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Dog Adoption: 19 Before and After Photos That Will Melt Your Heart

From heartbreaking to heartwarming, these rescue dog transformations are undeniably the most affirming images you will see today.

SherlockCourtesy Richard McSweeney


Sherlock is a cattle dog that was only 11 months old when his owner surrendered him to the Scituate Animal Shelter. The owner said he didn’t have time for him and that no matter what he fed the grossly underweight dog, he never gained weight. After the shelter performed extensive medicals tests that turned up nothing, and Sherlock actually gained multiple pounds in just a few days, it was clear to the shelter he had been starved. Sherlock attended puppy classes and other activities to socialize him. Within six weeks, he was adopted and lives with a loving family with other pets. Don’t miss these other stories of rescue dogs finding their forever homes.

MunchkinCourtesy Richard McSweeney


Munchkin was one of five filthy dogs removed from an animal hoarding situation. Her hair was so badly matted from a lack of grooming that her hind legs had atrophied and couldn’t move fully. After she was rescued, Munchkin had physical therapy to help her regain the use of her hind legs. She was adopted by a volunteer who works at Scituate Animal Shelter and is now a beloved ambassador for the shelter. 

RoxyCourtesy Kalee Dillard


Roxy was dubbed too “frou-frou” for the farm she lived at, so her owner dropped her off at a shelter. She was matted with leaves and dirt and an itchy skin condition that caused a lot of scratching. There, a newlywed couple adopted her and were pleasantly surprised at just how much joy and happiness her sweet disposition has brought them. They consider her their first child and adore her sweet cuddles and playful attitude. Here are some of the things shelter dogs wish you knew.

LolaCourtesy Stephanie Bell


Lola lived with 45 other small dogs at a puppy mill operation. Lola was quite a sight when she came to the Lexington Humane Society. Her hair had to be shaved to manage the mange and fleas, and her eyes were dull and lifeless. But behind those eyes lied a sassy and energetic dog personality waiting to emerge. She had a difficult time socializing at first, but now she is thriving and loving life with her new pet parent and two Chihuahua sisters. Don’t miss these dog training secrets that help your pup socialize.

ShannonCourtesy PetConnect Rescue


Shannon was brought into the shelter with a mysterious wound that later was found to be lighter fluid poured on her back. As horrifying as that is, Shannon’s story has a happy ending. PetConnect Rescue placed her with an experienced foster family where she received boundless love and medical attention. Today, she is recovered from her injury and in a furever home where she is loved and well cared for. Her sunny disposition magically brightens the lives around her. Here are more superpowers that make dogs better than humans.

AfricaCourtesy PetConnect Rescue


Poor Africa. She was already in a shelter with serious hair loss and skin-care problems, and then that shelter lay in the path of Hurricane Irma. The shelter reached out to PetConnect Rescue for help. Africa traveled to Washington, D.C. and was cared for by an experienced foster family until she was fully recovered. Today, she is being spoiled rotten in her new furever home. Know the benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

ReinaCourtesy Dianna Bari


Reina, a new mom, was found on the streets, fully-lactating with no puppies in sight. She was taken to a kill shelter but was saved by a caring person who also rescued two other dogs. She is loving life with her two sisters and is very protective and loving of her family members. She’s known for her goofiness and loves attention so much that if the petting stops, she gently nudges the person for a little more lovin’. Since caring for your furbaby can be expensive, check out these money-saving tips for dog owners.

CleoCourtesy Jill Caren,


Cleo is super playful and a champ at snuggling, but she would never have been able to experience these simple pleasures if it weren’t for her new family. Prior to being rescued, her life was filled with abuse and over-breeding. She had a strong fear aggression, but her foster family devoted a lot of time and attention and helped her cope with her fears. The foster family decided she was a perfect fit for their quiet home and adopted her. Her new family says she has an “old soul” and is filled with overflowing love that she shows in cozy snuggle sessions. Find out some of the reasons you should consider adopting an older dog.

DaffyCourtesy Secondhand Hounds Animal Rescue


Daffy spent the first seven years of his life living in a cage in a commercial breeding facility (aka, a puppy mill) in Missouri. The only time Daffy was touched by human hands was for feeding or breeding purposes. He never played outside in the sunshine or felt grass under his paws. When the facility no longer wanted him as a breeder, they surrendered him to a rescue. After nine months in foster care, he found a home with the help of Secondhand Hounds and has playtime in the sunshine with his two dog brothers and a kind parent that understood his traumatic past. But dogs like Daffy aren’t the only ones who benefit from being rescued. These are the major health benefits of owning a pet.

