In a kinder world, maybe her soulful brown eyes or sweet puppy smile would be the reason why pictures of 2-year-old Khaleesi spread through social media at top speed — but the truth is, what makes Khaleesi’s image so shareable is also what makes it so heartbreaking. At some point in her short life, Khaleesi’s nose was just ripped off her face.
Khaleesi can’t tell us what happened to her before she was dumped on the lawn of an elderly Florida couple last summer, but the physical condition of the Pit Bull mix speaks for itself.
“It’s speculated that she was used for bait and breeding,” explains Lisa Otto, who had been volunteering with Passion 4 Pits out of St. Petersburg, Florida, for just over a year when Khaleesi came into the organization’s care.
“She was only 15 pounds, she couldn’t walk. She would drag her back feet behind her,” Otto remembers.
A passionate advocate against animal abuse, she sees Khaleesi’s ever-growing fame as a great opportunity to educate people everywhere about the horrors of dog fighting.
“It happens all the time, and it’s probably happening in your backyard,” says Otto, who is now known as Khaleesi’s media relations manager. It’s not a title she ever imagined for herself, but the role became necessary on August 8, 2015 — the day Passion 4 Pits founder Stephanie Paquin and her husband, Mike, saved Khaleesi from a shelter in Orlando.
The pair were at Orange County Animal Services that day to pick up another dog when a shelter staff member asked them to take at look at a different animal, who they were warned was in very bad shape. Tears were shed, and soon Khaleesi was in the couple’s car and on her way to a new life and viral fame.
“The first picture that they took was Khalessi sitting in their backseat,” Otto recalls.
That inaugural image of the sick and injured dog quickly blew up the Passion 4 Pits Facebook page. Within a matter of hours, the first snapshots of Khaleesi had been viewed thousands of times.
“Within two or three days we set up a GoFundMe account,” Otto recalls. “It just went viral from there.”
Soon, Otto and Paquin were taking turns fielding interview requests from reporters. Meanwhile, Khaleesi was settling into foster care with Paquin and beginning a medical journey that would involve several surgeries — the first of which was six hours long.
“Her biggest surgery was her nasal reconstruction,” says Otto.
Prior to the nasal reconstruction (which also saw her upper canine teeth removed), Khaleesi could only breathe through her mouth. This meant getting a good night’s sleep was difficult for her, because if she closed her mouth she would wake herself up. Her foster people were pleased to see her sleep like a baby after the reconstruction was complete.
In addition to all the work on her snout, Khaleesi also had surgery to get her back end back up. Between August and January, this determined dog gained weight and learned how to walk again — something that came in handy when she walked to the stage to accept her award as Underdog of the Year during the nationally televised World Dog Awards.
The continuing media attention has contributed to Khaleesi’s story spreading even further around the social Web. Khaleesi has made headlines around the world, and the resulting donations have been a big help to the organization that saved her.
“It’s really pushed Passion 4 Pits into the spotlight, which has in turn helped us help other rescues financially,” says Otto, who estimates Khaleesi’s medical expenses so far total about $35,000.
She says Passion 4 Pits has been able to distribute about $7,000 to help Furever Bully Love, Sniffing Snouts, Bailey’s Way, Big Hearts Big Dogs, Phoenix Rising Animal Rescue, as well two emergency surgeries of dogs who weren’t in rescue.
Khaleesi and her rescuers have had a lot of good news over the last few months, but there have also been some setbacks. Although Passion 4 Pits initially thought Khaleesi would eventually be adoptable, they’re now dealing with a dual diagnosis of glomerulonephritis (an acute inflammation of the kidney) and Babsia gibsoni (a tick-borne disease). According to Otto, Khaleesi has been given about six to 12 months to live.
“Unfortunately, between the two diseases she is battling, the prognosis is not good,” she tells Dogster. “Of course, we’re trying to be optimistic.”
So it seems Khaleesi’s foster home with the founder of Passion for Pits has become her forever home. Otto is confident the dog she describes as an attention-loving little diva will be cherished in her final days — no matter how few there are left.
“Whether she’s here six months, 12 months, or six years, she will get the best possible care, and she will deserve it.”
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.