After months of recovering from an attack at gunpoint that resulted in two of Lady Gaga’s prized French Bulldogs going missing, dog walker Ryan Fischer has spoken out.
On February 24, Fischer went to take the pop star’s three dogs for a walk. Miss Asia, Gustav, and Koji padded closely next to him as he walked down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The group of four had just started walking down a dimly lit residential street when they were met by a white Nissan Altima.
Two men sprang out of the car, grabbing for the dog’s leashes and yelling, “Give it up!” They began beating Fischer, and one man shot him. Miss Asia scurried under the bushes as the men sped away with Gustav and Koji.
“I was bleeding out and that was the thought that was going through my head,” he told Rolling Stone. “What’s the best way to do this so the dogs can be found?”
Within a matter of hours, the news was everywhere: Lady Gaga’s dog walker had been shot — and two of her three famous Frenchies were missing. Fischer was rushed to the hospital, suffering a gunshot wound that had passed through his clavicle and pierced his lung.
“My heart is sick and I am praying my family will be whole again with an act of kindness,” Lady Gaga, who was in Italy at the time of the attack, wrote to her Instagram followers the next day. “I will pay $500,000 for their safe return… I continue to love you, Ryan Fischer, you risked your life to fight for our family. You’re forever a hero.”
Fischer remained in the hospital for a week and even had to return a few times for complications. He was heartbroken at the events and found himself startled by even the smallest of noises after the shooting, like the crinkling of a plastic water bottle. Fischer spent his 40th birthday at the hospital with his mom.
“You love your friend and you want privacy for them,” Fischer said about Gaga. “And your ultimate job is the safety of the dogs… The Haus [of Gaga] sent so many balloons from Italy on my birthday that the ICU said it’s a fire hazard.”
By Friday of that week, Lady Gaga’s team had received an email from a woman who said she had found the two dogs tied to a pole in an alley. She brought Gustav and Koji to a Los Angeles Police Department station in Pico-Union, about seven miles from the scene of the attack. It turns out she was an associate of the men who attacked and shot Fischer.
By the end of April, the LAPD arrested five people associated with the attack. The Los Angeles district attorney charged 19-year-old Jaylin White, 18-year-old James Jackson, and 27-year-old Lafayette Whaley with robbery and attempted murder. White’s father, Harold White, 40, was charged, and his girlfriend, Jennifer McBridge, 50, was as well. She was the woman who returned the dogs to the police.
The $500,000 reward that Gaga offered was never paid out. Jackson, the accused gunman, will face life in prison if convicted.
Still today, Fischer is working on physical therapy to recover from injuries sustained in the attack, including broken ribs, a torn rotator cuff, and lung damage. He set up a GoFundMe in August to help him get back on his feet — and it was immediately set with vicious comments against Lady Gaga from people online, wondering where she was to help him.
“Everyone thought that I was setting a blame on someone, when it was all love,” Fischer said. “It’s what happens in trauma — all your loved ones, all your family, everyone: you feel alone. You don’t feel supported because this is your journey. I tried so hard. I tried to navigate that.”
Despite some comments that Lady Gaga wasn’t there for him during his time of need, Fischer doesn’t seem to think so. He’s thankful for the love and support that he did get.
“They’re my friends, and I love them and they’re absolutely there for me,” Fischer said of his employers. “I have nothing but gratitude for everything. It’s just a weird situation just because of how it’s evolved in the media. But I’m very grateful for my friendships. I received so much support, and I’m so grateful. I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for the care that I received and the support I received. Most [victims] of crime do not get that and I did, and I’m very grateful for that.”
With the GoFundMe contributions, Fischer hopes to raise $40,000 for a van or bus that he’ll outfit and use to travel across the country amid his healing journey.
As for returning to work with dogs, it’s still unclear if that will be possible.
“I’ve been tiptoeing back in it — my trainer, she has a dog and I give her tips over zoom. I tried to go on a hike with a couple of the dogs here, with a [fellow dog] walker, and I had to walk away several times to just, like, cry,” Fischer said. “Something that was so natural for me is now work. And it’s work for me to kind of get past those things, and I know I will, but right now I need to do the work internally to get back to that state.”