HOUSTON - Friday is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, a reminder that the perfect pet may be a rescue away.
One pooch came back from the brink of death, and his transformation is described as one of the most miraculous recoveries seen by the organization that saved him.
Left behind by his pack in October of 2020, the mid-sized, emaciated pup looked like he had laid down to die near a cluster of construction materials outside a home.
"When I got there, he wasn’t moving at all," says Laura Forma, co-founder of This Is Houston. Someone called the organization when they discovered the dog in Cleveland, Texas.
"I touched him to make sure he was still breathing. He lifted his head up, very wobbly, to look at me and popped his head back down and wouldn’t move," says Forma.
This Is Houston rescue group hopes to bring attention to the city’s stray overpopulation problem while helping animals in need.
"There’s a lot of rescues around Houston, but we like to focus on the dogs everybody else will pass over because they’re too expensive or they don’t think that they’re worth spending the time to rehabilitate," says co-founder Tom Heller.
Jake fit the bill. When they arrived, he was limp, cold, and being eaten by insects.
The non-profit rushed him to Vergi Emergency Animal Hospital in Memorial, checking his breathing during the intense hour-long ride.
"I was holding his paws trying to tell him, ‘Hey someone’s here with you; hang in there," says Forma.
While on an operating table at the hospital, Jake’s heart stopped. Vets were able to resuscitate him, but it stopped again. For the second time, they worked to revive him, and he came back.
Still, the rescuers were told his recovery wouldn't last.
"We thought our only option was going to be to euthanize him, but we decided to hold off and wait," explains Heller.
After a few days, Jake survived a risky transfer to Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital.
He was unable to regulate his own temperature, so he was wrapped in a thermal blanket for the ride.
At A&M, he spent weeks regaining his strength but was still skin and bones and unable to stand on his own.
"They called us and asked, ‘What do you want from us?’ We just wanted him to be healthy, and they said, ‘That’s probably never going to happen," says Heller.
But months later, after relearning to walk and putting on fifty pounds, Jake was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and his breed was finally recognizable- 100% Siberian husky.
His recovery has been shared around the world more than a hundred thousand times, making him Facebook famous. This Is Houston also sold out of much of their "Jake Strong" apparel that went to help cover $20,000 in hospital bills.
"I knew they were getting bombarded with applications, but I just kept up with the story," says Lauren Windsor who applied to adopt him. "If I was having a bad day or something like that, I’d go see what Jake [was] doing, so I decided to take a chance."
Windsor wrote in about her recent rescue dog she found on the side of the road who didn’t survive surgery.
"When we got that phone call, I was heartbroken. I only had him for a couple of weeks, but he was a part of the family," she says.
Heller says they were touched by Windsor’s willingness to rescue an animal who also had a slim chance of surviving, and the match was made.
"It was interesting to see how well he was doing- how happy he was, how much energy he had. It was really heartwarming," says Windsor of their meet and greet before the adoption was finalized.
"It’s important to not look at someone or something that’s in the shape like Jake was and write them off," she adds.
With his adopted brother Jasper who was once pulled from a dumpster, Jake is tail up, tongue out, and living his best life with his new family, all because a group of strangers had a little hope.
This Is Houston is continuing their rescue efforts and expanding into free vaccination and spay and neuter services. To contribute to their efforts or connect with the organization, visit https://www.this-is-houston.org/.