TOP: This photo of Joon, which was submitted to the shelter, got the wheels in motion for their recovery. BOTTOM: Joon and Benny after 12 days at the shelter.

When Marsha Martin and Marni Murphy arrived at a local trailer court to rescue a pair of puppies, they weren’t prepared for what they saw. The dogs were overcome with mange and flea infestation. One appeared to have no eyes. There were no doghouses. Both were chained in a pile of mud.

Using blankets, Martin and Murphy carefully picked up the puppies to remove them from the horrific conditions.

“They just cried in pain,” Martin said. “It was hard because we had to hurt them in order to help them.”

That’s when the road to recovery began for Benny and Joon.

It’s been two weeks since the dogs were rescued and began their new lives at The Animal Shelter of Texas County. Through 24-hour care and medical treatment, Benny and Joon have gone from literally days away from dying to puppies that love to play, cuddle and wrestle attention away from the volunteers at the shelter.

“They’re beginning to be puppies,” said Kim Epperly, the shelter’s manager.

TASTC receives many calls and visitors asking that animals be taken in. Because the building is at full capacity — currently around 30 dogs and 15-20 cats — there is a waiting list. On Feb. 3, a caller said two dogs had wandered onto his property. The man was asked to submit photos of the animals — a standard process to begin the adoption process.

Martin was one of the first volunteers to see the close-up photo of a puppy with no eyes.

“We looked at that picture and decided we needed to do something,” Martin said. “We couldn’t leave those pups like that.”

Martin remembers the terrible smell of the car ride to the veterinarian after rescuing Benny and Joon. The puppies’ infected skin reeked, but she and Murphy didn’t let the odor stand in the way of giving the dogs the attention they had never received.

“They became a part of us,” Martin said. “They knew we were there to help them. They had so much love they wanted to give.”

Joon, the girl, was in the worst shape of the two. Volunteers were unsure if she was blind or had no eyes. She would whine when touched. When it was time to move the puppies from their pen to clean it, workers would carry them on pillows to keep from touching their skin.

The puppies had to be force-fed. They slept the entire day.

“We thought the girl would die any day,” Epperly said. “We think the only reason she stayed alive was Benny was there to keep her awake and cleaned up.”

As they were treated daily with medication, Benny and Joon began to improve. They ate solid food. They became more active. Hair grew on their little bodies. Joon opened her eyelids, exposing the eyes the workers were unsure existed.

The past few days, they learned to play with tennis balls and went outside for the first time since arriving at the shelter.

“They’ve become the playful puppies that they should have been when we got them,” Martin said. “They wrestle with each other, play with toys.”

Epperly, who rescued a dog battling the same mange and infection Benny and Joon had, said the puppies will be treated medically for about one month. The shelter will keep them at least two months before taking adoption applications.

Plans are for the puppies, which Epperly believes are French Bull Mastiffs, to stay together.

“I had a lot of anger that somebody could let two innocent animals get to that state before they got help,” Martin said. “Now my anger has dissipated, and it’s a love for these two dogs.”

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