When an old dog gets dropped off at a shelter, the odds of him finding a fresh leash on life are pretty slim.
It didn’t help that this 12-year-old dog wasn’t in the best health: He had pneumonia and seemed altogether listless at the Los Angeles shelter where he would likely end his days.
Then there was that face — the raggedy teeth and plus-sized ears. Not exactly the face that launches a thousand children into squeals of “I want him.”
But somehow, he called out to Julie Chadwick back in 2006. She was visiting the shelter while volunteering for a local animal rescue group.
"I was walking through one of the inside runs, when I noticed his lifeless body lying on the ground," Chadwick tells MNN. "When we got him out, he actually collapsed in my arms which confirmed my fears that he was very ill."
Once the old dog — she named him Billy Goat because he looked like one — got healthy, Chadwick took him to adoption events, hoping to find him a family for life. Instead, for the next six months, she was met with the same refrain:
This dog was too "ugly."
But Chadwick didn’t see the ugly in this little dog. She saw hope. And she soon realized Billy Goat’s hopes lay with her.
Chadwick decided she would be the one to give Billy Goat his forever home.
And forever, sustained on a revitalizing diet of happiness, became a very long time indeed.
Billy Goat turned 23 this year — almost twice the age he was when surrendered as an "old" dog at the shelter. And although he’s getting a little frail — arthritic and blind — a recent veterinary exam showed him to be a picture of health on the inside.
"He's kind of lost a lot of hair and walks sort of hunched over," she says. "But he doesn't appear to be in any pain."
Chadwick went on to found her own rescue group — the Pepper Foundation — dedicating herself to saving countless senior dogs.
Just like Billy Goat.
"He is a really special different little guy," she says. "He just keeps on going. It's amazing."