9 amazing before and after photos of rescued dogs

For many of us, it's not an uncommon sight: a scrawny and sickly dog wandering alone down the road, obviously lost or abandoned. With the exception of the Netherlands, stray and abandoned dogs are a major problem in most countries around the world. While the Dutch have enacted laws and policies designed to encourage pet adoption, which has reduced their stray dog numbers to nearly zero, most other countries have no such policies—resulting in an exploding canine population. In America, shelters are overflowing with stray and owner-surrendered animals, and usually, the end result for these unfortunate abandoned and neglected pets is euthanasia.

For the dogs lucky enough to be adopted or rescued by a no-kill organization, they frequently make remarkable transformations once they finally start to receive loving care from their new owners. While they may have started as terrified, deathly ill, or emaciated, now these happy and healthy pups hardly resemble their old selves. Let's take a look at some of the most amazing (and heartwarming) tales of transformation when these dogs were given a new lease on life.

Ellen

When the Trio Animal Foundation in Chicago found this poor girl in a shelter, she was covered in masses of matted, urine-soaked fur. "We couldn't even figure out if the dog was a male or female… we didn't know which end was front or back." The dreadfully neglected dog was covered in gnats and flies, and so much fur was wrapped around her legs that she could not even walk—instead dragging her back legs behind her like a snail. After rescuing Ellen, the TAF team turned to veteran pet groomer Kelli, who generously offered her services to help the poor dog. For the next hour and a half, Kelli worked tirelessly to carefully remove the mounds of tangled hair. Throughout it all, Ellen patiently sat during her grooming, despite being in serious pain. "Even though we had to pull out fur that had grown two inches down her ear canal and shave matted fur away from her irritated paper-thin skin, never once did Ellen growl or show her teeth." When the grooming was finished, Kelli had removed two pounds of fur from Ellen's petite frame. Next, Ellen underwent vet care and rehabilitation to deal with her pain and teach her both how to walk and how to trust humans again. After a few months of recovery, Ellen was finally ready to find her forever home, which she did when a little boy named Linus walked through TAF's doors. When you look at Ellen's photos, it's hard to imagine that the unrecognizable creature that was rescued from the shelter would become the joyful and playful pup who went home with Linus.

Obie

After being surrendered by his elderly owners—who showered him with too many treats over life with them—Obie weighed in at a massive 77 pounds and was unable to even walk properly. As a Standard Dachshund, Obie's ideal weight should have been anywhere between 16 and 32 pounds. His new owner Nora focused on slowly reducing Obie's weight through a specialized prescription diet regime, which included a new healthy favorite snack: carrots! Despite successfully losing weight on his new diet, for quite some time, Obie was unable to actually exercise because of his weakened joints and excess skin. Thankfully, some kind organizations donated both a treadmill and a specialized garment to "hold up" his extra skin. After a 2013 surgery which removed a whopping 2.5lbs of skin, Obie has continued to lose the weight and gain strength and stamina. As of the time of this writing, the previously obese pup has lost a total of 54 pounds and now enjoys days in the park and at the beach with his human mom and canine siblings.

Cedar

Rescued by Paaws Antigua, Cedar was named after the golf course he was found near. Emaciated and hairless from the stress of his hard life, Cedar had a long road to recovery as he was slowly nursed back to health by the rescue team. Throughout it all, Cedar maintained a happy attitude, and he soon had a full belly and fluffy coat before finding his forever home, where he'll never have to live through the horrors of abuse, malnourishment, or neglect ever again.

Coffee

In another amazing transformation from Paaws Antigua, Coffee was brought into the rescue on a holiday weekend—extremely skinny, nearly hairless, and covered in scabs and skin damage from a horrible case of mange. Even though this pup had been treated horribly by the humans in his life so far, he still managed to give the rescuers a tail wag when they took him in. After only a month of proper feeding and medical care, Coffee had recovered almost completely and was ready to join his new family in a forever home.

