6 Inspirational Animals That Overcame Abuse

Last month, we brought you the stories of eight disabled animals who overcame the challenges they faced. Today let's take a look at another group of special needs animals –- previously abused pets. These six animals learned to trust and love humans even after they were attacked by cruel-hearted men and women.

1. Wheely Willy

When Willy was only a puppy, he was the victim of severe animal abuse. He was discovered in a cardboard box with a sliced throat and severe spinal injuries. His injuries were treated at the shelter, but his spine was too damaged to be repaired, so he was left a parapalegic. It took a whole year for Willy to get adopted, but when groomer Deborah Turner heard about the poor puppy and learned that the shelter would have him euthanized if no one took him home soon, she stepped in and made him a part of her family.

When she first brought him home, she had to carry him everywhere, but Deborah was convinced that she could find a way for Willy to walk around. She tried tying balloons to him and putting him on a skateboard, but when she saw an ad for a wheelchair made for dogs, she knew she had the right answers. Willy immediately thrived in his new chair and as he started to attract attention from those who saw him, he eventually was featured on Animal Planet and became the star of two children’s books, How Willy Got His Wheels and How Willy Got His Wings. Willy and Deborah worked together to spread disability awareness and made many appearances at hospitals to bring cheer and inspiration to patients and staff members.

Although Willie died in 2009, his books were best-sellers and his memory and message of disability acceptance will live on for years to come.

Image courtesy of Deborah Turner.

2. Oscar

Despite having a boy’s name, Oscar is most certainly a girl. Even if she isn’t the most beautiful cockatoo in the world, she’s got a great personality to make up for it. Oscar was found in a crack house during a drug raid. When she was brought in to the Broward County Humane Society, she was diagnosed with beak and feather disease and vets estimated that she would only live another six months. That was fourteen years ago.

Since that time, Oscar has served as the unofficial mascot of the shelter, showing that the society will do whatever it can to help animals, no matter what their condition. Her condition is uncomfortable, which causes her to rip out her feathers as soon as they grow –ensuring she is permanently bald, with an exception of a small crown on her head. Because the disease is contagious, she can’t be put in contact with other birds, so she stays in the front room of the shelter, where she greets visitors as they enter. Oscar doesn’t let her condition get her down, shelter workers say she is always talkative, happy and quite funny.

3. Susie

Little Susie was discovered in North Carolina with broken bones and burns over 60% of her body. Animal lovers across the nation came together to support the pup and the shelter was flooded with hundreds of applications by people who wanted to give her a new home. Eventually, Donna Laurence was selected to be the Susie’s new owner because the two had something in common. While Susie was victimized by a human, Donna was attacked by a pitbull the year before. Both had to overcome their traumas and learn to love again and the shelter employees saw the pair as a perfect duo. Nowadays, Susie frequently goes to her hair salon, where she brings joy to all of Donna’s customers while becoming socialized to people of all ages.

Donna isn’t content to let Susie cheer her and her customers though, she’s decided to work with the shelter to use Susie as an advocate for animal cruelty prevention and as a therapy dog.

4. Champ

Like Susie, Champ was an abused puppy given a second chance at life. Champ was discovered with acid burns across his entire body. It was so bad that his rescuer couldn’t even tell he was a dog at first. The animal control center called a local rescue organization, Save The Animal Rescue Team, headed by Mike Martin. START is known for helping the most desperate dogs given to animal control and Mike and his wife quickly set about treating the beagle’s wounds and working to get him to trust humans again.

Eventually, Champ made a full physical and emotional recovery and Mike and his wife decided to adopt him as a full-time pet. His inspirational story was soon featured in the The Martha Stewart Show and he was featured in a short story, “The Heart of a Champ,” that was later published in the book The Ultimate Dog Lovers. Since then, Mike has been trained as a therapy dog and makes frequent appearances to hospitals, as well as school visits to teach children about animal abuse.

5. Michael Vick’s Dogs

Most dogs seized from fighting rings are too badly traumatized to recover. They are too aggressive towards humans and other pets to ever make trustworthy pets. When 51 dogs were taken from Michael Vick’s notoriously grizzly operation, prospects looked bleak for the pups. Originally, experts were hopeful that even four or five dogs would make a full recovery. Amazingly, Vick’s dogs triumphed against this grim prospect and a shocking 47 were able to be rehabilitated and many have found permanent homes. Against all odds, many of the dogs have moved on to inspire others. One dog, Johnny is now a therapy dog that helps kids conquer their shyness. Despite their success, many of the animals still face serious challenges on a regular basis as they try to overcome the fear from their earlier lives.

