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Debo’s time was up. The Pit Bull mix was suffering from eye, ear, and skin infections. He was underweight and battling heartworms and hookworms. His owners could no longer afford his medical care.

They brought the 6-year-old dog to Lesslie Animal Hospital in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to be euthanized.

That’s when Suzy Blocker got the call.

“The veterinary team knew this dog could be saved,” says Blocker, vice president and co-founder of Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks Rescue in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They fell in love with his personality and asked if there was any way we could take him in. I was like, ‘Of course!’”

Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks doesn’t take what Blocker calls “the easy dogs.” Since its founding in 2015, the group’s volunteers and fosters have helped save more than 300 dogs, including plenty of medical cases like Debo’s.

But as eager as she was to help him, Blocker feared it wouldn’t be easy to find a foster parent who could take on a dog with such special needs.

Finding a Foster Home for Debo

For three years, Kristen Bright served as the vice president of K9 Kokua in Waianae, Hawaii, a rescue group she co-founded that helped dog owners who were homeless or victims of domestic violence. She and her orange tabby, Patrick, fostered close to 20 dogs for her group, as well as the Oahu SPCA and Hawaii Italian Greyhound Rescue.

But when she moved to North Carolina, she knew she needed to take an emotional break from rescue work. After a five-year hiatus, Bright decided she was ready to get back into fostering.

That’s when she saw Debo.

“I saw his post and story, and despite all his medical needs, I was like, ‘That’s the dog I’m supposed to start this adventure with again,’” she recalls.

When Bright first took him in, Debo was severely underweight. He was still in pain from his infections, and suffering from heartworms and parasites.

But she fell in love, like everyone else.

“Debo has an awesome personality,” Blocker says. “He is one of those dogs that walks in and the whole room lights up. He loves everyone.”

“He's never met a stranger,” Bright says. “If he barks at you, it means ‘pet me.’”

After being in her care for only a few weeks, Debo is a “happy, grinning bundle of love,” Bright says. Many of Debo’s skin, eye, and intestinal problems have been addressed, and he’s back to his optimal weight of 70 pounds.

But the dog’s ear infections were so bad, they wouldn't respond to even the strongest antibiotic. The doctors determined Debo’s ear canals had to be removed. Both of them.

Debo’s Road to Recovery

After the first surgery, Debo was in so much pain, he had to go on anti-anxiety medicine.

“He’s still trying to pull his stitches out,” Bright says. “Then he just looks at you like, ‘I am so sorry.’”

His next surgery is scheduled for early 2018. Once it’s done, he will have lost most of his hearing.

It’s hard for Bright to imagine how someone could have let Debo get to the point where he was so emaciated and infected. But she believes he once had an owner who loved him.

“At some point, he had an owner who taught him his manners,” she says. “He’s a very intelligent, treat-motivated dog who really wants to please.”

Bright is now working on hand commands so his next owners will be able to communicate with him even if he can’t hear. So far he’s learned the signs for sit, yes, come, and food.

After his second surgery is complete and he’s healed, Debo will start his heartworm treatment and should be ready for adoption by March or April.

Blocker estimates Debo’s total care will cost about $4,500. She says Lesslie Animal Hospital (which did not respond to calls for this article) is providing the medical care at a discount. Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks Rescue has been able to raise funds for his medical care.

“We’ve been blessed to collect almost as much as we need,” Blocker says.

Of course, Bright considered keeping Debo. But she lives alone and thinks he needs more people to love than just her and Patrick. He’s great with kids, cats, and other dogs, she says. He deserves a family.

“He's been through a lot and still has a long way to go,” Bright says. “But he's one of the best fosters I've ever had, and some family is going to be super lucky to have him.”

Image courtesy of Kristen Bright

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