In early March, Barbara Zuluaga went to a city shelter in Houston to rescue a dog named Freckles, who was set to be euthanized the next day. Before leaving with Freckles, Zuluaga took a quick walk through the kennel area — and that’s when she spotted two puppies who desperately needed her help.
“I saw these two tiny, crusty little puppies, and thought, ‘Oh man,’” Zuluaga, a board member of A Chance to Bloom Dog Rescue, told The Dodo. “All I could see were their bright green-blue eyes, and they were just covered in horrible mange.”
Mange is a contagious condition that’s caused by mites that burrow into a dog’s skin, and these two puppies had it pretty bad. In fact, their former owner had surrendered them at the shelter because of their mange.
“Our shelter system here in Houston is very overcrowded, so a lot of dogs come to the shelters as owner surrenders,” Zuluaga said. “It’s a constant, nonstop … it’s very overwhelming here. People are always dumping their dogs.”
Zuluaga knew she couldn’t leave without these puppies, whom she named Mango and Chilli, so she arranged to take them home with her, deciding to foster them herself until they got better.
“They had skin infections from the mange and they got upper respiratory infections,” Zuluaga said. “I had to isolate them for about two weeks with heavy antibiotics until their coughs went away. Then they had to wear onesies all the time because their skin was so sensitive from the mange.”
Mango and Chilli were also suffering from malnutrition, which had weakened their bones, causing their legs to bow. But with proper medical care and lots of love from Zuluaga, the puppies got better and better. They made such a miraculous recovery that even the vet was shocked, Zuluaga explained.
“In just five weeks, they more than doubled in size and all their hair grew back,” Zuluaga said. “They looked amazing. They’re really beautiful dogs.”
As the puppies got healthier, their individual personalities emerged.
“Mango is really laid-back and he’s super sweet,” Zuluaga said. “Chilli is the wild child. He’s very vocal and opinionated, and he likes to run around and chase things. So there’s two very different personalities in the puppies.”
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for Mango and Chilli to find forever homes. Mango, now named Moose, lives with Sara Weinrich, her other dog Roxie and cat Ziggy.
“He is a very cuddly boy and gets along well with my other animals,” Weinrich told The Dodo. “He loves to play tug-of-war with his new sister and chase her around.”
As for Chilli, he was a birthday present for James Wisniewski’s son, who absolutely adores him.
“Chilli is an awesome dog, and to see everything that he’s been through … I think that’s really a testament to Barbara,” Wisniewski told The Dodo. “He’s a sweet, sweet dog.”