Its hair was so matted and overgrown, the poodle had to be sedated just to be groomed. Veterinarians found live and dead cockroaches snared in the 2.5 pounds of fur they cut from the dog.
The dog's condition was so unbelievable that Tracy Lapeyrouse named him Ripley.
The 2-year-old poodle was found Oct. 19 in a ditch in LaPlace, La., with no identification. He was taken to Lapeyrouse, who runs My Heart's Desire animal shelter in Houma, La., about 60 miles from New Orleans.
"He didn't know he had ears. When his ears would touch his skin, he would shake his head," Lapeyrouse said in a telephone interview from Louisiana.
"It took a week before he could walk normally."
The dog was skinny but not malnourished, and no one could figure out how he ate because his mouth was blocked by overgrown hair. He has packed on a half pound since his rescue and now weighs 5.5 pounds.
Sores hidden beneath the fur healed once they were exposed to the air.
"Now he's a social butterfly," Lapeyrouse said. "We have to go slow, but he wags his nub of a tail and is seeking interaction with people."
Several people have filled out adoption papers. Ripley Entertainment Inc., parent of the Ripley's Believe It or Not! brand in Orlando, Fla., will offer the new owners a gift card for future grooming and other expenses. It also donated $400 to the shelter and plans to feature the former fur ball in its next book.
"His life will be very public," Tim O'Brien, Ripley's vice president of communications, told AOL News. "It will be a big deal when he's adopted. I hope his new owners understand they'll have to share him with the world."