Mangy Puppy Becomes Mr. August

January 12, 2011  

How a “foster failure” found his way into the Cutest Pet Calendar

By Tara Hanby

(Sal as a puppy with mange)

I first met Sal, who was riddled with an advanced case of Demodex mange, in June 2009.

He came in off the streets of Albany, NY, along with another puppy by the local animal control, and the shelter called me and asked if I would foster the sickly dog.

There aren’t words for how I felt when I first saw the puppies.

The pair was completely bald and covered in red, itchy sores.

When I first picked him up, I had to wrap him in a towel to protect his skin. Even the simple act of petting him was a skin irritation.

Even though he must have been uncomfortable, he looked right at me, then nuzzled his head against my neck and sighed.

I knew at that moment that he would be a “foster failure.” In other words, he was going to be my dog forever.
It took three months of medicated baths, skin scrapes and medication before we found out that Sal had hair and that it was … orange?

An orange dog?

By that time he had transformed from sleeping all the time into a typical, happy, energetic — if not orange — puppy. Sal meshed well with my boyfriend and I; he had even become friends with our four cats.

When the shelter vet declared Sal healthy enough for adoption, we filled out the paperwork right there and he officially became our dog.

Since then people comment on how much we did for Sal, but he has actually helped me more.

(Sal with Tara today)

I used to be a rushed, somewhat anxious person and had a continuous to-do list scrolling through my head. But through the training we’ve done with Sal, I’ve learned the importance of slowing down, taking a breath and always embodying a calm, relaxed energy.

To date he’s graduated from obedience and agility classes, and he was voted into the shelter’s 2010 annual “Cutest Pet Calendar” as Mr. August, and my calendar dog has been helping to change the perception that people have of pit bulls.


Sal is currently in training to become a Canine Good Citizen and therapy dog.

Although I’m a little biased, I think this one time mangy puppy will be a phenomenal therapy dog; his happy butt wiggle and pit bull grin haven’t failed to cheer up a person yet.

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