Scared 'Unicorn Dog' with Bump on Her Head Becomes Loving Local Celebrity with Rescue's Help
Strawberry the pit bull was saved from euthanasia by The Labelle Foundation, which helped the dog recover from injuries and find a home
Strawberry is ready to take center stage!
The pit bull goes by Strawberry the Unicorn Dog on Instagram, where she is quickly gaining followers and winning hearts. Strawberry earned the title "unicorn dog" due to the large, harmless mound on her forehead that makes it look like she is sporting a horn.
Strawberry already had her bump when she arrived at The Labelle Foundation — a foster-based animal rescue in Los Angeles — last year, but it was the least of her worries.
"She hardly had any hair on her. She had such a horrible, horrible case of mange. She smelled terrible. She had scabs and flaky, chafing skin. Her coat was just bright red with speckles of hair," Laura Labelle, the founder and CEO of The Labelle Foundation, tells PEOPLE of what Strawberry looked like the day she rescued her.
"She just looked like a strawberry," she adds, noting that is how the rescue dog got her name.
Labelle decided to save the dog after seeing several emails about Strawberry from an animal shelter that was reaching capacity and looking to relocate dogs to avoid euthanizing them.
"This email with Strawberry kept coming up with a picture, and she had that giant mass on her head and these beautiful eyes, and I was like, "Oh, someone's going to save this baby for sure,'" Labelle recalls.
So Labelle was surprised when another email came a few days later, sharing that Strawberry would be euthanized in the next 24 hours if another rescue didn't take her in.
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"Some of them, they just speak to your soul," Labelle says about why she decided to jump in the car and drive 90 minutes to pick up Strawberry that day.
"She was just the sweetest, most submissive, scared thing," she adds of her first impressions of the dog.
Labelle took Strawberry to a veterinarian to treat the dog's skin issues and address the bump on her head. The rescuer feared that a brain tumor was behind Strawberry's unicorn horn and was relieved when the mass turned out to be a harmless scar.
"Sometimes in humans and animals, the bone builds up behind a scar. It gets the wrong message, and it just keeps calcifying, and you get a giant, hard mass," Labelle explains.
Unfortunately, the source of the scar was likely blunt-force trauma. It is possible that Strawberry was hit by a car before her rescue or abused by a previous owner, but since the dog arrived in the shelter system as a stray, her history is unknown.
After Strawberry's diagnosis, Labelle consulted with a surgeon about removing the mass and learned "the most humane and kindest thing to do would be just to leave it there" since the bump wasn't causing the dog any pain.
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"I mean, she looks like a little unicorn to me. I was like, 'It's perfect,'" Labelle says, adding that the bump stopped growing before the dog arrived at The Labelle Foundation.
Following Strawberry's rescue, the dog settled in with a foster parent and received several weeks of medicated skin treatments and training. Strawberry emerged from this period of recovery, which also included regular trips to the ocean, ready to find a forever home.
"This delightful family just fell head over heels with her, and she has an amazing home," Strawberry's rescuer shares.
The home where Strawberry is "thriving" belongs to Kristen and Jeff Kuhlman, who share 11-year-old twins Claire and Jack. When the family first saw Strawberry's adoption profile on The Labelle Foundation's Instagram, they were still mourning the loss of their 17-year-old shepherd/pit bull mix.
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When Strawberry popped up on Instagram again, still available for adoption, sometime later, the family decided to submit an application. Soon after, the South Pasadena family visited the dog at her foster home and instantly fell in love.
"She was so friendly and filled with joy. We decided to adopt her that day," Kristen tells PEOPLE.
Since her September adoption, Strawberry has settled in nicely at the Kuhlman household.
"Understandably, the first couple of weeks, she felt pretty nervous. She had been through some terrible things in her life and moved many times before, so it took her time to feel comfortable with us and to settle into our family routine. Within a couple of weeks, she came out of her shell and started to shine," Kristen says.
Today, "she's loving, snuggly, curious, friendly, and rascally."
In place of the scared, red, hairless dog that Labelle first met is a friendly canine with a full coat of fur who loves to "snuggle up with anyone on the sofa."
In the months since her adoption, Strawberry has become a local celebrity.
"People are curious about her bump and often ask us what happened to her. She's very recognizable, so she has a lot of friends in the neighborhood! Everyone she meets thinks that she's beautiful," Kristen says.
Strawberry also has a following online, with over 3,000 followers on Instagram. Kristen says the page is a place to celebrate the joy rescuing a pet can bring to people and animals.
"I hope that people will give pet adoption a chance. There are so many wonderful animals out there waiting to find a good home. We think that Strawberry's unicorn horn is what makes her special. You can see in her eyes that she's grateful to have been given a second chance at life," she says.
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Labelle sees an ambassador for shelter pets with special needs in Strawberry, who proves that all pets can thrive once they are given support and love.
"I hope that people can see and understand that dogs with special needs are so worth going the extra mile for," Labelle says.
For those not in the place to adopt an animal, there are numerous other ways to support The Labelle Foundation. Visit the rescue's website to learn more about donations, responsible pet ownership, and volunteer work.
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Read the original article on People.