20-year-old Kayla Filoon is a dog lover through and through. She became a volunteer dog walker at ACCT Philly, an animal shelter in Philadelphia, PA. One day, while at the shelter, Filoon noticed a newcomer named Russ. Russ, a 4-year-old Pit Bull, was in pretty bad shape. He had patchy fur and was very skinny. “He came in as a stray, and he was really beat up,” Filoon told The Dodo. “He was missing fur on his tail and ears. He was also terribly skinny. They told me he was about 40 pounds when he came into the shelter.” But she knew, despite his appearance, that Russ was very special.

Filoon noticed that Russ was calmer and quieter than most dogs were in his situation. As she passed by him several times, he just sat and stared at her and she thought to herself:   …”He is adorable! I need to take him now.”

She decided to take Russ for a nice long walk but at just a few minutes into their excursion, she fell head over heels in love with him. “He was really cuddly with me, even when we went into the yard,” Filoon said. “He seemed like such a sweet dog, and he didn’t bark at any of the other dogs.”

Filoon also realized that Russ knew basic commands. He must have been someone’s dog and it broke her heart that he ended up there. After she reluctantly put Russ back in his kennel, she made a quick call to her mom. She explained that his situation was urgent. The shelter had just euthanized 15 dogs! “Any dog had a chance of being put down, especially the ones who were sicker, and Russ was definitely one of them,” Filoon said. “He had kennel cough.”

The next day, Filoon rushed to the shelter from class and took Russ for a car ride. She knew this was it! She wasn’t leaving him behind again! The shelter staff and Filoon began to organize all of Russ’s paperwork and Filoon took Russ home that night!

Filoon’s roommates were a bit surprised by their new addition but quickly fell in love with Russ, just as his new mom did. He slept a lot at first as he was recovering from his kennel cough. But no matter what, Russ insisted on being close to Filoon.

“One night I’m sitting there on the chair, doing my homework, and he’s trying to find ways to cuddle with me,” Filoon said. “There was a whole other sofa open, and we had his bed on the floor, but he didn’t want to lie anywhere else. So he ends up positioning himself, and I look down, and I think, “Oh my gosh, look at him.'” This was when Filoon’s Aunt, Jamie Holt, snapped the photo that went viral. Everyone who loves Russ is hoping this photo will inspire MANY others to adopt shelter dogs.

“I was worried that when I brought him home, his attitude might change,” Filoon said. “But he’s still the same relaxed, I’ll-lay-down-and-cuddle-with-you kind of dog. He’s probably one of the most grateful dogs I’ve ever seen.”

To help dogs like Russ, consider volunteering at your local shelter, making a donation or opening your heart and home to a shelter dog. They will be forever grateful! I promise!