Lady Gaga's dog walker, Ryan Fischer, is asking for help during his cross-country road trip of recovery.
The aspiring artist, who was shot in the chest during the high-profile dognapping in February, created a GoFundMe to purchase a new van. He's just two months into his six-month journey — "exploring this country while seeking out communities that support the process of growing from trauma" — and his ride, a 1991 Ford Falcon named Trudy, has gone to the great junkyard in the sky.
Fischer shared that for the last two months, it's been just him, Trudy, "three stuffed animals that resemble dogs I care for very much" (aka Gaga's French Bulldogs Asia, Koji and Gustav) and his travel gear as he "teetered along" across the U.S. However, now the van has died and he is otherwise homeless and broke. (Below, see Fischer with "Trudy," the van he had been using to travel cross-country to heal from his trauma.)
"At times I was scared. I was lonely," he wrote of the journey so far. "I felt abandoned and unsupported. I had long bouts of depression and doubt and self-pity. But those backroads that took me to desert campsites and Walmart parking lots and rest stops and friends and family to New York and back began to help me see why I had chosen to leave the security of the Hollywood Hills where I fought for my life and mobility."
He's spent the time so far "reclaiming my body." However, ahead is his journey to strengthen his "emotional and mental health," including going to "retreat centers, trauma programs, queer healers, creatives and spiritual leaders." And that is what he needs the funds to do.
With the van kaput, no apartment "and having run out of savings and surviving on donations from generous loved ones, I am humbly asking for your help" for funding a new ride and other travel expenses. "This is not an easy thing to ask, but I have started to realize sharing your vulnerability with others is exactly when radical change begins to occur for everyone involved."
The fundraiser has a goal of $40,000 and has collected almost $5,000 in the first 24 hours.
A video Fischer made to accompany the fundraiser startlingly begins and ends with the sound of a gunshot.
But that is his story. While trying to protect the star's dogs from three assailants on a Hollywood-area sidewalk, he was shot in the chest in February. Two of the dogs were stolen (though later returned) and Fischer, who later detailed his "very close call with death," was hospitalized in the ICU.
He was well enough to be released weeks later but was hospitalized again for a collapsed lung. He had surgery to remove part of the lung.
Fischer has said the emotional part of his trauma recovery has been even more difficult than the physical one. He relives that night in his head, but also each time he's asked about it.
"Along with the media attention and trauma recovery, I am — for the first time in a very long time — without purpose, which has been the hardest part of this chapter," he wrote as he embarked on his road trip. "Because I’m not yet in the proper headspace to care for dogs (whenever I perceive a dog is in danger I go on high alert and then break down and cry after), my purpose for the last 10 years has suddenly vanished. So what do I do now during this necessary limbo? Do I sit and do nothing, or do I choose to cultivate another aspect of self that gives purpose?"
Five arrests were made related to the dognapping. James Jackson, 18, Jaylin White, 19, and Lafayette Whaley, 27, of Los Angeles were charged with one count each of attempted murder, second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Jackson — the alleged gunman — was also charged with one count each of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and felon carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, while White is also facing one count of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.
Two others — White's father, Harold White, and his girlfriend, Jennifer McBride, were arrested as well. The senior White was charged with one count each of being an accessory after the fact and possession of a firearm with an enumerated prior conviction involving a firearm. McBride, who returned the dogs in hopes of the $500,000 reward money, was charged with one count each of being an accessory after the fact and receiving stolen property.
Gaga was away in Italy making Ridley Scott's House of Gucci when the crime occurred. When offering the reward for the safe return of the dogs, she expressed her love and appreciation for Fischer.
"I continue to love you Ryan Fischer, you risked your life to fight for our family. You’re forever a hero," she wrote at the time.
The singer-actress hasn't spoken publicly about the crime since the dogs were returned. Her mom, Cynthia Germanotta, said in March, "I mean, under the circumstances, everybody's doing as well as they can and on the path toward healing."