This story isn’t about a puppy having something goofy shaved into its belly. The dog in this story was neglected, silently curled up on the floor of its owner’s home for a long time. So much of this dog’s story is unknown: How long it suffered, and how it had managed to survive. When this dog was found, it could barely move its head.
This is a story about the harsh reality faced by animal shelters every day: Sometimes, an animal is brought in that’s so transformed by neglect that hope for survival is slim. But the Nebraska Humane Society wasn’t about to give up on little Ellie Mae. Rescuers were sure her next haircut wouldn’t just make her adorable — it would save her life.
When Ellie Mae was discovered, no one could tell she was alive. All her rescuers saw was a giant clump of tangled fur on the floor. It looked like something you’d see in Jim Henson’s abandoned creature shop…
But then, it moved — though only slightly. No one knows how long Ellie Mae had been on the floor, weighed down by a mess of matted, dirty fur. After all, her rescuers hadn’t even expected to find her where they did…
The old woman who had lived in the house had died, and they were supposed to clean and empty the home. They expected to see dust bunnies, sure, but never the matted, breathing creature they couldn’t make heads or tails of.
Still, they knew what they had to do, even if the sight and smell of the creature made them gag. They tried to coax it into a standing position, but all the creature could do was lie there and breathe.
They had no choice. Ellie Mae’s rescuers lifted her body off the ground and placed her into a storage tote before bringing her to the Nebraska Humane Society. The specialists at the shelter had seen some grisly cases before — but never like this.
Even the veterinarians had no idea what kind of creature it was…that is, until they made a crack in the matted shell. Looking up at them were the terrified eyes of a dog, trapped within its own prison of fur.
The vets sprung into action. First, they had to shave her — but not with a buzzer. The severity of the case required surgical blades, which they held as close to the skin as possible. She was covered in sores, which necessitated anesthesia.
But there was no way for them to know her exact weight, and they ran the risk of accidentally overdosing her. As minutes passed and Ellie Mae whimpered with pain, they had no choice but to estimate the correct dosage.
“We carefully cut through the grimy hair with no idea what we would find underneath,” the N.H.S. explained on Twitter. There was a sense of trepidation. They’d seen similar, though not as severe, cases in the past…and it never ended well.
“A past dog had matted hair so bad it had cut off the blood flow of [the] dog’s legs,” the N.H.S. said. The only solution had been amputation. Other past cases had been even worse…
There were other instances where a dog’s limbs were strangled and naturally amputated by its own fur. Since this results in necrosis and sepsis, or diseased limbs and blood that ultimately kills the animal, Ellie Mae’s vets prepared themselves for the worst.
But when they removed enough layers of fur, they saw an extremely welcome sight: Ellie Mae’s legs, pink with blood flow. As they continued shaving, however, the vets realized that the matted fur wasn’t the only thing preventing Ellie Mae from walking.
Her toenails were seven inches long, and as the NHS described, they were “cocooned in hair, feces, and years of grit.” The more they shaved, the worse Ellie Mae looked. She wouldn’t lose a limb, but she was still in serious danger.
After an hour of shaving, Ellie Mae was finally freed. The matted fur weighed nine pounds —astounding, considering how Ellie Mae herself is just eleven pounds. Still, she was covered in painful sores, and she wasn’t much better internally, either.
One of her feet was infected, she had a painful hernia, rotting teeth, muscle wasting, and arthritis in her back end after years of being sedentary. Despite all these serious health problems, the shelter staff considered Ellie Mae lucky.
“The hard shell of hair apparently protected her skin from infections and parasites,” Pam Wiese, a representative from N.H.S., explained. The hair that had pulled on Ellie Mae’s skin and held her captive had actually saved her life…
Five hours after she was shaved, Ellie Mae was on the road to recovery. “She stumbled a bit as she hadn’t walked in some time,” the N.H.S. said. Only time would tell if Ellie Mae would survive in the hours after her treatment.
After two weeks, Ellie Mae had a new lease on life. “She’s stronger, loves to explore and greets everyone with a sweet face,” wrote the N.H.S. Twitter page. As the vets describe, Ellie Mae is a miracle in more ways than one.