The animals’ amazing tales of redemption were chronicled in the best-selling book, The Lost Dogs.

6. Ellie

Not all abused animals have been physically assaulted. Ellie was kept in a small cage in near darkness until she was rescued by the RSPCA. Her muscles were underdeveloped and she had cataracts in each eye despite the fact that she was only a puppy. The rescue organization is working to save up money to get cataract removal surgery, but in the meantime, she’s in the dark. Fortunately, Ellie has managed to work through her inability to see thanks to her best friend Leo, who works as her seeing eye dog. Leo guards Ellie and helps lead her through their surroundings. "I take them for walks in the park and Leo guides Ellie around. He is so protective and herds the more boisterous dogs away from her," a volunteer at the organization says.

Abused animals sometimes have behavioral issues, but with a little compassion and patience, most can be rehabilitated and become great pets. I’m sure many of you Flossers have stories about loving pets that were once victims of abuse. Let’s hear them in the comments.

Live Smarter
8 Pro Tips for Taking Incredible Pictures of Your Pets

Thanks to the internet, owning a photogenic pet is now a viable career option. Just ask Theron Humphrey, dog-dad to Maddie the coonhound and the photographer behind the Instagram account This Wild Idea. He gained online fame by traveling across the country and sharing photographs of his dog along the way. But Maddie’s impressive modeling skills aren’t the only key to his success; Humphrey has also mastered some essential photography tricks that even the most casual smartphone photographer can use to make their pet look like a social media star.


Based on her Instagram presence, you’d guess Maddie is either in the middle of a road trip or a scenic hike at any given time. That’s no accident: At a pet photography workshop hosted by Adobe, Humphrey said he often goes out of his way to get that perfect shot. “You need to keep situating yourself in circumstances to continue making great work,” he said, “even if that means burning a tank of gas and going someplace you’ve never been.”


Dog and owner on a couch.

That being said, it’s important to know your pet’s limits. Is your dog afraid of flying? Then leave him with a pet sitter when you vacation abroad. Does your cat hate the water? Resist the temptation to bring her into the kayak with you on your next camping trip, even if it would make for an adorable photo opportunity. “One thing I think is important with animals is to operate within the parameters they exist in,” Humphrey said. “Don’t go too far outside their comfort zone.”


Not every winning pet photo is the result of a hefty travel budget. You can take professional-looking pictures of your pet at home, as long as you know how to work with the space you’re in. Humphrey recommends looking at every element of the scene you’re shooting in and asking what can be changed. Don’t be shy about moving furniture, adjusting the blinds to achieve the perfect lighting, or changing into a weird outfit that will make your pup’s eyes pop.


Two dogs in outfits.

Ella and Coconut Bean.

Trying to capture glamorous photos of a moving, barking target is a hard job. It’s much easier when you have a human companion to assist you. Another set of hands can hold the camera when you want to be in the picture with your pet, or hold a toy or treat to get your dog’s attention. At the very least, they can take your pet away for a 10-minute play session when you need a break.


The advent of digital cameras, including the kind in your smartphone, was a game-changer for pet photographers. Gone are the days when you needed to be picky about your shots to conserve film. Just set your shutter to burst mode and let your camera do the work capturing every subtle blep and mlem your pet makes. Chances are you’ll have plenty of standout shots on your camera roll from which to choose. From there, your hardest job will be “culling” them, as Humphrey says. He recommends uploading them to a photo organizing app like Adobe Lightroom and reviewing your work in two rounds: The first is for flagging any photo that catches your eye, and the second is for narrowing down that pool into an even smaller group of photos you want to publish. Even then, deciding between two shots taken a fraction of a second apart can be tricky. “When photos are too similar, check the focus,” he said. “That’s often the deciding factor.”


