This Homeless Man Ran Into A Burning Shelter With A Single Mission: Save Every Animal

On December 18, 2020, Keith Walker did one of the most selfless things imaginable. When a building was on fire, he didn’t run away from it. Instead, Keith ran directly toward the flames.

After a kitchen fire started at the W-Underdogs Shelter in Atlanta, Georgia, Keith didn’t hesitate. He ran into the building with hopes of saving as many animals as he could. What he wound up doing makes him nothing short of a hero.

Keith Walker Is A Homeless Man From Atlanta, Georgia

Keith Walker is a 53-year-old man from Atlanta, Georgia. The thing is, Keith is homeless. But that didn’t stop him from doing the right thing when he witnessed W-Underdogs Shelter go up in flames.

Instead of running away from the burning building, Keith did something most people would be too afraid to even contemplate. He ran directly toward the building, wanting to make sure all of the animals were able to get out safely.

Homeless Since He Was 13

Celebrity dog trainer, founder of Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, and advisory board member of the shelter, Victoria Stilwell gave news sources a bit of insight into Keith’s life. According to Stilwell, Keith’s been homeless pretty much his entire life.

Starting life on the streets at the young age of 13, Keith is now 53. But he’s never let his situation steer him away from doing the right thing or loving his pet dog with all of his heart.

The Shelter Houses Keith’s Dog Each Night

Victoria and the rest of the staff at W-Underdogs Shelter are no strangers to Keith. In fact, they’ve allowed him to keep Bravo, his loving pitbull, at the shelter each night. According to Stilwell, “He faces the many challenges of homelessness, but he loves his dog.”

“Bravo is a large, male pitbull with a load of energy and a friendly personality. He is very strong but very loving. He is much loved.”

Keith Was On His Way To Walk Bravo

In fact, Keith was on his way to the shelter when the fire started. All he wanted to do was take Bravo for a nice walk, and when he got to the shelter, he saw smoke. During an interview with CNN, Keith spoke of his initial reaction to the scary scene.

He said, “I was nervous…I’m not going to lie.” But his nerves didn’t stop him from doing the right thing.

Bravo Was Trapped With The Other Animals

Not only was Bravo in the shelter, but a lot of other cats and dogs were trapped, too. Being an animal lover, Keith wasn’t about to run into the building to save his dog, leaving the rest to wait for firefighters and animal control.

It didn’t take long for Keith to make up his mind. He wasn’t only going to save Bravo; he was going to run into that shelter and get the rest of the animals out, too.

A Bundle Of Nerves Didn’t Stop Him

According to his interview with CNN, Keith believes he was put in front of the burning shelter at that specific moment for a reason. He said, “I was really scared to go in there with all that smoke. But God put me there to save those animals.”

“If you love a dog, you can love anyone in the world. My dog is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here without him, so I knew I had to save all those other dogs.”

Even The Firefighters Didn’t Want To Handle The Scared Animals

Keith wound up saving each and every one of those animals from the flames engulfing the shelter! That was a total of ten cats and six dogs, including his best friend, Bravo. His heroic act didn’t go unnoticed, either.

W-Underdogs founder Gracie Hamlin posted on Instagram and spoke in interviews, discussing the fire and the guardian angel who was brave enough to save the shelter’s residents, even when the firefighters didn’t want to handle the scared animals.

He Pulled Out Every Cat And Every Dog

During an interview with CNN, Gracie Hamlin spoke very highly of Keith, saying, “Even the firefighters didn’t want to handle the dogs. They called animal control, but Keith was already in the building pulling out the cats and dogs until they were all safe.”

Even though he was scared of all of the smoke, Keith knew that he had to save the animals inside the burning building. And, without a second thought, he did just that.

Gracie Called Keith Her Guardian Angel

Gracie was quick to thank Keith for his heroic and brave actions that saved the animals in the shelter. She told CNN, “I can’t thank him enough for saving my animals. I’m still in disbelief because I’ve been around a fire, and I know how fast they flare-up. He is my hero.”

While Keith might be a hero to Gracie and the rest of the staff at W-Underdogs, it’s definitely the furry residents who owe Keith their lives.

The Shelter Was Uninhabitable

Thankfully, no one, human or animal, was injured in the shelter’s kitchen fire. The bad news was that the fire did leave a lot of damage to the building’s foundation, and it wasn’t safe for anyone to go back inside, let alone have the cats and dogs live there.