Caitlyn

Caitlyn made national headlines when the 15-month-old pitbull mix was found by a South Carolina homeowner—the poor girl's muzzle had been wrapped tightly with duct tape, leaving her near death from the vice grip on her face. "I have a dog that's here at my house that I found and the dog's mouth is taped shut with electrical tape, tongue hanging out its mouth, bleeding, and his tongue is completely black," a 911 caller said, according to ABC affiliate WCIV. "I just don't know what to do." After being taken to the Charleston Animal Society, where she began her long journey of healing. Caitlyn had to undergo numerous medical treatments in order to save her life and her tongue, including surgery on her badly lacerated cheek, numerous laser surgeries for facial scarring, hyperbaric oxygen treatments, and surgery on a wounded salivary gland. Cold laser therapy and the oxygen treatments were able to majorly reduce the amount of tissue loss from her tongue damage. Of course, all of this veterinary care came with a hefty price tag, but countless people around the world were so moved by Caitlyn's plight that they donated over $150,000 for her care and treatment. A year later, Caitlyn is nearly 100% better and miles away from the near-death state she was found in. Following the trial of her abuser, she finally was able to join a forever home along with her foster siblings.

Shirley Temple

When Shirley, her mother and her littermates were brought into the Philadelphia SPCA, the entire family was in very bad condition. They had been surrendered by their owners because the dogs were "pink." In reality, all of the dogs had mange, with Shirley's case being the worst of the bunch. In addition to the debilitating skin condition, Shirley suffered from cracked and bleeding paws which made it difficult for her to walk. After tender care and treatment from the SPCA, Shirley and her family made a full recovery from their rough start in life. A year later, Shirley was celebrating her "birthday" with her forever family, enjoying doggie cake and ice cream. Her family reports that she's energetic and happy, and loves wearing them out with frequent walks and trips to the park.

Suzie

In another success story from the Philadelphia SPCA, Suzie was found with a chain collar deeply embedded into her neck—it had probably never been removed in the three years she lived chained up outside. Humane law enforcement officers seized Suzie from her owners, and brought her into the SPCA for immediate treatment. The rescue performed emergency surgery to remove the embedded chain, which they said was the worst case they had ever seen. Suzie's skin and muscle had actually begun to regrow back over it, making the procedure particularly tricky. Suzie made it through surgery successfully, and after a speedy recovery lasting only a month, she was able to find a happy new home with her forever family, while her previous owner was convicted on animal cruelty charges.

Phoenix

When an emaciated Boston Terrier named Oreo was put on the euthanasia list at NY Animal Care & Control facility in Manhattan, New York, it was unlikely that he would make it out of the shelter alive. Luckily, the Short Noses Only Rescue Team (SNORT) spotted him and quickly pulled him from the shelter, placing him with volunteer foster Angel. Oreo had lost most of his fur, was severely malnourished, had a swollen and infected eye, and was not even able to hold his bowels properly. As Angel describes it, "We've all seen photos of animal neglect, but to see it in person – to touch it – to smell it – the feeling of his pain in my heart was almost unbearable. He was truly at death's door." After a visit to the vet, it was discovered that Oreo also suffered from diabetes and would require daily insulin shots for the rest of his life. Undaunted by his laundry list of medical issues, Angel dedicated all her time to ensuring his recovery was successful. She renamed him Phoenix—Phee for short—after the mythical bird which rises from the ashes after its death. Following numerous complications and further medical issues, Phee was ready for a forever home. After neither couple who had applied to adopt Phee worked out, Angel knew that it was meant to be and decided to make Phee a permanent member of her family.

Madmartigan

In August 2016, Madmartigan was found tied up and abandoned on the side of the road. She was severely underweight, her skin was hardened and burned from laying on hot pavement, and she had several broken teeth from chewing on rocks in her desperation for nutrition. A happy twist of fate would quickly give her a safe and loving home to recover in when she was adopted by Jen Smith and her husband Kevin—yes, that Kevin Smith—director of cult classic comedies Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma, and many more. The Smiths quickly fell in love with "Marty", and set about fattening her up and helping her recover from her tough past. As Smith put it, "So many souls fall between the cracks in this world. But not this one. Not today." True to their word, Kevin and Jen have worked hard to give Marty the best home possible, and her recovery speaks volumes about their efforts. Just one month later, Marty has gained 15 lbs, and according to Smith, "She worships my wife Jen and loves cheese – kinda like me."