OVIEDO, Fla. - Remember the Doodle mix that was taken in by an Oviedo groomer who opened her shop at midnight just to make sure the dog had a chance at surviving?
Since being groomed after he was found that night in October when he almost got hit by a car near Conroy Road, the dog received a second chance at life, and with it, a new name and new family.
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The dog, which now goes by the name “Lucky,” was unrecognizable Saturday during his first grooming session as an adopted dog.
His new leash on life is the result of a team effort between Kari Falla and her team at BGE Grooming and the veterinarian who treated him after he was found severely matted on the side of the road.
Falla, who owns the animal salon, said she was scrolling through Facebook the night Lucky was found and saw pictures a woman had posted of the dog in one of several groups she’s a part of.
With the pictures of the dog, a woman wrote that someone had found him after he was hit by a car in Orange County, and that he needed to be cared for because he was severely matted.
Falla said it was almost a miracle that she saw the post, because she’s a member of so many animal rescue groups that it’s nearly impossible for her to find time to look through all the posts.
When she did see it though, she knew she had to act fast because if the wrong person found him, the dog might not have lived — so she did.
"The pictures … they would've euthanized him,” Falla said.
Falla woke her husband and 8-year-old daughter, who are both a part of running the family-owned business, and told them she reached out to the woman about the post, telling her the dog could come by BGE right away for an emergency grooming.
“Who (are) you gonna find to groom him at midnight? I knew I had to do it," she said.
The man that found the dog met the family at their shop, where Falla would spend three hours caring for the dog.
She said the dog's mats were so severe that he couldn’t walk or use the bathroom.
"They were soaking wet, infested with fleas, full of yeast infection and attached like a mummified cast," Falla wrote on BGE's Facebook page. "The smell was horrendous."
Falla’s husband said they didn’t get to weigh the mats after shaving them off the dog because of how foul they smelled, but he estimated they weighed about 20-25 pounds.
Before-and-after pictures of the dog show him looking happier and healthier after just the first grooming session. Because Falla was able to remove the soaking wet patches of hair, the dog was able to be examined by a veterinarian.
But the vet wasn’t the only person tracking the dog’s progress. Falla said that after News 6 aired the dog’s story three months ago, she received nonstop calls to her shop and posts, comments and messages on the salon’s Facebook page thanking her for what she did.
"After the first story aired, people started calling us like crazy and trying to adopt him,” Falla said.
Many of those who reached out sent donations to her shop, but she didn’t accept them because grooming rescue dogs for free is something she’s always done at her shop.
"We always groom rescue dogs and shelter does for free, so as soon as I found out, it was a no-brainer," Falla said. "We believe in paying it forward. Sharing a little bit of kindness goes a long way. And in this case, it saved a life."
Instead, she gave the money to the dog’s vet to cover his medical bills from his surgeries.
"They had to do surgery on his eyelids because the matting was so bad that they pushed his eyelids into his eyes, causing him to go blind,” Falla said.
The horrible matting might have left the dog deaf and blind, but it certainly didn't change his outlook on life. Falla said she’s continued seeing the dog since his first treatment. Since then, he’s become more comfortable around people and is obviously grateful for his second chance at life.
"He has every reason to be angry at the world and he's not. He's still retained his innocence and his happy-go-lucky soul,” Falla said.
The doodle mix was eventually adopted by the man who found him and told the woman who posted about it on Facebook.
His owner renamed him “Lucky,” but said that he’s actually the lucky one — lucky to be a part of saving the dog’s life, and lucky to have had the Fallas take him in in the middle of the night, making it all possible.
While caring for Lucky, the Fallas created a special bond with the dog, making it emotionally difficult for them to let go when it came time for him to be adopted.
But they said they couldn’t imagine a better owner for Lucky than his new dad.
"He's perfect! He's so OCD about Lucky, which is like right up our alley, so it works out great because we constantly talk all the time,” Falla said.
Falla said she can see how happy the dog is to be in a home with two other dogs, which Lucky’s dad also rescued.
The Fallas are still a part of Lucky's life, since they've offered to continue grooming him free of charge.
"It was a no brainer that we would honor free grooming for Lucky for the rest of his life so he never has to go through that again and humanity doesn't have to fail him,” Falla said.
She said Lucky will always look handsome and healthy, and that it’s the least she could do to help care for him in the days to come, especially since it can be difficult to care for a dog with health issues such as his.
The Falla’s and Lucky’s owner have become great friends throughout the process, and both said they are grateful for everyone who was a part of Lucky’s story.
"Lucky says thank you everybody for helping save my life. It was a team effort,” Falla said.
Falla sent Lucky and his new sister, Chi Chi, home Saturday looking their best as they take on the new year.
"What a great way to start the new year — by being adopted,” Falla said.
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