Faces of No-Kill: Dog goes from depressed to loved

Caesar the dog with his new family outside in front of a Best Friends sign
Caesar was sick, in pain, and scared when he first came to Best Friends. A foster family changed his life, and he did the same for them.
By Kelli Harmon

The Faces of No-Kill series highlights stories about pets who have become a statistic in the best way. These are just a few of the many pets who once slipped into danger; they lost their homes, they had health or behavioral challenges, their families couldn’t care for them, or all the above. But each one of them got assistance, and today they are thriving thanks to an animal shelter program that helped them rather than killed them. Best Friends’ goal is for every animal shelter and every community to reach no-kill by 2025. The story below is just one example of why it’s so important.

Caesar looked like he’d nearly given up on life. He cowered away from the hands reaching for him as he climbed out of the van from a nearby city animal shelter. When someone looped a leash around his neck to lead him into the Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Northwest Arkansas, he flattened himself to the ground.

He was far too skinny. His golden fur was stained and dirty, and he had urine burns and pressure sores on his back legs. He was crawling with fleas, and the veterinary team would later learn his heart was full of worms. He was so depressed and scared that a staff person ended up having to pick up Caesar and carry him into the building.

His medical problems could be treated, but what was more concerning was how incredibly sad Caesar was. Either he hadn’t known love in his life or whoever once took care of him hadn’t for a long time.

Veterinary care to the rescue

Once inside the pet resource center, the team brought Caesar straight to the veterinary clinic. The veterinary staff shaved and treated his wounds, gave him pain medication, and started him on antibiotics. They settled him into a quiet space with a comfortable bed.

He’d already captured everyone’s hearts.

Caesar would barely eat or take his medication in the first few days. But then there was the first time he perked up when someone brought him his food. It was a glimpse of the dog Caesar really was.

[Skinny dog blossoms in foster home]

He got a little better each day, and the foster team tried placing him in a home where he could continue to gain strength and recover physically. But he was still scared and even tried to get away as people attempted to gently put him into the back seat of a car. He still struggled to walk while on a leash, flattening himself to the ground in fear, and he ended up coming back to the pet resource center, where there were experienced staff and volunteers to take care of him.

It began to look like Caesar could have been so traumatized that he might always be too scared to walk on a leash or play with toys — and enjoy things other dogs do. The team was there to support him however they could.

But then a family came to the Best Friends Pet Resource Center to visit the coffee shop and pet some cats, and everything changed.

Caesar’s life changes forever

Jason and Stephanie Smith are animal lovers, but Jason says it had never crossed their minds to foster a homeless pet before. They certainly didn’t expect to start after a brief outing to pick up coffee and let their daughter play with some cats, but one thing led to another.

Jason says, “After we were handed our coffee, the staff person said there were dogs there too.” They went downstairs to the area where dogs can spend the day and meet people — including potential adopters or foster volunteers. They were drawn to Caesar right away. As they petted Caesar, they talked with a Best Friends team member who shared that they were looking for a foster home for Caesar.

[The right roommate helps calm anxious dog]

The Smiths went home without Caesar that day, but the encounter was just enough to pique their interest. “We came back three times in two days to visit him,” Jason says. And they decided to give fostering a try.

Caesar was a different dog at their home. He stretched out on the couch with the kids, his legs in the air. He romped in the grass with their other two dogs.

He was so full of love and life that within a week of Caesar going home with the Smiths, they realized they wanted him to be a permanent part of the family. And so they adopted him.


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♬ Emotional - Bang Nono

Today, Caesar weighs nearly twice as much as when he first arrived at Best Friends. He’s nearly finished with heartworm treatment. He is healthy and strong; his coat is clean and soft. And there’s no doubt that he feels safe and loved.

He also has a new name to go with his new life: Lucky.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

Saving lives around the country

Together, we're creating compassionate no-kill communities nationwide for pets and the people who care for them.

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