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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.

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Animals
This Is the Age When Puppies Reach 'Peak Cuteness'
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All puppies are cute, but at some point in a young dog's life, it goes from "It's so cute I could squeeze it to death" to merely regular cute. But when? According to one recent study in the journal Anthrozoös, peak cuteness hits between 6 and 8 weeks old for many dogs, The Washington Post reports.

Finding out when puppies reach their peak attractiveness to humans may give us insights into how domestic dogs evolved. Researchers from the University of Florida asked 51 students at the school to look at 39 black-and-white images of dogs, who belonged to three different breeds and whose ages ranged from birth to 8 months. The viewers then rated them on a sliding scale of squishability.

The results will sound familiar to dog lovers. Puppies aren't entirely adorable immediately after they're born—they can look a little rat-like—and the participants rated them accordingly. As dogs get older, as much as we might love them, their squee-worthy cuteness declines, as the attractiveness scores reflected. The sweet spot, it turns out, is right around when puppies are being weaned, or between 6 and 8 weeks old.

The participants tended to rate dogs as most attractive when the pups were within the first 10 weeks of their lives. According to the results, Cane Corsos were at their cutest around 6.3 weeks old, Jack Russell terriers at 7.7 weeks old, and white shepherds at 8.3 weeks.

The study only used still photos of a few breeds, and it's possible that with a more diverse sample, the time of peak cuteness might vary a bit. Certain puppies might be cuter at an older age, and certain puppies might be cuter when they're even younger. But weaning age happens to coincide with the time when puppies are no longer getting as much support from their mothers, and are thus at a high risk of mortality. By evolving to attract human support at a time when they're most vulnerable, puppies might have boosted their chance at survival until they were old enough to completely take care of themselves.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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7 Cases of Mistaken Dog Identity
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For decades, an enduring urban and internet legend has provided a cautionary tale for people seeking to adopt a pet. While details vary according to the storyteller, it goes something like this: A woman on vacation takes pity on a stray, hairless dog she finds in dire shape. Bringing him home, he doesn’t seem to respond to generous helpings of food and verbal assurance that he's a good boy. Instead, he’s rather aggressive. Taking him to the vet, she realizes she didn’t pick up a dog at all but a massive, sewer-dwelling rat.

While a delightful story, it's probably not true. These cases are. Take a look at seven people who experienced some alarming examples of animals they thought were dogs, and dogs they thought were other animals.

1. THE FOX IS NOT A HOUND

A screen capture of a fox that resembles a dog
Rachel White, YouTube

As contemporary pet breeding produces new strains of Franken-pups, it’s likely people will continue to be confused by animals that resemble exotic breeds. Case in point: In May 2018, a woman purchased what she thought was a Japanese Spitz puppy from a pet shop in China. With its long, pointed snout and fluffy coat, the dog at first appeared to be an adorable addition to the household. Within three months, however, it stopped eating dog food and began to sprout a long tail. Strangely, it also never barked. Its owner thought it might just be quiet and finicky, but a local zoo confirmed she had actually purchased a fox, which the Japanese Spitz is said to resemble. The animal’s new forever home is behind fencing at the zoo’s fox habitat.

2. CHARLIE THE LABRA-LION

Hysteria briefly gripped citizens of Norfolk, Virginia in 2013, when a rash of calls to 911 reported a lion loose within the city limits. One caller described it as a “baby lion,” while another believed it to be the size of a Labrador retriever. Close. The “lion” was a Labradoodle named Charlie, who got regular grooming visits that gave him a mane and improved his regal stature. His owner shaved him to resemble a sports mascot at Old Dominion University.

3. THE COYOTE AND THE SAMARITAN

When an unnamed resident of Bartlett, Illinois drove past a cowering animal on a busy stretch of roadway in May 2018, the person stopped and swept up what was believed to be a lost dog. Driving to the local police department, the resident dropped the alleged puppy off, only to discover that the rescue had been in the service of a coyote. The baby was taken to Willowbrook Wildlife for safekeeping.

4. A BEAR TO DEAL WITH

Despite the propaganda pushed by cartoons, bears are generally difficult to live with and might devour younger members of the household without warning. No one would likely live with one on purpose. By accident? That’s another story. In 2016, a family in the Yunnan province of China adopted what they believed was a Tibetan Mastiff puppy, a stout and noble breed. To their slowly-dawning surprise, it turned out it wasn’t a dog at all but an Asiatic black bear cub that skyrocketed to over 250 pounds in a matter of months. He also had a tendency to stand on his hind legs, a trait domesticated canines still lack. The family reached out to authorities and the bear—which is a protected species in China—was relocated to a sanctuary.

5. THE CAT MISTAKEN FOR A DOG

A screen capture of a cat with hypertrichosis
Moony strangecat, YouTube

Your standard orange tabby cats don’t have this problem, but certain feline breeds can wind up experiencing a real identity crisis. Snookie, a three-year-old Persian in Canada, has hypertrichosis, a condition sometimes referred to as “werewolf syndrome” because it causes excessive growth of hair, nails, and whiskers. As a result of her fluffed-up and rotund face, Snookie is often confused for a Shih Tzu puppy.

6. ACCIDENTALLY ADOPTING A WOLF

A wolf cub sits next to its mother
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It could happen to anyone. In 2016, a man in Arizona responded to an ad giving away a free “puppy” and took it home. The animal’s owner was sufficiently charmed by his new pet’s adorable face that he didn’t notice the pup, which he named Neo, avoided eye contact and didn’t seem to have much use for dog treats. When the man built a fence to prevent Neo from cavorting with the neighborhood dogs, the animal dug under it. When a neighbor took Neo to the local Humane Society for trespassing, officials discovered it was a wolf—an illegal animal to own without proper permits. Properly identified, Neo was relocated to a sanctuary named Wolf Connection.

7. THE RACCOON-DOG HYBRID

A tanuki dog resembles a raccoon
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The exotic animal trade in the UK has been trafficking tanukis, or raccoon dogs, for some time now. True to their name, the wild dogs resemble raccoons but are related to wolves and foxes. Unsuspecting owners purchase them for novelty’s sake, not realizing that they’re prone to wiping out frog populations and carrying hookworm and fatal fox tapeworms. Since they're nocturnal, they’ll also keep households up at night. Raccoon dogs are easily confused with actual raccoons and at least one distressed owner was afraid his pet would be harmed due to the likeness when his pet, Kekei, escaped in 2015. In the U.S., the only tanukis in residence are located in an Atlanta zoo. If you see a raccoon this large, run.

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