RICHMOND, Va. -- Funeral arrangements for Tommie -- the dog found tied to a pole and set on fire Sunday in Richmond -- have been changed because of "overwhelming interest and support," Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) officials announced Sunday.
Tommie was originally going to be laid to rest during a public ceremony at the Pet Memorial Park Cemetery in Henrico on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m., but officials said they opted to change the format so the experience could be more "personal."
"Instead of one memorial service, we plan to host five open houses this week at RACC to celebrate Tommie’s life and to give everyone the opportunity to visit us and see firsthand how your support impacts the work we do on a daily basis," RACC officials posted on Facebook Sunday morning.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 19, through Friday, Feb. 22, 2 – 7 p.m. | Saturday, Feb. 23, noon – 5 p.m.
Where: Richmond Animal Care and Control | 1600 Chamberlayne Avenue | Richmond VA 23222
As of 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, more than 970 people indicated they planned to attend and another 5700 indicated an interest in attending the previously planned memorial service.
For folks who would like to pay their respects at the pup's gravesite, officials said those details would be shared soon.
Additionally, shelter officials have created a closed Team Tommie Facebook group for folks who want to share their "feelings and grief in a safe and supportive environment."
RACC shelter officials thanked the public for their support through the difficult time.
"Tommie’s story has touched so many of us in a profound way – we want to embrace that love and share it," officials wrote.
Click here if you would like to make a donation to RACC.
Shelter Director: 'Save a life in Tommie’s honor'
RACC Director Christie Chipps Peters shared the sad news of Tommie's passing early Friday morning.
“It took me an hour-and-a-half to pull it together enough to say the words I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it,” Peters said.
Peters said the pup stopped breathing and that his body “just gave out” five days of fighting to recover from being tied to a fence, doused in accelerant and then set on fire in Abner Clay Park.
While 40-percent of his body was burned, officials were cautiously optimistic when Tommie stood up and began to walk Thursday afternoon.
"We were all sort of collectively thinking we might win," Peters said. “And so, it's even harder... at a time when we thought we might get there."
Peters said she going to remember Tommie not for the horrific act that brought him to the shelter, but for the kindness that his story prompted.
In the days since Tommie was found injured, thousands of people in Central Virginia and around the country followed his progress through social media updates provided by RACC.
"You know, animal control is hard. It's hard work and it's been an incredible feeling of love from the community,” Peters said.
Peters said that even though Tommie had passed people can still help the shelter with Team Tommie shirts.
However, she added that there is another crucial way to help another shelter animal find a forever home.
“We have tons available and every shelter across the country is full, so go adopt” Peters urged. “Save a life in Tommie’s honor.”
Reward tops $25,000
Additionally, the reward for information leading to an arrest in Tommie's case has grown to $25,000.
"We remain steadfast in our dedication to find the person now responsible for Tommie’s death," officials posted on Facebook.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Richmond Police, call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000 or submit a tip online at http://www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smart phones may also be used. All three Crime Stoppers methods of contact are anonymous.