His remarkable recovery from such a tragic beginning strengthens our belief in the power of love. 

By Tracey L. Kelley
Updated May 05, 2021
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May 5 update: Almost two months after he was adopted, Ethan was recognized as a hero this week for inspiring others. He was named a compassion ambassador by the Kentucky Derby Festival and the Mayor's Give a Day campaign, according to WDRB.

After Ethan's amazing recovery story went viral, his new owner, Jeff Callaway, has heard from people across the globe.

"Through his story and his recovery and his strength, they've now sent me notes saying they've been able to pick themselves up and put their lives back together," Callaway told the TV station. "And it's just an amazing testament to a little dog that was found out here in the parking lot that he is changing lives like that."

Ethan, who looks very healthy and happy, received a proclamation from Louisville's mayor and a very spiffy bow tie from the Kentucky Derby Festival. Great job, buddy!

Original story: The incredible saga of Ethan the abandoned dog has captured hearts worldwide, and with good reason. On the evening of Jan. 29th, Shawn Henderson; her son, Tatum Hughes; and his father, David Hughes, stopped by the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) in Louisville to drop off donations when they noticed a small figure in the parking lot. It was a dog, emaciated to the point of near-death. The Henderson-Hughes family alerted the KHS staff, who rushed the poor pooch—later named Ethan—into emergency veterinary care. 

First believed to be a cane corso about 3 years old, KHS described him as a "living skeleton" when he came in, unable to walk on his own and roughly 45 pounds under optimal weight. After a few days in a veterinary hospital, the KHS staff brought him back to the shelter to continue his constant care by its medical team. 

portrait of Ethan
Credit: Courtesy of Kentucky Humane Society

This video demonstrates his fighting spirit as he tries to move while supported by KHS staff and a sling, but if images of abused animals bother you, it might be better to skip past it. 

The pup made remarkable progress, though he struggled with slight anemia due to starvation and nutritional deficiency, and he still needed IV treatment to help him regain his strength and weight. Even while he was in his weakened state, staff shared updates on Facebook, including a post that said although he needed help moving, "he seems to enjoy being fussed over."

His story caught the attention of tens of thousands of supporters, who rallied around the brave pooch. Toys, blankets, cards, letters, and generous financial donations poured in with every new KHS post celebrating Ethan's recovery. Within two weeks, he gained nearly 30 pounds and practiced tentative steps around KHS!

Further vet examinations determined that Ethan was younger than previously thought—just barely out of puppydom at a year old. A DNA test also revealed that Ethan was a joyful mix of Presa Canario, mastiff, dogo Argentino, bulldog, cane corso, and American Staffordshire terrier.  

One of the KHS staffers dedicated to Ethan's care was Jeff Callaway. He came in twice each night during Ethan's precarious early weeks to check on him, and the two developed quite a bond. When Ethan was strong enough to enter a home environment part time, Callaway didn't hesitate to foster him. So each night, Ethan stayed with Callaway and his family, and the two returned to KHS each day so the medical team could monitor the pooch's progress. 

Just look at these two together! 

Jeff posted, "Ethan did fabulous last night. He was so brave to explore his new surroundings. He gets along so well with other dogs and cats. He's very patient and gentle when interacting with anyone. This. Dog. Is. Amazing. And to think that if it wasn't for the remarkable vet staff at KHS, Ethan wouldn't be here today, living his best life, loved and supported by thousands of people. This dog, y'all! ❤️ "

Each night, Ethan snuggled his way more deeply into the Callaways' hearts, and honestly, why wouldn't they have room?

You know where this is going, right? Because if any dog deserves a fairy tale ending, it's Ethan!

First, let's tell you about the wonderful Henderson-Hughes family, the loving people who saved Ethan on that frigid winter day. Although they had followed his progress on social media, there hadn't been a chance to see him up close and know for certain he was healing and happy. So as a present for Tatum's 12th birthday, KHS and the Henderson-Hughes family arranged for a reunion so Ethan could say thanks.

It was a particularly therapeutic moment for young Tatum to see Ethan at a healthy 80+ pounds with plenty of doggie smiles and tail wags to spare.

And now the more fabulous news! On March 10, the Callaways will make Ethan a permanent member of their family! Once again, Jeff posted his gratitude and admiration on the KHS Facebook page for Ethan and the thousands of people who shared an overflow of loving kindness and attention to this pup with so much to give.

"I just want to thank everyone so much for their overwhelming support of Ethan, the Kentucky Humane Society, myself, and my family. Words simply cannot describe the kindness shown to us during this time. From the very beginning, it's always been about Ethan and what is best for him and his future. I believe with all my heart he is in the right place. There's nothing we wouldn't do for him. We love him so very much and are very grateful for all the love of every single person that has followed his story from the beginning. Thank you again! ❤️ "

Ethan with his new family
A now-healthy Ethan the rescue dog will make his permanent home with the Callaway family. Jeff and his family fostered Ethan during his recovery after the dog was abandoned in a severely malnourished condition.
| Credit: Courtesy of Kentucky Humane Society

If you didn't get a chance to watch Ethan's adoption celebration, KHS posted a video of the festive event, complete with donated treats, camera crews, and plenty of fan fair! Tail a' waggin', Ethan went down the line of supporters, greeting every one!

He's now such a celebrity that he has a personal Facebook page, Ethan Almighty. Follow the ongoing adventures of this courageous pup!