Wacku the rescue dog is showing what is possible with a forgiving heart and a strong spirit.
The canine spent the first two years of his life as a guard dog for a taxi stand owner in the Philippines. In 2012, while on duty, he was senselessly attacked by a drunk man with a machete, who cut off the dog's snout. Following the incident, Wacku's owner rushed the dog to a veterinary teaching hospital at the University of Eastern Philippines. Wacku survived his injuries, even though he lost a lot of blood before arriving at the school.
Still in need of special care, Wacku was later taken to the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). The act of cruelty the dog endured got the attention of PAWS' executive director, Anna Cabrera, who saw the friendly dog as the ideal mascot for PAWS' work to amend the Philippine Animal Welfare Act of 1998. Cabrera took Wacku directly to the politicians who had the power to make a difference and a hearing at the House of Representatives.
Wacku's mutilated face and his heartbreaking story got the reaction PAWS hoped for. The Philippine government amended the country's Animal Welfare Act in October of 2013, increasing fines and jail time for animal abusers. Wacku spent five years with PAWS, helping the Philippines' neglected and abused animals get justice, but unable to find a forever home for himself.
Eventually, Liesl Wilhardt, the founder and executive director of Luvable Dog Rescue in Eugene, Oregon, learned about Wacku and his struggles, both with his injuries and finding an adoptive family. Since she had experience caring for abused and neglected dogs with physical differences and challenges at her rescue, like Picasso the Wonky Faced Dog, she felt confident she could provide Wacku with a great forever home, and PAWS agreed.
"They knew that I could offer Wacku a home with human and animal friends in an environment where he could be himself," Wilhardt tells PEOPLE about how she became the dog's mom.
"When Wacku arrived, he was cautious but curious about everything. I'm sure it was a huge transition for him in every imaginable way. A different climate, different people, different natural environment, different language, different animals around him … but he is also incredibly smart," she added. "He figured out quickly that life was pretty good here! Different but good!"
The gentle and tolerant dog, who endured an early life checkered with abuse, was easily accepted by Wilhardt's other dogs and quickly adored by his new owner and her human friends. What amazed Wilhardt most about Wacku's transition was the dog's ability to adjust to his injuries and rapidly learn to love again.
"I love Wacku so much! I admire his courage and resilience. Despite what happened to him, he loves and trusts people and has found joy in living. I am amazed at his ability to forgive. He's a true survivor," Wilhardt said.
The rescue founder is so enamored with everything Wacku has achieved in his eventful and tumultuous life that she makes sure to share his story — and those of her other rescue pups — with the world on her Instagram @picassothewonkyandwacku.
"I want to share his story because when people see that dogs like Wacku can live happy lives, they are more likely to adopt a dog who may have special needs or differences," she shared.
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