Things are not always easy for the animals who are forced to live on the streets. While some manage to make it through relatively unscathed, feasting on scraps of food and finding shelter, there are many more who aren’t nearly as lucky or resourceful.

After all, dogs are domesticated animals—and unlike their wild cousins, they’re not exactly built for “roughing it.” More likely than not, in order to survive, they’ll need a human to intervene. Unfortunately, people who are willing to step in can be hard to come by—but one woman in North Carolina hoped to change all that.

It should go without saying that dogs just aren’t meant to live on the streets and fend for themselves. While they might’ve descended from some wild relatives, they now rely on people to care for them and protect them from the elements.

Sadly, not every dog out there gets the love and attention that it deserves. This goes double for those who are “roughing it” on the streets, whether they’re born feral or they run away from home. Most need a little human intervention if they’re going to survive.

None of this would come as a surprise to animal lovers like Valinda Cortez, who was used to encountering dogs in tragic circumstances. But even she had stories that stayed with her for years…

Just about everyone who met her knew that Valinda, a resident of Canton, North Carolina, was a big-time animal lover. Specifically, she was an enormous fan of dogs, and she often went out of her way to help strays.

So it was no surprise that, when she spotted a dog shivering in a rainy Walmart parking lot, she immediately wanted to help. Though the dog was nervous, she let the woman approach her. Valinda was deeply saddened by what she saw next…

The dog’s hair was wet and matted, one of her legs was cut, and her eyes were infected. Worse still, Valinda realized that this was no stray or feral dog—she’d been abandoned and she had nowhere to turn, making her story even more heartbreaking.

Valinda draped a blanket over the pup to protect her from the rain and keep her warm while she came up with a plan. “Humans had let her down but hopefully the food, warm blanket, and love I gave her will restore her faith in humans,” she said later.

Valinda stayed with the dog for an hour in order to gain her trust. Then, she called her friend, Sue Massi, who was an animal rescue volunteer. When it was clear the dog’s owner wasn’t going to return, Sue suggested that Valinda contact an animal control officer.

When animal control arrived, they decided their first priority should be to treat the dog’s injuries. Carefully, they coaxed the pup into their car so they could bring her to a nearby shelter.

It took a few days, but after receiving proper care and lots of love, the dog—now named Cassie—was doing much better! “That picture of her is perfect. Such a difference,” Valinda said of Cassie’s transformation. “My heart is happy.”

Since then, Cassie’s been adopted and she is living a happy, healthy life in her forever home! What a happy ending for her. Sadly, she’s not the only other dog out there to be mistreated or abandoned…

Cassie’s situation was, sadly, not uncommon. Dogs who once had homes all too often run away or are abandoned by owners who decide they can no longer care for them. Griffey (pictured) was in the same situation.

Griffey’s owner, Karen, wasn’t even looking for a dog when she crossed paths with this fuzzy little wonder. She’d been going for a walk through her local park when she spotted an adoption event…

With no plans to adopt a dog herself, Karen nevertheless decided to stroll through and say “hello” to the dogs. She was nearly done and moving on when she felt something tugging at her ankle and looked down. There was Griffey!

The straggly stray had been living inside a dumpster. His rescuers couldn’t believe that anyone would want to abandon such a sweet-natured dog—and neither could Karen.

For Karen, it was love at first bark. And while she didn’t plan on adopting any pets that day, all it took was one phone call to her husband, Keith, for the go-ahead. Before she knew it, Griffey was all hers!

But Griffey’s adjustment to his new home wasn’t easy, especially not at first. While he adored Karen, he was clearly nervous around Keith, and he acted out by barking and nipping at him.

Thankfully Keith was patient and understanding. He knew that Griffey probably had to deal with a lot of mistreatment from people who wished him harm. Soon enough, Griffey began to thrive under Keith’s tender care—and they became best friends!

The most amazing thing about Griffey’s rescue was how fate seemed to intervene. Karen didn’t know it when she met this dog, but he was slated to be put to sleep in a week if he wasn’t adopted! Talk about a close call.

Thankfully, Karen was willing to change all of her plans by adopting the sweet little guy right on the spot. With her help, she gave him the second chance at the happy life that he deserved!

There are so many dogs and other animals who need rescuing that it can be overwhelming to consider. But in order to make a real change, all you need to do is take it one animal at a time, just like these generous people did!

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