a trooper,” Levine said, noting that outside of the two attacks Blaze has had a “100% clean bill of health.”
And when Levine himself broke his leg, also twice — first at Loveland Ski Area in 2014 and again at Copper in 2016 — Blaze took care of him, stabilizing him while maneuvering around ice and stars on crutches, bringing him his prescriptions and giving him some much-needed TLC.
And now, Levine is ready to repay the favor as he helps rehabilitate Blaze through a recovery process that can take four to six months. Blaze had his surgery on Friday, May 14 and all went well. After staying in the hospital for a few days, he is gearing up to go home on May 17, ready for the lengthy recovery ahead.
“I’m a little nervous, not gonna lie, he’s a big boy and it’s going to be a lot of work,” Levine said. “It’s going to be an interesting six months.”
So far, Levine has raised nearly $2,300 of his goal of $3,500 to cover the cost of Blaze’s surgery. “I’ve just been so grateful for all of the contributions that everyone has given me, I’m just in shock; I wasn’t really expecting that. It’s been awesome,” he said.
To learn more about Blaze and Levine and donate to the cost of Blaze’s ACL surgery, visit gofund.me/0483f2cd.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.