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.
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.
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."
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?
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.