Story by KOAT

ESPAÑOLA, N.M. — A New Mexico dog is now in the finals for a national makeover competition after being saved by Espanola Humane.

Giuseppe was brought to the shelter late last year and his condition shocked staff.

“I was at the shelter and an Animal Control truck rolled into the back, and the Animal Control officer came inside and said, ‘You need to see what I have in the back,'” said Mattie Allen, the Communications Director for Espanola Humane. “My heart sunk, because if an animal control officer says that, you just know it’s a really bad case.”

When she opened the car door, Allen said she was heartbroken.

“It was the most horrific example of neglect I’ve ever seen in my life,” Allen said. “You could barely tell which was his head and tail, except he had a mouth. His entire body was basically one solid mat of fur. You couldn’t see his feet. You couldn’t see his legs. He could not stand up.”

Staff believe Giuseppe was kept in a small kennel outside, deprived of human touch.

“We had him under anesthesia for over an hour, shaving the mats off. We actually weighed the mats. It was over five pounds of fur that we took off of him, which if you think about how much hair weighs, that is a lot of fur,” Allen said.

That fur was a third of Giuseppe’s body weight at the time. He also had fluid in his lungs, was overweight due to hypothyroidism, needed dental work and emotionally was completely closed off to people.

But after some medication, love and care, Giuseppe was ready for adoption. A family brough him home and added him to their family.

“His new name is Joey. It’s sort of a shortened version of Giuseppe, and he responds to it. He’s got a whole pack of dogs at his home. He has a whole new life,” Allen said. “He’s turned into this wonderful, happy little dog who, I guess from what I heard from his adopter, he’s acting like a little puppy.”

Joey’s transformation is now gaining national attention after Espanola Humane entered him into the Dirty Dogs Contest.

His makeover is in the top 10, beating out roughly 400 other entries. The winning dog gets $10,000 for the shelter that took them in. The second place receives $3,000 and the third place gets $1,000.

“We could use it in our free spay-neuter clinic. We could use it to help our foster team with all of the neonatal animals that are in foster care right now,” Allen said.

While KOAT was at Española Humane, another dog was brought in, with matted fur throughout its body, much of it accumulating around its back end. Staff told KOAT, the matted fur is so bad, the dog may not be able to go to the bathroom.

Allen hopes Joey’s story and the competition teach people to never judge a book by its cover.

“It’s got a lighthearted name, but it really shines a light on, the severe neglect these animals are enduring when they go such go through such an outward transformation,” said Allen. “I’m really happy that they’re doing this contest because it allows people to see the neglect that animals suffer and how they can come out the other side.”

You can cast your vote for Joey through May 31. Just click here to vote.

His image is front and center of the lobby at Espanola Humane and their website. All this month every donation given to the shelter will be matched, To donate, click here.

To see the KOAT newscast, click here.