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When this puppy mill dog was rescued, she couldn't stand humans. But just look at her now.

When Coconut the dog was rescued, no one knew if she could be helped at all. But a new rehab program run by the ASPCA means more dogs will have a chance to live and be loved.

When this puppy mill dog was rescued, she couldn't stand humans. But just look at her now.

This is Coconut the dog. She loves getting lots of attention from her family.

Getting some love from her new family. Image by ASPCA.


Her person says: “She adds so much to our life, she really does. … She's absolutely wonderful."

But she wasn't always like this. Coconut had a rough start in life.

Coconut was born in a puppy mill — a large-scale commercial breeding operation where the health of dogs is not a concern. Conditions are disgusting and the treatment of dogs is horrible. As a result, many of the dogs have serious health and socialization issues.

Coconut was terrified of human touch before she was rescued by the ASPCA. Image by ASPCA.

After her rescue, Coconut couldn't stand to be touched by anyone. She was in seriously bad shape — so bad that she couldn't be put up for adoption.

The ASPCA rescued Coconut and more than 150 other dogs from a puppy mill in Michigan. But even outside the puppy mill setting, Coconut was very scared and couldn't stand to be touched by anyone.

Even outside the puppy mill, Coconut couldn't handle being around humans. Image via ASPCA.

There was simply no way she would've been able to handle becoming a family pet right off the bat.

“These dogs have been kept in isolation," said Kristen Collins of the ASPCA. She said that just because the dogs were rescued doesn't mean they're ready for a new home. “They needed extra help, and [in the past] there really wasn't anywhere for them to go."

Years ago, Coconut may have been out of luck. She may have spent years in a shelter, or simply been euthanized because she was too afraid of people.

Luckily for Coconut, the ASPCA recently opened a behavioral rehab center.

In March 2013, the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center opened in New Jersey to help traumatized dogs (either homeless or from cases of cruelty) get ready for adoption. It's the first facility in the country that's dedicated strictly to helping rescued dogs heal their behavioral problems. And so far, more than 200 dogs have graduated from the program.

By week three at the facility, Coconut was letting people touch her — cautiously, but it was a huge step forward.

Coconut tentatively sniffs Kristen's hand. Image by ASPCA.

By week six at the facility, Coconut had learned to actively seek touch when she wanted it (and she learned that getting pets and lovin' is awesome).

Is this the same dog?! Image via ASPCA.

Most dogs take about 12 weeks to make it through the rehab center's program. Coconut's rapid recovery was super impressive. Soon, she was ready to go to her new home.

Coconut's story has a happy ending.

Coconut is now a very social dog. She lives with a family that loves and pets her all the time, and gives her plenty of treats.


Let's all say it together now: awwwwww. Check out Coconut's whole story in the ASPCA's video.

What's the lesson to learn from Coconut?

Kristen Collins says it best: “I think that the main thing to take away ... is that these animals can be helped. And we will try our best to help all of them."

"These animals can be helped. And we will try our best to help all of them."
President Biden/Twitter, Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter

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