A neglected dog has made a stunning recovery after being brought to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Richmond, Virginia, this past April.
The dog, whom the SPCA renamed Lionheart, was surrendered by his owner — and it was immediately clear he needed care.
"We realized what a terrible case of neglect it was," said Robin Starr, the organization's CEO. "We realized how badly this little dog needed us, so we took him in immediately."
Lionheart had been living under a bed for two years and had been severely neglected during that time. The 7-year-old dog was encased in deep matting, right down to the skin, according to Starr. It kept him from seeing, walking, eating or doing "really much of anything."
"I saw him when he first arrived, and I could not tell which was the front end and which was the back end," said Starr. "You couldn't see anything. I am sure he was in great discomfort."
Dr. Angela Ivey, director of veterinary medical services for the SPCA, said they wouldn't even have known Lionheart was a poodle if his former owner hadn't told them. The first step in his care was to shave the mats and make sure the dog was comfortable.
"Normally, we do bloodwork and everything on them, but you couldn't even get through the mats to find a vein," Ivey told TODAY. Within 24 hours, the team sedated the dog.
"He needed his teeth cleaned — they were horrible — and he needed to be neutered, and then we got all of his bloodwork and everything done at the same time," Ivey added. "We quickly got him neutered and his teeth done so that the massive task of shaving him down could be accomplished under the same anesthesia."
After the shave, the veterinary team found that Lionheart had several other conditions, including hookworms and skin sores. Hookworms are an intestinal parasite that can cause numerous side effects in dogs, including weakness, weight loss, and even death.
"He'd gotten the hookworms outside, but he had apparently been under the bed, literally nonstop, for two years, so he clearly had had the hookworms for all that period of time," Starr explained. "Under the mats, not surprisingly, were a lot of skin sores that had developed. Of course, the mats had trapped a tremendous amount of fecal matter and bacteria."
However, once Lionheart woke up from the general anesthesia, he was like "a different dog," according to Ivey.
"He was so cute," Starr said. "Of course, initially, he was literally down to the bare skin. We had a sweater on him all the time. He almost immediately, when he woke up, was bouncy and happy and full of energy. I'm sure he had lots of pent-up energy after all that time."
"It's a miracle that he was trusting people to begin with," Ivey added.
Starr also explained that Lionheart was a friendly and affectionate dog, and loved spending time with people. The dog became a celebrity within the walls of the SPCA, and when it was finally time for him to go to his new home, the staff was "thrilled."
"We keep quite a wishlist of people who have let our adoption staff know that they want some kind of a particular pet," Starr explained. "We fulfill wishes all the time from people who have let us know what they're looking for. We had this couple already — they were waiting for a small dog, and they were thrilled to get him. It just couldn't be a happier match."
Lionheart's new family renamed him Cody, and while they declined TODAY's request for comment, Starr said the match is practically perfect.
"They're with Cody all the time," she said. "Cody goes everywhere with them, and they just adore him... It's the ultimate Cinderella story."