6 Inspirational Animals That Overcame Abuse

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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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February 4, 2011 - 7:18am
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