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Blind dog once used as target practice now brings comfort to others as therapy dog

Instagram star "Maggie the Wunderdog" loves people and spreads cheer as a therapy dog in the U.K.
Kasey Carlin
/ Source: TODAY

Editor's note: This article contains details that some readers may find disturbing.

Nearly three years ago when British dog behaviorist Kasey Carlin arrived at Heathrow Airport to meet a rescue dog flown in from Lebanon, she thought the airport staff brought her the wrong dog. She knew the mixed-breed dog had been horribly abused and expected to see signs of trauma.

“There’s this little blond dog kicking her feet up high,” Carlin, 27, told TODAY. “The first thing she does when she meets anybody is she runs into them and rubs her body on them like a cat does. My brain couldn’t even process it. She’s just so friendly.”

Maggie loves people despite surviving horrendous abuse.Kasey Carlin

It’s a remarkable personality trait considering all Maggie endured before her rescue.

“They used a BB gun and used her as target practice. They had tied her up and shot her. She has about 200 pellets from her nose to her chest and some in her shoulders, but they’re all concentrated in her face,” Carlin said. “Then they pulled her eyes out. She had a broken jaw. They started cutting off her ears before somebody intervened. And she was heavily pregnant at the time.” (The puppies Maggie was carrying did not survive.)

Carlin heard about Maggie, who was about 5 years old at the time and called "Angie," through a Facebook post. Though she’s an active fosterer, she didn’t think she could take in another animal because she’d just adopted a dog with behavioral issues.

This is the first photo Kasey Carlin saw of Maggie, who at the time was called "Angie," when an online call went out for fosterers in the U.K.Courtesy of Kasey Carlin

But Maggie’s situation proved increasingly desperate.

“Nobody wanted her,” she said. “She had six days before she was due to fly and nowhere to go, and they were going to have to delay the flight or she was going to have to go in kennels, but I couldn’t let a poor little blind dog go in kennels.”

The plan was never to adopt Maggie, just to foster her — which initially seemed prudent. Maggie and Mishka, Carlin’s recently adopted dog, did not get along. Mishka’s former owners kept her in a crate that she tried desperately to escape, and she emerged aggressive toward both dogs and people. But Carlin worked every day to help make them comfortable with one another, and they became best friends.

That’s when Carlin knew she couldn’t let Maggie go. She permanently adopted the dog who hadn’t received a single offer of adoption, and started training her to navigate the world without sight.

Maggie is pretty in pink at home in Brighton, England.Kasey Carlin

Though Maggie delighted in meeting new friends on walks, her past haunted her sleep.

“She’d be in dreams, and she’d wake me up screaming. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a dog scream, but it is horrific,” Carlin said through tears. “I used to have to go, ‘Maggie, it’s OK. It’s OK.’ But now there’s (a) difference between her dreams. She’ll run in her dreams. These horrible nightmares that she used to have don’t happen often now — she had one maybe six months ago. She’s happy now.”

Part of that happiness stems from her work as a therapy dog, since Maggie adores people. She primarily meets with seniors with dementia, but has also visited police officers, firefighters and schoolchildren, to whom she spreads an anti-bullying message.

Maggie encourages students as well as her Instagram followers to be kind.Kasey Carlin

“When we go to the schools, we do these little headbands the children make, where they have just one little ear on them,” Carlin said. “It’s really cute to see all these kids with this one little Maggie ear on their heads.”

With pandemic restrictions lifting in the United Kingdom, Carlin hopes Maggie can begin visiting hospital patients. They recently visited a care home, where Maggie reunited with one of her favorite residents, Anne.

“Even after a year of lockdown — she hasn’t seen Anne — when we went to go see her, she knew exactly where she was going. She’s completely blind, but she’ll lead you straight to Anne’s room first and then she can go see other residents,” Carlin said. “She just wants to love everyone.”

Maggie is trusting as well as loving. She walks in a perfect heel — off leash — even on the streets of London. When Carlin calls to her dog from across a field, Maggie runs happily toward her.

“She doesn’t know what’s in front of her, but she’ll just run unless I tell her to stop, or turn left, or turn right,” she said. “Think how scary that would be. I wouldn’t do that for anybody, but she does. She just gets on with it. She’s literally bulletproof.”

Maggie inspires people to embrace dogs with disabilities.Kasey Carlin

Maggie’s zest for life inspired Carlin to write a book titled “The Miraculous Life of Maggie the Wunderdog,” and Maggie’s Instagram page has amassed over 491,000 followers.

Thanks to Maggie’s popularity, she’s raised over 40,000 British pounds for dog charities. The “wunderdog” also helps find homes for adoptable pets with disabilities; Carlin posts dogs on Maggie’s social media pages and still fosters — and adopts. Her latest addition is Millie, who has four bullets lodged in her skull and is missing her nose.

From left to right: Maggie, Mishka, Leia (Kasey Carlin's current foster dog) and Millie enjoy their second chance at happiness after rough starts in life.Kasey Carlin

Despite their challenges, Maggie, Millie and Mishka are now “perfect” behaviorally, according to Carlin.

“As long as they’re pain-free and they’re happy, then I don’t really care what they look like,” she said.

Kasey Carlin will celebrate Maggie's third "Gotcha Day" on Sept. 18, 2021.Kasey Carlin

She hopes people inspired by Maggie’s story will consider adopting overlooked pets, particularly older dogs and those with disabilities.

“Nobody wanted Maggie, and now she’s got half a million people that would take her in an instant if I offered her up because she’s a good dog,” she said. “Every dog is a good dog. You just have to work with them, understand their limits, respect those limits and build that bond. Then they’re good dogs. … Maggie does all this good, and she’s just being herself.”