Three veterinarians advised that Ruby the pit bull be put down.
The pup was born in December with a cleft lip and palate, meaning that those parts of her body didn't get fully developed in the womb. The lip is mostly a cosmetic issue, but the palate made it impossible to nurse.
At just 5 days old, she was already severely malnourished. A dog breeder surrendered the pup to the Utah Animal Advocacy Foundation in Salt Lake City.
"I have to admit that she looked pretty bad," Jennifer Clayton, director of the foundation, told The Huffington Post.
Clayton's own vet gave Ruby only a slightly better prognosis than the three who'd recommended euthanasia. The doctor, however, warned the effort and expense required to make things work would be great.
"But she said she'd help me try to save her if that's what I wanted to do," Clayton says. "As I sat there trying to make that terrible decision, Ruby started to suck on my finger and I knew that she wasn't ready to give up."
It wasn't easy keeping the tiny pup healthy. There were a lot of midnight tube feedings, as well as feedings at 4 a.m. and 8 a.m., and, really, every few hours throughout the day until March, when a surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school told Clayton he thought he could help.
"Ruby and I flew from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia for surgery," Clayton says. "The surgery was a complete success and the very next morning Ruby ate canned puppy food for the very first time."
"Except for the occasional sinus infection and a few minor dental issues, Ruby has been the picture of health ever since. At this point, she really is like any other dog except for her unique look," says Clayton.
That unique look is really pretty much entirely irresistible.
Ruby has nearly 20,000 Facebook fans, some of whom call out to the nearly year-old pup when they spot her out and about.
"It has been crazy to realize just how many people know Ruby and recognize her when we're out in public," Clayton says. "It's not uncommon at all for people to approach us on walks, outside the grocery store, at various events, and even at the drive-thru. Her little pink nose is so recognizable, and people who have followed her story are always excited to meet her in person."
Clayton hopes that all this interest will translate to other rescue animals finding homes -- especially those pets who need a little extra care due to medical needs. She hopes that kids who need a little extra care will also find solace in Ruby.
"Ruby is famous and loved because of her differences, and I think there's a powerful message in that," she says.
The original plan was for Ruby to be with Clayton only temporarily, as a foster, until the dog could be placed in a permanent home. Clayton already had four other rescue dogs and said she wasn't looking to add this kind of energetic newcomer into the mix.
"But by the time we traveled to Philly for her surgery, I was so unbelievably attached to this little dog that I couldn't imagine my life without her," she says.
Almost a year in, Clayton says that "like any respectable puppy" Ruby has "eaten a shoe or two" and tries the older dogs' patience from time to time. But she still can't imagine her life without this sweet, silly, gorgeous, improbably lucky dog, who came so close to not making it this far.
Keep tabs on the adorable Ruby on her Facebook page, and get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an animal story to share!