Laiha Slayton wasn’t afraid to risk her life for her dogs. She was moving from Washington to Ohio to start a new job as a dental assistant. Her dad, Woodraw, and her Shih Tzus, Chevy and Rusty, joined her on the road trip.
Laiha and Woodraw had never been to Yellowstone National Park, so they decided to take a brief detour to check it out. Yet, what should’ve been a beautiful memory turned into a real-life horror story. Rusty ran off without a leash and got trapped in a scalding thermal spring. Without hesitation, Slayton jumped in after him, not thinking about her own safety. Now, she’s fighting for her life.
Desperate to Save a Dog
On their trip, the family stopped in Madison Junction at Yellowstone. As Laiha reached for the dogs’ leashes, Chevy and Rusty jumped out of the car and waited patiently by her feet. Before Laiha could hook on the leashes, a leak from a nearby geyser touched Rusty, burning his foot. The puppy panicked and accidentally ran into the Maiden’s Grave Spring, which is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Woodraw grabbed Chevy and put him in the car, but then he saw his daughter jump into the thermal spring after Rusty. He raced toward her and pulled her to shore as quickly as possible. He took her and the dogs to West Yellowstone, Montana, but Laiha had to be transported to the Burn Center at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.
Woodraw was unable to be with his daughter, so he took the dogs to the vet, despite having a burn on his foot. He knows how much they mean to her, so he wanted them to survive. Chevy didn’t have any injuries, but sadly, Rusty passed away from severe burns. Laiha’s family says that Chevy is very distressed about his brother being gone.
Several Horrific Tragedies
90% of Laiha’s body is covered in burns, so doctors had to put her into a medically induced coma. They estimate that about 70% of her body is second-degree burns while 20% is third-degree burns. She has gone through many surgeries to remove dead skin and replace it with cadaver skin grafts to help new skin grow. Woodraw is also being treated for burns on his foot.
“My family is hurt. My brother passed away in September 2020 and when my mom got the call from my dad that my sister had been flown to the hospital, there are no words to describe that feeling,” Kamilla Slayton, Laiha’s sister, said. “I can’t imagine what my dad went through pulling her out of that so quick and hearing her screams when it happened.”
Since Laiha will be in a coma for at least two to three weeks, she still doesn’t know that Rusty didn’t survive. She will also have to stay in the hospital for a few months, and both her parents are staying near her in Idaho while she recovers.
Help Laiha’s Family
All the medical, vet, and travel bills added up to a lot more than the family can afford. So, Kamilla created a GoFundMe page for people to donate to. They reached their goal of $45,000 but have since raised it to $200,000 after realizing how long Laiha will need medical care, including therapy after her hospital stay.
“I’ve learned to live every day like tomorrow is your last,” said Kamilla. “My sister is always so selfless and always puts others before herself. She loved taking care of people and that’s how she showed her love. That girl is so strong and has been through so much.”
Many people have pointed out that Yellowstone has lots of warnings reminding people to control their dogs and stay away from thermal springs, but Kamilla reminds everyone that those things don’t matter now. The past can’t be changed, and the Slayton family knows to be more cautious in the future. No one is perfect, and mistakes happen. So, we need to focus on wishing Laiha a speedy recovery instead of passing judgment.
To see updates on Laiha and her family, check out Kamilla’s Instagram page.
Update: Laiha Slayton has undergone several surgeries and was woken from her coma only a few weeks after being hospitalized. She continues to make progress and is thankful for all the support she has received from those who love her.