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 is undoubtedly the case with the stray dog Phoenix, whose severe disfigurement made it impossible for people to believe it was real. However, thanks to his unwavering spirit and a group of committed rescuers, Phoenix has inspired thousands on his road to a better life.
A stray dog was discovered in Collinsville, Oklahoma in 2020, and Carisa Ducharne saved it. The dog’s condition shocked her; for unknown reason, his face had been terribly deformed.
“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 was delivered to Skiatook Paws & Claws Animal Shelter.
People couldn’t believe what they were seeing when they share his story on Facebook.
“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.
The shelter made sure Phoenix felt at home while looking into his health. Phoenix, despite how he looks, was content with his new life and was not in pain.
“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.”
Phoenix’s life has drastically changed as a result of the love and attention he has gotten from the veterans and shelter staff. His story went viral on social media and people were so happy to see that Phoenix got steadily better.
“He’s done nothing but improve every single day,” Carisa told News on 6.
Not only were Phoenix’s spirits high in spite of everything but he’s also inspired 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 met with various veterinarians specializing in skin disorders, who made a concerted effort to unravel the dog’s facial deformity’s mystery.
They came to the conclusion that Phoenix had the uncommon auto-immune condition known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus after ruling out all other possibilities (SLE). The diagnosis meant that they could finally get the disease under control.
But everyone knew that much of his condition would remain permanent. The rescue says that Phoenix’s head muscles would never return, his “cheesy, sharky grin” would always be there, and he needed dog clothes and sunblock to protect his skin.
But despite everything, Phoenix remained 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 had numerous adoption requests, but it was difficult to let him go because his treatment was still in progress and he needed to be given the all-clear by the veterinarians.
But everyone was hoping for the best, as Phoenix was doing better than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
Sadly, in June 2020, the Skiatook Paws & Claws Animal Rescue delivered some very sad news. In a heartbreaking Instagram post, they took farewell to Phoneix.
”Last night, at around 5pm, we let Phe go.
His exit was peaceful. He was surrounded by people who adored him and his mom and sisters held him close. Phoenix had found his person in Dr. Gena, and she could not have adored him more if she tried. Her heart was his and his heart was hers. All any dog wants is to find their person, and he was one of the lucky ones who did. He held on as long as he could, not for himself, but for her and her girls. He was exhausted, and let them know it was time to go.”
Thank you to all these rescuers who helped this great dog live his best life! RIP little angel!