Despite years of neglect, Ellie Mae has nothing but a goofy grin for everyone she meets. “She doesn’t have any issues with people,” they described. “She’s extraordinarily resilient!” When they shared the story online, people definitely had their own opinions.
“[This] really proves the importance of those ‘dog owners’ emergency window stickers,” one user wrote, while others praised the N.H.S. and sent their love to the new and improved Ellie Mae. The N.H.S. had just one response to all the praise.
“That’s why we do what we do!” Pam Wiese exclaimed. Thanks to the quick-thinking at the N.H.S., Ellie Mae will live to walk, run, and jump another day — and, hopefully, all in the comfort of her very own forever home.
Luckily, that day may not be so far away. Lazarus the sweet Pyrenean mountain dog lived a life of neglect and discomfort throughout his first seven years, just like Ellie Mae. Fear plagued the poor pup, who sported a pretty gnarly hairdo.
Life With Dogs
The Tennessee pooch spent those years cooped up in the smelly, filth-coated barn, having no room to run and no sky to see. He was left alone to fend for himself, unintentionally fencing himself in with his own waste.
He must’ve been particularly uncomfortable: Pyrenean Mountain Dogs have double coats of fur, with a dense, fine undercoat. Without proper grooming, matting can lead to skin issues, and unfortunately, Lazarus endured extreme matting.
The matting was a surprisingly weighty mess. Lazarus’ fur overgrew to an incredible mass, weighing an astonishing 35 pounds. His life was at stake, and help needed to come sooner rather than later.
Grievously, the dog’s owner reportedly suffered from a mental illness, having called a relative for immediate assistance, so the owner was no help to Laz. Little did the helpless pooch know, he was about to encounter the best day of his heretofore sad life.
Soon enough, after the owner’s relative made an urgent phone call, a diligent rescue team of volunteers from the Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, which included two groomers (who must’ve anticipated the challenge of their career), came to liberate Lazarus.
To the horror of the rescue team, there was a tremendous amount of dirt and feces blocking the door to Lazarus’ barn stall; so much so that the team had to shovel a path to save the poor furry angel. Lazarus was so close to freedom.
When they could finally tend to the struggling pooch, the team immediately became aware of some health problems Lazarus had been facing, which hindered his ability to get around with ease.
The matted fur, like a swarming, restricting ivy plant covering the building, tragically made it impossible for him to walk. The mutt must’ve dreamed of running free in a sunny field, chasing cats and butterflies; but would he ever be able to?
Jean Harrison, the owner of the Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, said: “He had no muscle mass and was unable to move around, let alone walk.” Although the news was alarming, the team just had to start buzzing off some of that nasty, dead fur without hesitation.
It took hours to groom Lazarus, who initially cowered from the rescue team’s touch out of pure fear. Once his neck was free from the fur prison, however, he warmed up, realizing that the group of strange humans had good intentions.
“He calmed down and seemed to realize it [the grooming] was making him feel better,” Jessica Kincheloe, one of the dog groomers, said on behalf of Lazarus.
Rest assured, after cutting off all of Lazarus’ impeding fur, he was a new man, or rather, a new good boy. We think he looks rather dapper in his new ‘do.
Jean Harrison mentioned that he, unfortunately, didn’t have typical dog mannerisms down pat. “Lazarus doesn’t know how to be a dog,” she said. “He doesn’t exactly know how to behave like a dog.” He’d soon learn though.
Jean voiced that the still-shy Lazarus “approached a freshly grilled steak cautiously, which made us sad.” Dogs shouldn’t have to be grateful for food, she said, nor should the innocent creatures ever have to suffer. But Lazarus’ suffering was now over.
From there, Lazarus was taken into a foster home in Virginia, where he would embark on his arduous recovery journey, as well as receive heaps of “good boy” pets and kisses. He had a lot of pain to overcome, but more importantly, he had a lot of happiness to look forward to.
It would take weeks or even months for the pup to regain strength, muscle mass, and a little self-esteem prior to getting adopted by his forever family. But until then, Lazarus still had sights to see and steaks to devour…
As expected, Lazarus was adopted in no time. His family clearly takes proper care of his precious (high maintenance) coat and gives him tons of TLC. We think he deserves all of the love and steaks the world has to offer.