They thought he was a raccoon, or some other kind of animal. But definitely not a dog.
Last Memorial Day, Danielle Finley and her boyfriend were driving their car on a dirt road in rural Pennsylvania when they saw a tiny animal sprinting toward them.
“We were thinking he was just going to duck out of the way in a minute, so we were just cruising,” Finley told The Dodo. “But he didn’t duck away, so we stopped, and he came running around and looked up into the car.”
This was when Finley and her boyfriend got a good look at the animal, who turned out to be a mostly hairless, senior cairn terrier.
“We actually had two of our other dogs — our two Boston terriers — with us, so we popped out of the car, and checked him out,” Finley said. “He was friendly, so we got some dog food out and a little bit of water.”
The dog, whom Finley’s boyfriend named Phil, devoured the food and water. But Finley knew they needed to do more for him. If he belonged to someone, he was definitely lost. And if he didn’t belong to anyone, he couldn’t be left out there alone.
So Finley and her boyfriend scooped up Phil and took him home with them.
At first, they were certain that Phil had mange, a contagious condition caused by mites burrowing into the skin, which results in fur loss. Since it was Memorial Day, they couldn’t get Phil to a vet right away. But the next day, they did, and they were surprised to learn that he didn’t have mange.
“It was just a really severe skin condition from being out in the elements,” Finley said. “So he just lost all of his hair, and he was itchy and stinky, but no mange.”
While no one knows where Phil came from, the vet believes that he’d been owned by someone before.
“One of the things she noticed is that the bottom of his teeth are ground down, so her theory is that it’s probably from being kept in a crate all of the time,” Finley said. “She has a feeling that whoever owned him … kept him in a crate for a little while, and eventually dumped him, because his health issues got out of control.”
Whatever happened in Phil’s past, he had finally found his forever home. For Finley and her boyfriend, it was an easy decision to keep him.
“We both knew it would be hard to find him a home anyway,” she said. “We love animals, we love dogs. We’ve got three others, so why not add one more?”
Phil is now on a special diet to help him get better, and his fur is slowly growing back in.
“He’s getting peach fuzz everywhere, and he had significantly more hair than when we found him,” Finley said.
But Phil will always have missing patches of fur — and Finley believes that he’ll always look a little funny.
“We’ve heard that he looks like a hyena, like the hyenas you see in ‘The Lion King,’” Finley said. “Or a chupacabra — we get that a lot. And a lot of people think that he’s one of those hairless dogs.”
Phil’s hair has gotten so long in places, Finley wants to take him to the groomer, but she’s a little afraid to.
“The groomer will probably look at us like we’re crazy people, but we just want to get him trimmed down with how long his hair is getting,” she said. “It’s probably grown in three times the amount than when we found him.”
To Finley, Phil’s funny patches of fur aren’t his defining characteristic — when she looks at him, she sees his sweetness.
“He just wants to lay with you and be with you, and he wants to relax with you all of the time,” Finley said. “On top of that, there’s his little face — he’s got this look in his eye like he’s grateful all of the time. It’s like he can’t believe that he’s got a comfy place to lie every day.”
Phil gets along famously with Finley’s other three rescue dogs, although he’s formed a particularly close bond with their oldest Boston terrier, Lily.
“They’re pretty tight,” Finley said. “You can almost always find them squeezed up together.”
Phil seems to know how lucky he is — and he’s constantly showing affection. But it’s Finley herself who feels like the luckier one.
“He’s the sweetest dog,” Finley said. “And we feel so lucky to have him.”