Sox the dog, seen here in December 2011 with injuries caused by a rubber band wrapped around his snout (photo courtesy SPCA Tampa Bay)
CLEARWATER, Florida - The story of Sox is painful to tell, but impossible to ignore.
The 9-month-old Yorkie-Poodle mix was tortured and left to die in a Clearwater bathroom just before Christmas. But looking at Sox, you'd never know anything was wrong. The level of loyalty and love from a dog is like no other.
Photo Gallery: Sox the Puppy
The slight, spry puppy endured unimaginable pain when, investigators say, a mother taking care of the dog tied a rubber band so tightly around it's snout that it dug into the furry flesh.
Sox was not able to cry out for help.
The CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay, Martha Boden, is fostering Sox for now. She is truly enamored by the puppy and says he's got a great future.
"This is what you get sometimes. It's just incredible joy. I think there's almost a sense that I'm better now, I'm in a better place now. I'm free of the pain. I get to be a dog, so they return that gift," Boden told us, as she beamed at the squirming, curious puppy on her lap.
The first pictures of Sox's abuse surfaced just a few days before Christmas. The rubber band was pulled so tightly around the dog's mouth and jaw that his tiny nose became bulbous. Sox also endured a painful infection where the rubber band left a hole in the top of his nose where he now breathes through in addition to his nostrils.
The SPCA says Sox's muzzle was cinched shut. Eventually, the rubber band dug so deep that it cut to the bone.
Boden told us, "When the rubber band was removed, it had gone through the roof of the mouth. So, the bone had been cut that it was in between the teeth, looked like it was coming through the roof of his mouth, and it cut underneath his jaw as well."
So, how in the world was Sox rescued? It was the love of two chidlren that saved the dog's life.
The SPCA found out when two children under the age of 10, who were living in the home, told their teacher that their dog was "dying slowly in the bathroom." Sure enough, when the teacher contacted investigators, Sox was found in unimaginable pain starving to death.
The mother was given the chance to take care of the puppy and go to a vet. However, when a humane officer came back the next day and the puppy was still suffering, the mother surrendered Sox and his new life began.
The SPCA says the mother in the home didn't seem to care that the puppy was covered in feces and fleas. Her name has not been released.
Boden talks about why this unbelievable abuse may have taken place. "You know, we don't know why she did this. My guess would be that he was barking."
There is a silver lining in this story. The rubber band was successfully removed, although Sox will most likely struggle with sinus issues for life. He's eating again and acting like a normal puppy. He runs and scampers and licks faces.
It's clear he just wants love.
But, the abuse he endured for days on end still has him a bit scared on occasion. Because he was held in a bathroom for life, he didn't know what a television was. He didn't know what stairs were. He is learning everything and, quite frankly, loving life.
Now, all he needs is a good home so he can once again be man's best friend.
Investigators believe Sox was held in the bathroom anywhere from two days to several weeks. The damage done by a rubber band can happen very quickly, says Boden.
Charges are still being sought in the case of Sox's former owner.