When Misto arrived at the Nassau Humane Society in Florida, he was missing most of his fur and was very thin: a result of the difficult life he had led before his rescue earlier this month. The one-year-old dog had been found living in sordid conditions on a Florida property, along with more than 140 other dogs, and he was in extremely poor shape, both physically and emotionally. He cowered in his kennel, afraid of being approached or handled. Until he met Ziggy.

Ziggy, a rescue from a large-scale hoarding case, had arrived at the Nassau shelter a year earlier and was adopted by an employee there. Ziggy, too, struggled with confidence and hid away from people, but, according to shelter director Christina Sutherin, he has come a long way since he was rescued.

When Misto and Ziggy met, it was friendship at first sight.

“Ziggy started acting like a big brother to Misto and supplied him with some much-needed confidence. They act almost as kindred spirits. It is incredible to see these two dogs who have been through so much at the hands of people who were supposed to care for them helping each other,” Christina added.

Like Misto, other dogs we helped local law enforcement rescue from the alleged large-scale neglect situation in Dixie County, Florida, earlier this month are on the path to healing. The dogs were transported to several HSUS Shelter and Rescue Partners across the state last week where they are receiving love and TLC, and we hope that in time they will be ready to find their own forever homes.

These animals have endured a lot of suffering. When we found them, many were living outdoors in ramshackle, hutch-like structures that were filthy, caked with feces, and that leaked when it rained. More dogs were packed inside campers and a mobile home. Most of the dogs were suffering from skin conditions that included missing fur, sores and itchy skin.

It was as bad as it gets, according to our Animal Rescue Team members who encounter some of the most horrific animal cruelty in their work to rescue animals from cases of neglect and from puppy mill situations.

Five individuals have since been arrested by law enforcement and charged with 145 counts each of first-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty. Florida has strong animal cruelty laws in place and in coming weeks we hope these individuals responsible for such suffering will be held accountable.

We are grateful to our shelter and rescue partners, including the SPCA Tampa Bay, Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, Nassau Humane Society, Leon County Humane Society, Humane Society of Sarasota County, Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County and Humane Society Naples, for taking in the dogs and seeing them through their path to recovery. We are also grateful to the Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust for their generous donation to help support the expert care and supplies needed for the rescued animals, and to our long-time partner, GreaterGood.org, for donations of dog food for the rescued animals.

There’s one more thing we are grateful for: the resilience of these animals. This is something we encounter in every such case we handle, and even on the day of the Florida rescue, our team members reported how some of the dogs approached them, greeting them with kisses. It never fails to warm our hearts and give purpose and renewed vigor to the work we do.

These dogs still have a long way to go, but the worst is behind them. Misto, who was diagnosed with demodectic mange, is now receiving the appropriate medical treatment. He has crusty scabs on his body, eye discharge and an ear infection, according to Christina, but he is beginning to sprout some new hair and has learned to love his warm, medicated baths and the pampering that comes with them.

“When you help a dog find themselves and thrive it reminds you exactly why the hard days of rescue are so worth it in the long run,” she says. We couldn’t agree more.