The weary dog comprehended that this man represented its final hope for rescue and redemption…

If aid hadn’t come, the dog would have perished. She likely would have only survived another two days, according to the people who helped save her.

“She could hardly stand,” Mollie Shealy, the dog’s foster mom, told The Dodo. “Her back hind legs were virtually in a crouching position. Every time we touched her, we felt a bone because of how tiny she was. But she merely cowered about with her head down.”

In November, a road worker spotted the underweight dog, now named Gracie, amid an area of woods in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “She reportedly came racing out of the woods and walked up to him,” Shealy added.

While no one truly knows how Gracie wound herself alone in the woods, Shealy has a notion.

“More than likely, Gracie was bred to be a hunting dog, but she didn’t do the grade of hunting that they wanted,” Shealy added. “So they either cut her off the leash or left her in the middle of the woods, and probably planned for her not to survive.”

Yet somehow, Gracie did survive.

The road worker got in touch with Canine Compassion Fund, a local animal welfare organization, and someone from the group picked up Gracie and rushed her to the vet. Then the rescue agency arranged for Shealy and her mother Marlene to foster Gracie.

At first, Gracie was scared of everything and everyone, especially Shealy and her mom.

“The first week was kind of rough,” Shealy said. “She was despondent and kind of walked about, and didn’t really know what the problem was.”

Their main concern was Gracie’s weight. She barely weighed approximately 20 pounds, when she should have been about 40.

“We were feeding her anywhere from five to six meals a day,” Shealy said. “Just extremely little amounts. She was so hungry that she devoured it.”

Little by bit, Gracie gained the weight she needed — and with that, she gained confidence.

“My mom would probably sit with her for three hours on the couch each day, just caressing her and showing her that everything was OK, and that she was in a wonderful place now,” Shealy recalled.

Another thing Gracie had to learn was how to play. At first, she didn’t know what to do when Shealy showed her dog toys. But one toy soon attracted her interest – a duck puppet.

“She went wild about it,” Shealy added. “It was like a switch turned in her personality. Ever since then, she’s been full on.”

Today Gracie adores every toy she can get her snout on. “She’s a quirky dog that loves to play,” Shealy remarked. “We have all her toys in a box, and she’ll pick them out and line them up and give each toy like two or three bites. She’ll rush them up to you, and she’ll play tug-of-war.”

“She’s turned out to be a great dog,” Shealy remarked. “It’s taken time and care, but she can sit now, she goes great on the leash, she eats two or three meals a day. She probably gained between 10 to 12 pounds, which is what she needed. She could hardly stand when we first received her, so simply her improvement is astounding. And her personality has come through, and we’ve simply loved having her.”

After Gracie has gained a bit more weight, she’ll undergo therapy for another medical condition – heartworm disease. During this procedure, she’ll continue to be with Shealy and her mom.

But after she’s made a full recovery, Gracie will be offered for adoption — and Shealy is convinced she’ll be the perfect family member for someone.

“She’s just so glad to be among people and to be loved and to enjoy the pleasure that she has,” Shealy added. “I suppose because all that she’s been through, and all the loyalty and appreciation that she has. You let her out of her kennel in the morning [and] she rushes out, she gets up on the couch. She licks your cheek, and she’ll nuzzle her head into your neck.”

“She realizes the significance of the relationship that she has with me and my mom,” Shealy stated. “And it’s been very great being able to restore her to a place where she may be adopted.”

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