At first glance, these dogs might seem like any other pet basking in the warmth of family: licking ice cream, high-fiving their best human friend, sprawling out in a sea of toys.
There’s no trace of the lives they once lived. Or the horrors they endured.
After all, dogs bring no baggage to their new lives, just a heart full of happiness and gratitude.
But sometimes, to understand how deep that joy runs — and the everlasting beauty of saving a dog’s life — it’s important to at least remind ourselves where a dog came from.
These are the stories of just a handful of dogs saved through a Canadian organization called Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary — survivors whose sad stories took a sudden turn for the sweetest of endings.
Lucy narrowly missed an appointment with euthanasia
In fact, after a lifetime of abuse, Lucy's appointment at an animal shelter in Miami might have seemed like sweet release.
But Rob Scheinberg had something different in mind. The founder of Dog Tales was visiting Miami-Dade Animal Services, looking to bring the shelter’s most desperately needy dogs back to Canada.
He found Lucy while she was being taken to the euthanasia room.
The brutally malnourished dog was too sick to make the journey to Canada right away, so the rescue group had her boarded until she got her strength back.
Not long after arriving in Canada, Lucy found the sweetest release of all: a real family.
“Today, Lucy is living a beautiful life with her incredible family,” Claire Forndran, media director at Dog Tales, says. “She spends her summers at the cottage and has learned how to paddle board with her humans. She also enjoys the occasional ice cream cone.”
Milo was raised for a dinner table
The people who put him in a cage saw just one purpose in this dog’s life: as a dish at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
Hearing of her plight, Humane Society International stepped in and saved Milo, along with 62 other dogs destined for the dinner plate.
And not long after that, Milo arrived in Canada, where a family saw this dog’s true purpose.
“Milo is now an ambassador against the true dog meat trade and is living the life he has always deserved with his wonderful family and fur-sister,” Forndran says.
Harley’s condition made him the invisible shelter dog
Sometimes, a big, bouncing heart isn’t enough. People need to see a wagging tail too. But Harley, whose mother was rescued from a dilapidated shelter in Israel, was born with with a spinal condition that left him unable to control his lower half.
As a result, he was often overlooked by potential families.
“Thankfully, one day the perfect family arrived who saw Harley for the incredible, playful and quirky boy that he is,” Forndran says. “Harley now has his own custom wheelchair and nothing is slowing him down.”
Homer went from caged and forgotten to internet stardom
Homer’s odyssey led him, literally, from the jaws of tragedy — he was another dog bred for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival — to the bright shores of hope.
Saved from the festival in 2016, Harley was brought to Canada, where he was one of the few dogs who needed a little time to put the darkness behind him.
“When he arrived, he was frightened of strangers as a result of the cruelty and horror that he surely witnessed and he needed a special family,” Forndran explains.
“Luckily that family came, and now Homer is living an amazing life in downtown Toronto.”
In fact, Homer even has his own Instagram account.
Mabel was an unlikely stowaway on this freedom ride
Unlike many of the other dogs at this sanctuary, Mabel was born at Dog Tales — much to everyone’s surprise.
Her mother, Empress, was among 250 dogs rescued from a muddy, rat-infested property in Israel.
But no one realized Empress was carrying her own precious cargo on the flight. She was pregnant.
Few doubted her puppies would have survived being born in Israel.
Instead, Empress managed to wait until she had crossed the Atlantic before giving birth to a litter of puppies.
“Mabel and her brothers and sisters were incredibly lucky,” Forndran says of the happy dog you can see in the photo at the top of this post. “We are so grateful that they will never have to suffer the way that their mother did, and all have found wonderful homes.
Stephanie and Snoopy could only be happy together
The bond between Stephanie her son Snoopy was so strong, it made their chances of finding a home that much more difficult; they were a package deal. Saved from a hoarding situation, these dogs were lifelines for each other.
Stephanie and Snoopy had to wait a little longer to find a home together. (Photo: Gotcha Studios/Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary)
The only trouble is, once they arrived in Canada, their insistence on being together held them back from finding a home. They spent a year at the sanctuary before someone made room in their lives for two dogs.
“This year, Snoopy was able to give Stephanie her first Mother's Day card,” Forndran notes. “We're sure that, for her, the best gift of all is knowing that both she and her son will be together, and so loved, for the rest of their days.”
Max was bred for a life of violence
It’s no wonder that Max greeted the other dogs at the shelter with a certain wariness. After all, his old owner had trained him for the underground fighting pit.
Rescued from Quebec, Canada, Max was “incredibly reactive” to other dogs — making his adoption a tough proposition for any family.
It took more than a year for Dog Tales staff to get through to Max — and help him understand that life isn’t a fighting ring. But once he did, Max more than made up for it.
“He transformed into one of the most social dogs we have ever had,” Forndran says.
In fact, Max became a “helper dog;” the sanctuary used him to re-socialize dogs who didn’t get along with others.
Max may have forgotten the life that was forced on him, but some people had a hard time forgetting where he came from.
“When Max was ready for adoption we tried everything we could think of to find him that perfect home, but nothing seemed to work,” Forndran explains.
He was dogged by his own reputation.
Then the family he had been waiting for showed up — and Max took his charm offensive to the next level.
“Max visits our shelter for playgroup every few weeks, and, when he is not with us, he’s busy receiving belly rubs and, apparently, playing pool.”
Roscoe faced a cold and lonely end
Roscoe was found chained to a balcony. On a freezing day in the middle of the Canadian winter.
He also had a gaping tumor on his nose.
It all added up to a grim veterinary prognosis: Roscoe wouldn’t live another month.
“Knowing this, I couldn't bear the thought of him dying in a shelter, and I brought him home,” Forndran says. But her quest to save the dog was only just beginning.
The Dog Tales team reached out to specialists all over the world, looking for innovative techniques that might remove the tumor — but to no avail.
“Then a miracle happened,” Forndran recalls. “The actress Maggie Q, who is a huge animal lover and advocate, visited our rescue.
Maggie Q connected Roscoe with her personal veterinarian.
“He had never seen a tumor so complex in his career, but felt that it would be worth a try to save Roscoe's life,” Forndran says.
Using a technique called cryosurgery, veterinarian Marty Goldstein, managed to remove 98 percent of the tumor.
"He now looks like a completely new dog,” Forndran says.
In fact, the new shiny lives of all these dogs are impressive. It's just a reminder of how much of a difference one adoption can make.