(This article contains some graphic photos, but they are due to a medical condition, not from abuse, and the dog is not in pain.)
All dogs deserve a chance at love and happiness, no matter what they look like. Some dogs have medical issues that can make their appearance a bit hard to handle at first, but they still have hearts of gold on the inside.
That’s certainly the case for one dog, who was left with a disfigurement so severe that people couldn’t believe it was real—but thanks to his boundless spirit and a team of dedicated rescuers, he’s on the road to a better life.
A few months ago, a stray dog was found in Collinsville, Oklahoma and rescued by a woman named Carisa Ducharne. She was shocked by the dog’s condition—he was severely disfigured at the face for an unknown reason.
“He was skin and bones,” Carisa told News on 6. “You could see all his ribs and just so inflamed that he couldn’t close his eyes. He had so much swelling and inflammation in his face.”
The dog was named Phoenix, and he was brought to Skiatook Paws & Claws Animal Shelter.
When they shared his story on Facebook, people couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
“We received a ton of criticism for posting Phoenix’s picture,” the shelter wrote. “Many thought we had photoshopped his picture.”
But it was all too real—although the reason behind Phoenix’s condition wasn’t clear. He was cared for by Family Animal Medicine who searched for the cause.
Given how so many dogs are mistreated, it’s easy to assume his disfigurement was due to abuse. While vets didn’t rule that possibility out, they began to suspect that it was actually due to a medical disease.
While investigating his health, the shelter made sure Phoenix felt at home. Despite how he looks, Phoenix is not suffering, and enjoyed his new life.
“Phoenix is warm and comfortable; his belly is full, and he is being well cared for,” the vets said. “Even though his appearance may be alarming, the scarring and disfiguration are not indicative of his quality of life.”
The love and support Phoenix has received from the vets and shelter workers has completely turned his life around. In the past few months he’s gotten steadily better.
“He’s done nothing but improve every single day,” Carisa told News on 6.
Not only are Phoenix’s spirits high in spite of everything, but he’s also inspiring others.
“People with autoimmune diseases or burn victims, or just people anywhere having a hard time have reached out saying he’s inspired them,” Carisa said.
“It’s been super inspiring to be part of his story and it might not change the world, but it changes his world.”
Phoenix has been meeting with various veterinarians specializing in skin disorders, who have been working hard to unravel the mystery of what’s causing the dog’s facial disfigurement.
After exhausting every possibility they concluded that Phoenix has a rare auto-immune disease called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and can finally get the disease under control.
Much of his condition will remain permanent. The rescue says that Phoenix’s head muscles will never return, his “cheesy, sharky grin” will always be there, and he’ll need dog clothes and sunblock to protect his skin.
Despite everything, Phoenix remains upbeat as ever. “He has gained weight. His skin is healing,” the rescue wrote. “He plays and barks. He chases balls and plays tug-o-war. He even sleeps on his own dog couch.”
Phoenix has gotten many adoption requests, however it isn’t clear if or when he’ll be available: his treatment is still ongoing and he’ll need to be cleared by the vets first.
But for now, Phoenix is doing better than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
Thank you to all these rescuers who helped this great dog live his best life! Share this heartwarming story!