KingsleyCourtesy Mary Pharris


Kingsley was a stray in Austin, Texas, when Small Chance Rescue foster parents took him in. He quickly melted their hearts and became a furever family member when they adopted him. They eventually made the move to New York City where Kingsley and his family delight in long walks and going to daycare with his dog friends. His Texas charm has won over everyone he comes into contact with. Here are the things animal shelters desperately need right now.

Courtesy Lisa Hufcut-Dupler


Willow was a starving 10-year-old stray found in Tennessee. With the sponsorship of PupStarz Rescue, she went to New York City to live with a foster family passionate about rescue dogs and dachshunds. Her foster family fell in love with her sweet disposition and decided to adopt her. The family already had two older dachshunds, and Willow was happy to be the new sister on the block. Sadly, the two other dachshunds have since passed, but the family continues to foster dachshunds so Willow will always have friends and a caring family.

Bill MurrayCourtesy Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, Courtesy Brooke Mallory Photography

Bill Murray

This little guy was surrendered to a shelter, unable to walk and incontinent after he had been attacked by a bigger dog. The shelter couldn’t manage his care there so they contacted Motley Zoo Animal Rescue. His medical issues would be a challenge to any foster family, especially with his wheelchair. Thankfully, his angel and forever parent came along. After physical therapy, Bill Murray (named after the comedian because they both have a contagious smile and crazy hair) can now walk on his own for short periods of time and is given every advantage and opportunity a dog could hope for.

LilyCourtesy Alex & Michelle Schenker


Lily didn’t have a lot going for her—scars on her legs from being contained by chains, ears that pointed in two different directions because one had been broken, and she was underweight. But then her life took a drastic change for the better. She was introduced to a family via Project Pearl, who couldn’t wait to make sweet Lily part of their family. Her dog sister Bella, a yellow lab mix, thinks she’s pretty special too, and they are like two peas in a pod.

PetiteCourtesy Orange County Animal Services, Courtesy Le Puparazzi Fine Art Pet Photography

Cujo Petite

Cujo Petite was tiny, afraid, and a mess when her furever family met her at Orange County Animal Services. With their nurturing, she became stronger physically but still needed gentle care for her sensitive emotional state. Her worst fear was men, and it took 18 months before she would acknowledge her human dad. She keeps a watchful eye on her human mom while she’s gardening and although she is still a little hesitant about meeting new people, she’s making great strides into becoming a lot more social. Don’t ignore these silent signs your dog is getting sick.

JusticeCourtesy PETA


It was a blessing when a former neighbor came to check on the puppy she had given away to a neighbor before she moved. That puppy was Justice, who was now seven months old and in dire straights. He had been neglected for so long that his collar had become embedded in his neck, causing a painful infection. Though young Justice has been ignored most of his life and in constant pain, he still managed to wag his tail in excitement when PETA got involved. His physical and psychological scars are fading, and his family says he’s an incorrigible snuggler and a lovable bed hog.

JakeCourtesy PETA


Even with painful matted fur and heartworms, Jake couldn’t stop wagging his tail when PETA came along. He finally got lots TLC from PETA, the Virginia Beach SPCA, and a nurturing new home. Jake is healthy and looking good, living a wonderful life with his new brother Jeremiah and three cat sisters. These shelter dogs need a home before 2020.

RussellCourtesy PETA


When PETA discovered Russell, he was suffering from several bite wounds and couldn’t bear any weight on one of his legs after being attacked by stray dogs while left outside unattended. PETA immediately sought treatment from a veterinarian, and now Russell is completely recovered. Despite his frightening experiences with those stray dogs, he has no fear of other dogs and currently resides with three other pups in his new home. Be sure you know the signs your pup really trusts you.

ItchyCourtesy PETA


Looking at Itchy’s former home, you might think he was a junkyard dog, but he was hardly vicious or protective of his environment. In fact, in all the years PETA visited and monitored him, he was nothing but eager and kind to receive attention from the PETA fieldworkers. On one of those visits, a PETA fieldworker discovered that Itchy has a bad cough, a symptom of severe heartworm infection, and was grossly underweight. Thankfully, the owner chose to surrender Itchy to PETA. Itchy is stronger and more energetic and roaming freely in his new grassy, trash-free yard. These are the biggest mistakes people make when adopting a shelter dog.

RileyCourtesy Hanna Bruy


Riley was bred specifically for human drug testing and only touched for the purpose of testing without ever experiencing caring human interaction for seven long years. When he was rescued from the lab by the Rescue + Freedom Project, he and nine other beagles finally were free from the lab. He was a bit shy and afraid of everything at first, but now Riley loves to run, play at the beach, and hang out with his cat brother. You won’t want to miss these 50 adorable puppy photos that will make you melt.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.