It's never too late to give a mistreated animal a happy life.
And this black Patterdale Terrier named Sab had a very bad start to life.
A few years ago, the dog was found roaming around near a reservoir in Rossendale, England. Considering his facial injuries, his rescuers think he was used for badger baiting, a cruel hunting technique where dogs are trained to find and kill the animals.
The dogs are very often injured during the process. They mainly use their muzzles to get at the badger, who in turn uses whatever means possible to defend himself.
This was the case for Sab, who was left horribly disfigured. The Terrier was missing part of his jaw and of his muzzle, with his teeth splayed out in different directions. Not really the kind of dog that families are looking for when they visit shelters…
But when Paddy Lawson saw a photo of the battered dog at Rossendale Responsible Rescue, he knew straight away that he was going to adopt him.
When Michaela Holt, one of the founders of the shelter, found out that Paddy was thinking of adopting the Terrier, she was quick to warn him:
"Are you sure you're capable?" she asked him. She knew Paddy well and knew he had experience with dogs, but this was a special case.
She was particularly worried about how Sab would behave around children or other dogs.
Paddy then explained that his father had mistreated many dogs and that he would try to make up for it in his own way:
I've spent my whole life trying to make up for what my father did. I will give this dog all the time that he needs. If I wasn't sure that I could handle it, I wouldn't have put myself forward.
After a compulsory trial period, Paddy got the green light to take Sab home with him. At first, the dog just hid under the kitchen table. Natalie Lawson, Paddy's wife, tells The Dodo:
He did nothing like a normal dog would. He just couldn't behave normally around people, let alone play with them.
In an attempt to domesticate him, Paddy sat under the table for hours petting Sab. His determined efforts eventually paid off. Next, Sab started making friends with Tarka and Abby, the children of the Lawson family.
However, the dog is still carrying physical reminders of his past. In addition to his deformed muzzle, the injuries to his neck and back will take years to heal, according to his vet.
He also suffers from respiratory problems linked to his facial injuries, meaning his nose starts to bleed when he gets excited. He has already endured expensive surgical procedures for his teeth, which the Lawson family were able to pay for thanks to generous donations.
The story could have ended there. But its conclusion is even more moving…
After Sab was completely rehabilitated, the Lawsons signed him up for a very special dog competition: the RSPCA's Ruff's Alternatives Dog Show. Sab was placed in the "Perfectly Imperfect" category.
This category celebrates the dogs who will never come up to the "beauty standards" of dog competitions, but are still "perfect" in their own way. And guess who won?
"Sab was so excited when he found out! Admittedly, it's probably because we were all jumping for joy around him!" laughs Natalie.
You can carry on following Sab's recovery on his Facebook page.