7 min read

Stray Dog Was Walking Around With Swollen Head For The Saddest Reason

He can’t stop wagging his tail now — and is looking for just the right home.

In late August, Laura Forma spotted an unusual-looking dog trotting down a street near Houston, Texas. While the dog’s body appeared normal, his head had swollen to be about three times the size it should be.

“I was driving down the street, and I saw him right in the middle of the street, walking head-on into traffic,” Forma, an independent dog rescuer, told The Dodo. “I just pulled over and tried to get him, but he just kept running the other way. He wasn’t even interested in me.”

Dog with swollen head running down street
Laura Forma

Forma tried offering him food, but he didn’t come to get it. Instead, the dog disappeared into a gated housing complex.

“By the time I went in there and talked to the guard, I couldn’t find him,” Forma said.

Regretfully, Forma had to leave without rescuing the dog, but she wrote a post on Facebook as soon as she could. Her post found Anna Barbosa, president and cofounder of Houston K-911 Rescue, a group that helps abandoned and neglected dogs.

“I happened to be close by that neighborhood when she posted it, so I went out and had a look for him,” Barbosa told The Dodo. “Couldn’t find him. I asked people, but no one had any idea what I was talking about.”

Dog with swollen head in cage
Gus after being safely captured by Forma and the others | Laura Forma

When Forma finished work later that day, she hurried back to search for the dog, along with a couple volunteers, Tom Heller and Rob Acuna Jr. They eventually found him hiding in a storage unit in front of an apartment complex, and managed to safely catch him in a trap. Then they drove him to VERGI Animal Hospital, and Houston K-911 Rescue took over his care.

Dog with swollen head at vet clinic
Houston K-911 Rescue

The dog, whom they named Gus, turned out to have a shoelace tied around his neck — it was so tight that it had caused his head and neck to swell and bloat.

"The fluids were unable to move through his body because it was cut off,” Barbosa said. “What I think happened was that he was a puppy, and somebody who didn’t know better put a shoelace around him. Education is a huge part of dog ownership, and if you don’t know better, then you just do what to do. However, this is all speculation.”

Dog with swollen head at vet clinic
Houston K-911 Rescue

When the vet team did an X-ray, they also discovered that he had 28 pellets lodged in his body — someone had shot him multiple times.

“They are pretty much on the right side of his body,” Barbosa said. “I don’t know how it happened … was he held down? Was he tied up and [had] somebody shooting at him? Who knows.”

X-ray showing pellets in dog's body
An X-ray showing pellets lodged in Gus' body | Houston K-911 Rescue

Gus’ injuries were so bad, the vets weren’t initially sure if he’d survive — and everyone could see that Gus was in a great deal of pain.

“He was vacant,” Barbosa said. “You could tell that the amount of pain was probably just too overwhelming, so you could tell that he was in survivor mode.”

Dog with swollen head lying on blankets
Houston K-9 Rescue

The vet team worked hard to save Gus’ life by operating on his injuries — and Gus, who’s estimated to be only about 8 months old, managed to pull through.

When Gus was stable enough to leave the hospital, he went to live with Marina Harrison, a foster carer for Houston K-911 Rescue. While Gus’ recovery has been a slow one, Harrison has enjoyed seeing improvements in him every day.

Vet comforting dog in clinic
Houston K-9 Rescue

“He was a little nervous at first, but he became more confident pretty quickly,” Harrison told The Dodo. “He gives me a few tail wags here and there, he’s eating well. He likes to steal the other dogs’ beds when he gets the chance, so he’s got a little bit of personality coming out, which is really nice to see.”

Dog recovering from injuries
Houston K-911 Rescue

Gus will need several more weeks to fully recover, but he’ll eventually be up for adoption.

Rescued dog posing with his rescuers
Houston K-9 Rescue

“I saw him over the weekend and he’s doing great,” Forma said. “He doesn’t even act like anything was wrong with him. He’s super loving, and he just covered us with kisses and hugs. He’s looking for a home, and he’s going to make a great dog.”

If you’re interested in adopting Gus, you can contact Houston K-9 Rescue. You can also help rescue other dogs like Gus by making a donation to the rescue group.