According to founder Gracie Hamlin, everyone was very sad to see the end of the shelter come in this way. But there was a silver lining!

W-Underdogs Was Getting Ready To Move Locations

Ironically, Gracie and the rest of the W-Underdogs staff were getting ready to make a move to a new location. The big move was only a week away, and everyone was frantically trying to get all of their ducks in a row to make their move seamless.

The last thing anyone expected was a fire to rage through the facility. While it wasn’t the way any of them wanted to say goodbye to the facility, at least they had a brand new one for all the animals.

The Shelter Is Beyond Grateful For Their Community

Gracie and the rest of the shelter staff were amazed by their community, too. Many people flocked to their aid once they heard about the fire and what Keith had done to save the animals.

During an interview with CNN, Gracie expressed gratitude to everyone, saying, “We just wanted to say THANK YOU to all our friends and volunteers for coming to our immediate aid.” The response is probably in part to the community outreach through the shelter.

W-Underdogs Is All About Giving Back

W-Underdogs Is All About Giving Back
W-Underdogs/Facebook
W-Underdogs/Facebook

W-Underdogs Shelter isn’t just a shelter; it also caters to at-risk youth. Through the shelter, kids are able to come in, learn about the animals, and even help re-home them. “We address the challenges that at-risk youth face and provide them with skills and a sense of accomplishment to overcome these challenges,” Stilwell explained during an interview with CNN.

“The relationship between the children and the animals they help rescue and rehome is very special.”

W-Undergods Continues To Shelter Bravo And Work With Keith

Not only are volunteers doing all they can to help the shelter get back on its feet in their new facility, but donations are flooding in. And it’s not just donations for the shelter, but also for Keith. After hearing about his heroic deed in saving all of the animals, people wanted nothing more than to help him and the growing homeless population in Atlanta.

W-Underdogs is also continuing to work with him and house Bravo whenever he asks.

Donations Started Pouring In

According to Stilwell, a service is handling the donations that are being made for Keith. “Donations are flooding in to help Keith, and those will be managed for him by an organization that works with the homeless. We will also continue to work with him and look after Bravo when needed.”

It looks like the staff at W-Underdogs are good friends to have! Of course, they’re all for helping the man who rescued the animals.

Keith Cares About The Animals

Of course, Keith doesn’t really care about the money. He cares about the animals he was able to save from the kitchen fire at the original shelter. Much to his delight, a lot of them have found themselves in fur-ever homes and foster care and are getting a lot of love.

While it took a horrible incident for people to come to the shelter and adopt cats and dogs, Keith and the rest of the shelter staff couldn’t be more thrilled.

The Animals Are Getting Lots Of Love

According to Stilwell, the animals are all happy and healthy in their new shelter. And a lot of them are moving on to better and more permanent homes. During an interview with CNN, she said, “They are getting a lot of attention which they love. Some have gone to foster homes and others are waiting for foster or their forever homes.”

It’s hard not to smile when thinking about how happy the animals probably are in their new homes.

Keith Was Getting A Lot Of Praise From The Public

The public wanted to be sure Keith knew what they thought about him, too. More than a few beautiful comments have been posted on W-Underdogs’ social media sites—each one praising Keith for running into the flames to rescue the cats and dogs.

One commenter, John McGuinness, said, “Fantastic man who put his life at risk for the sake of animals. You deserve a home for life in my book. Well done, my friend.”

One Lady Commented That Keith Deserves Help

Another commenter, Helen Byrnes, was right behind McGuinness, praising Keith and stating that people need to be more willing to help him. In her comment, Byrnes wrote, “He cared for the animals more than people cared about him.”

“Maybe now they will see he is a human with a run of bad luck. I think he deserves some help. He risked his life; all he needs is a place to sleep and some food. Maybe a job.”

Keith Was Given The Hero Award

Shortly after Keith went on his daring rescue mission to get all of the animals out of the burning shelter, a GoFundMe was set up in his name. More impressively, though, he was given an important award!

The New York State Humane Association gave Keith the “Hero Award.” On the plaque, it says, “For his courageous and fearless actions at the W-Underdogs animal shelter to save all the dogs and cats from a horrific fate as the shelter was being ravaged by fire in December 2020.”