Ryan Fischer’s life changed forever while he was walking Lady Gaga’s dogs one February evening in Hollywood. Two masked men approached him, a struggle ensued and Fischer was shot.
“There was no question about that they wanted something from me. I just couldn’t believe that they wanted the dogs,” Fischer told “CBS Mornings” co-host Gayle King in his first television interview.
“There’s no way that I’m not going to fight for these dogs,” he added.
Fischer was left fighting for his life. During the struggle, he was thrown against a concrete corner and strangled by one of the men. Fischer grabbed a champagne bottle from his bag and started hitting him. Fischer reached for the dogs being put into the vehicle and that’s when he was shot by the other man. The bullet pierced his lung.
“The people in the ER who I’d seen that night told me that they didn’t think I was gonna survive that night,” he said.
He went into surgery, where he had the top third of his lung and a portion of the bottom removed. He’s since lost some sensation and has mobility issues in his arm and shoulder.
Lady Gaga, who was in Rome at the time of the incident, offered a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her French bulldogs Koji and Gustav.
“I’m glad she did,” Fischer said. “Putting that reward out really did get those dogs back.”
He added, “I don’t know how I would be today if they hadn’t come back or if they had died. It would be a very different story.”
Fischer said he doesn’t believe the masked men knew the dogs belonged to Lady Gaga — he thinks they were targeted because of their breed. French Bulldogs are one of the most popular breeds in the country, and their small size makes them easy to grab.
“I think that they just saw a guy with three French bulldogs,” Fischer said.
“The one thing I’ve noticed in LA, that while walking the dogs, is people would say out of the cars, like, ‘How much are those dogs worth?’ ‘Can I buy them?’ And that part was always surprising, the viewing of a dog as a commodity,” he said.
Fischer said that even though he was the victim in the attack and his attackers should be held accountable for their alleged crimes, he struggles with them becoming part of the criminal justice system.
“There was a lot of fear in his eyes,” he said of the man pointing the gun at him. “On a human level, he was — whatever he was going through — he was scared. When I was being strangled by the other guy, he seemed more set and like, ‘This is what’s happening. This is what’s happening.’ But, like, the guy who actually did end up shooting me, I felt a connection to him in that moment.”
Fischer stayed at Lady Gaga’s house for months while he recovered. His family and trauma therapists were flown to Los Angeles, he said.
“She’s been a friend for me,” he said. “I love her.”
He has since rented a small van and driven across the country to gain perspective, he said.
“I had to leave LA because it was hard,” he said, explaining that he was recognized on the streets by tour buses and people who wanted to take pictures.
“It takes months, years [to heal from trauma],” he said. “And you have to do the work. And that’s what I realized on the road too, is that I had done so much work physically, that now I needed to really devote myself to my emotional and mental well-being.”
Fischer’s next step is attending a trauma retreat.
“I feel good about my life,” he said. “I’m in a good space mentally as I’ve done the work to embrace this part of myself.”