When it comes to capturing the perfect pet photo, an expensive camera is often less important than your cat’s favorite feather toy. The most memorable images often include pets that are engaging with the camera. In order to get your pet to look where you want it to, make sure you're holding something your pet will find interesting in your free hand. If your pet perks up at anything that makes noise, find a squeaky toy. If they’re motivated by food, use their favorite treat to get their attention. Don’t forget to reward them with the treat or the toy after they sit for the photo—that way they’ll know to repeat the behavior next time.


Person with hat taking photo of dog and dog food.

According to Humphrey, your pet’s eye should be the focus of most shots you take. In some cases, you may need to do more to make your pet the focal point of the image, even if that means removing your face from the frame altogether. “If there’s a human in the photo, you want to make them anonymous,” Humphrey said. That means incorporating your hands, legs, or torso into a shot without making yourself the star.


This is the mantra Theron Humphrey repeated throughout his workshop. You can scout out the perfect location and find the perfect accessories, but when you’re shooting with animals you have no choice but to leave room for flexibility. “You have to learn to roll with the mistakes,” Humphrey said. What feels like a hyperactive dog ruining your shot in the moment might turn out to be social media gold when it ends up online.

This Just In
What Pet Owners Need to Know About the Latest Dog Food Recall

A major food brand has announced a voluntary recall that concerns anyone feeding commercial pet food to their dog. As CBS News reports, dog meal and snack varieties from four brands have been tainted with pentobarbital, a chemical used in euthanasia drugs.

The compromised brands, all owned by the food company J.M. Smucker, include Kibbles 'N Bits, Gravy Train, Ol' Roy, and Skippy. Smucker has narrowed down the pentobarbital contamination to a single ingredient from a single supplier used at one of their manufacturing plants.

The pentobarbital was found in very low amounts where present and is "unlikely to pose a health risk to pets," the FDA said in a statement (any level of pentobarbital found in pet food, no matter how small, is enough to get a product pulled from shelves). Though the FDA notes that the risk to pets is low, it does warn of a few symptoms to look out for, including "drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner) and inability to stand." The agency says that pet owners who think their animal may be sick from eating the tainted food should head to the vet.

After making sure your dog is well, toss any of the recalled pet food you still have at home so it doesn't end up in a dog bowl by mistake. Here's the full list of products to look out for.

  • Gravy Train with T-Bone Flavor Chunks, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910052541
  • Gravy Train with Beef Strips, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 791052542
  • Gravy Train with Lamb & Rice Chunks, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910052543
  • Gravy Train with Chicken Chunks, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910034418
  • Gravy Train with Beef Chunks, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910034417
  • Gravy Train with Chicken Chunks, 22-ounce can, UPC 7910051645
  • Gravy Train with Beef Chunks, 22-ounce can, UPC 7910051647
  • Gravy Train Chunks in Gravy with Beef Chunks, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910034417
  • Kibbles ‘N Bits 12-can Variety Pack – Chef’s Choice American Grill Burger Dinner with Real Bacon & Cheese Bits in
  • Gravy, Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Turkey Bacon & Vegetables in Gravy, 12 pack of 13.2-ounce cans, UPC 7910010377, 7910010378
  • Kibbles ‘N Bits 12-Can Variety Pack – Chef’s Choice Bistro Hearty Cuts with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy, Chef’s Choice Homestyle Meatballs & Pasta Dinner with Real Beef in Tomato Sauce, 12 pack of 13.2-ounce cans, UPC 7910010382, 7910048367, 7910010378
  • Kibbles ‘N Bits 12-Can Variety Pack – Chef’s Choice Homestyle Tender Slices with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy, Chef’s Choice American Grill Burger Dinner with Real Bacon & Cheese Bits in Gravy, Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Beef & Vegetables in Gravy, 12 pack of 13.2-ounce cans, UPC 7910010380, 7910010377, 7910010375
  • Kibbles ‘N Bits Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Beef & Vegetables in Gravy, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910010375
  • Kibbles ‘N Bits Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Turkey, Bacon & Vegetables in Gravy, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910010378
  • Kibbles ‘N Bits Chef’s Choice Homestyle Tender Slices with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910010380
  • Ol’ Roy Strips Turkey Bacon, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 8113117570
  • Skippy Premium Chunks in Gravy Chunky Stew, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 79100502469
  • Skippy Premium Chunks in Gravy with Beef, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910050250
  • Skippy Premium Strips in Gravy with Beef, 13.2-ounce can, UPC 7910050245

[h/t CBS News]


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