These shelter dogs were completely transformed after a simple grooming.
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When Fluffy arrived at the Animal Care Center in New York City, he wasn't in the best shape.

He'd spent quite a while at the shelter but had yet to find a home. As if that weren't bad enough, his long, shaggy fur was seriously matted, causing painful sores all over his body. He was far from looking or feeling his best.


All images by Mark Imhof, used with permission.

The sad truth is, the way a dog looks plays a huge role in how it feels and interacts with people. It also affects how potential families see it. A single grooming session can be the difference between finding a home and being euthanized.

Shelters are filled to the brink with unwanted and abandoned pets.

When you visit an animal shelter, there are a lot of little fur balls in need of love, vying for your attention. According to the ASPCA, "approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide each year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats."

If that doesn't break your heart, this next fact might. The ASPCA states that "each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)."

The reality is that the animals people find the cutest go the fastest.

Kittens and puppies are swooped out of shelters at a much faster rate than their fully-grown friends. Some organizations such as PAWS, a national rescue and adoption organization, aren't even able to post photos online fast enough due to the high demand.

Older pets, special needs animals, and those that have lost their luster get overlooked easily.

Dexter, a senior bichon frise, posing for the camera after his spa day.

Even the biggest animal lover may not notice the shaggy guy in the corner when there's a puppy the size of a palm falling over and offering kisses in exchange for some love.

That's where Mark the dog guy comes in. He gives animals in need of some TLC makeovers, helping them to find their forever homes.

Mark worked in the financial sector as a certified public accountant and internal auditor before deciding to dedicate more of his time to something that would bring him endless joy.

Mark knew the role that animals' appearance plays in their adoption firsthand — and how uncomfortable lack of grooming can make them: When his fiancé went to pick up the pit bull they had decided to adopt from the shelter, she was so disheartened by the pup's appearance — she looked nothing like her photos — that for a moment she considered turning back.

She didn't, and their worlds changed forever. They took her home, gave her a bath, and saw the dog completely transform. Mark recalls the layers of dirt coming off of her fur.

He told CTV news, "We could tell right away that some of her self-respect came back. It's magical, the transformation the dogs have."

Image of Mark with Cleo, his first pit bull and inspiration for Mark the Dog Guy.

This experience set the wheels in motion. Mark wanted to give baths to pit bulls and raise awareness of the sweet, loving, dogs they can be, but the scope of this project grew pretty quickly. He now runs his business, Mark the Dog Guy, and donates his services to shelter dogs in need of a makeover so that they can look and feel their best — and hopefully find a family that's eager to take them home.

Like Fluffy. Remember Fluffy?

A few sores from the matted fur, but Fluffy's working it for the camera.

He was the NYC ACC sponsored dog of the week, but Mark's grooming skills gave him the comfort and confidence to charm his new family. They'd seen his photos and were intrigued, but the loving, clean-cut pup that greeted them sealed the deal. After being groomed, Fluffy went from a shy guy with painful, matted fur to a loving, happy pup. The family was completely smitten, and Fluffy went home with them that day.

Here are some of Mark's other happy customers.

Meet Sean, who had some pretty serious behavioral issues that made it almost impossible to get him adopted.


See how calm and collected he looks after his grooming? The matted fur was causing him so much discomfort that he'd acted out. Only days after Mark worked his magic, Sean's new and improved temperament made it possible for him to move to a new shelter to find a home.

This is Sugarplum.

Mark said, "What I love about this picture is that he has the same face in both pics, but one is covered up with matted fur and the other shows his soulful eyes and cuteness."

Here we have before, during, and after shots of Paris at the Brooklyn ACC.

Mark says, "you can see the matted fur coming off in one piece that used to be stuck like glue to this poor dog’s body."

Free of the painful, matted fur, Paris looks and feels like an entirely new dog.

For Mark, the experience is incredible.

He explained to us, "The dogs usually become so used to the pain that they have from the matted fur that they just think that’s their new normal, this pain that they’re in." After he works with the pups, they experience a new reality for the first time in a long time. He says, "Once they’re done, they’re usually super happy and just loving. And then the best part is when they get adopted."

He shares their stories on Facebook and Instagram and urges people to visit shelters first when considering welcoming a pet into the family. Because that's the end goal: to find these pups their forever homes.

The pups aren't the only ones transformed. Mark's world is changed too.

Many dog owners like to ask, "Who rescued who?" (In fact, there's even a bumper sticker). It's the same for Mark. He said, "I feel like my heart has completely opened up, and it’s just really special and amazing, and I feel grateful that I’m able to do this right now."

We're pretty sure those dogs are pretty darn grateful to him, too.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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