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Editor's note: This story contains graphic images and details.
Emerald the puppy was found loose on the streets of Philadelphia with deep and severe wounds on her snout and head. Something had been tied so tightly around her muzzle, for so long, that it cut through her skin to the bone.
Despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Emerald herself still loves people.
She is "still wagging, trying to kiss everybody," Beth Hucke, a founder of the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit Outcast Rescue and Emerald's foster mom, told TODAY. "She's so happy. It's crazy to think that there's somebody out there who did this to her."
Early in the morning on Feb. 23, animal control officers got a call about a badly hurt puppy who'd been out on the streets. The people who found the dog tied her to a fence so authorities could be sure to find her.
It was too dark to see how severe Emerald's injuries were until she got to the city's shelter. There, it became clear that Emerald had been subjected to heinous abuse.
"It looked like someone had tied her muzzle shut very tightly with either cord, wire or something thin because there was a large infected wound around her muzzle where she had been tied," said Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia spokesperson Morgan Polley. "Her muzzle was completely swollen up. It's amazing how sweet, friendly and happy she still managed to be despite what she had gone through."
Shelter staff quickly got Emerald on antibiotics and pain medication. But she needed extensive medical treatment beyond what ACCT could provide.
The shelter put out an urgent plea for a private animal rescue group to assume her care. Outcast Rescue immediately stepped in as they've done for a couple hundred dogs since the group was founded in 2016.
"We took one look at her," said Hucke, who is 45 and lives in Clinton, New Jersey. "They pull at our heartstrings."
Emerald's injuries were even more extensive than Hucke had expected. The 9-month-old puppy has already had three surgeries to try to repair what was done to her, and she has more procedures coming. She will need laser treatments for the scarring on her muzzle, and a spay surgery once she's well enough. (The group is raising money to help pay for Emerald's veterinary care.)
Emerald also has old scars on her body; Hucke doesn't like to speculate about what may have caused them.
"Her story is horrific enough," she said.
Investigators with the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are trying to find the person who abused Emerald.
The agency has not yet "established a suspect," said spokesperson Gillian Kocher. "We need those people to do the right thing and come forward. Even just an anonymous call to our hotline pointing us in the direction of an owner or abuser."
The cruelty hotline number is 866-601-7722.
"Somebody out there knows," said Hucke.
In a month or so, once she's been spayed, the plan is for Emerald to go up for adoption. Those interested can follow her story on the Outcast Rescue Facebook page.
Hucke likes to imagine her with an active and loving family, preferably one with other dogs for Emerald to play with. She marvels at all the puppy has been through that hurt her body but not her spirit. Emerald adores her foster mom's other dogs, and lives to cuddle up with Hucke in bed.
"She's happy," Hucke said. "All she wants to do is kiss."