Please note that this article contains some graphic images of animal abuse — but we’re happy to report that the pictured pup is much healthier now.
The little red-nosed pit bull only weighs about 40 pounds. There are faint scars that line the creases of his face and body, but on his heart — not a single scar can be found.
This is Rufus, and he has gone through hell and back twice.
Rescued in May 2015 at a little over a year old, Rufus had already suffered indescribable pain and lived to tell the tale. Though specifics are unknown, it was clear that he had been attacked.
Whether he came from a fighting ring from his former home in North Carolina, or had just been completely uncared for and unloved, Rufus made an escape that turned his life around.
Rufus was found emerging from the woods after he had escaped whatever hellish nightmare he was born into and made a dash for the nearest place with cover.
Related: These Firefighters Didn’t Care One Lick About Pit Bull Myths When They Adopted This Stray Dog
His face was completely covered in cuts and wounds, leading vets to believe that he had suffered one or more vicious attacks from other dogs before he finally got away. Worse, after being out in the woods on his own, the cuts had become severely infected and infested with maggots.
It was then that Rescue Dogs Rock NYC responded to a plea for help and immediately stepped in. Rufus underwent surgery to remove an estimated 100,000 maggots from his wounds and clean out infections. Once he was well enough, he was transported to NYC via Pilots and Paws, an air carrier that helps transport rescue dogs.
Rufus was fostered by a kind woman named Madelyn Sabbatino. Having three dogs of her own and knowing Rufus needed some training before mixing with other dogs, he was sent to a board and train program on Staten Island with a well-known trainer at the time — Georgie Cascio of Cascio Canines — in July 2015.
Sadly, it was another horrific experience for Rufus. A group of neighbors called Cascio in on suspected animal cruelty, and investigators found three crated, emaciated dogs in October 2015. Rufus was one of those dogs. The little dog who had come so far and escaped the worst was betrayed by another human.
Yet through it all, Rufus never lost his ability to love. He went back to his former foster mama Sabbatino in early 2016. He underwent surgery to repair two torn ACLs in his hind legs, and after recovery, met me.
I was called in as a trainer in May 2016. The information that I had was that Rufus had been attacked by other dogs and his interactions with them were limited.
Related: These Dogs Were Rescued From A Fighting Ring. Watch What Happens When They Meet For The First Time.
I knew that Sabbatino had three shepherd mixes of her own, and that she had fallen completely in love with Rufus. She wanted to adopt him, but needed to see if he could get along with her own pack.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how Rufus would react to being around other dogs considering the trauma he had experienced.
I knew he had just recovered from a surgery, was full of energy, and could even potentially be a little cranky if he was still in any pain.
What I found was a dog who was curious and wanted to learn. A dog who harbored no ill will towards humans. A dog who wanted to play with other dogs, though a bit unsocialized and unsure of how to handle himself.
Within the first couple of sessions, we were walking him on leash next to his proposed pack mates. Within a few more sessions, he was playing and interacting with two of the three dogs. In fact, it was Sabbatino’s dogs who were more hesitant to allow him to integrate and needed work on accepting him — not the other way around, as I had initially anticipated.