When Dr. Liz Ubelhor first met Honey on Christmas Eve, the little brown and white dog had a bone sticking out of her back leg and two bullet wounds on her side. She'd been limping around like that for about five days.
Honey, a spaniel mix, broke her leg when she was hit by a car.
The story Ubelhor was told about what happened afterward is this: Her owner, short on money to have the leg treated, decided to put Honey down. The woman asked her boyfriend to shoot Honey.
The first two shots failed to do the job, and the little dog ran off. She returned several days later, so the woman took Honey to a veterinarian in Madison County, asking the vet to euthanize her.
But it was Christmas Eve, and Honey already had shown such will to live that the vet instead called Ubelhor, the veterinarian for the Lexington Humane Society. And that's how the pooch got her second chance.
Since 2001, the Lexington Humane Society has used a program called Second Chances to help dogs that might otherwise have to be euthanized return to health and find new homes.
Funded by private donations, the program spends an average of $1,000 on medical treatment for each animal it helps — or about $140,000 a year. Last year, 127 animals were rehabilitated through the program.
Several animals have benefited from the program, including Momma, a pit bull who had been injured in a dog fighting ring, and J.T., a farm cat that had a serious leg wound, as well as scars from multiple ear mite infections, after being injured during a winter storm.
Susan Malcomb, president of the Lexington Humane Society, said the organization carefully chooses animals for the Second Chances program, factoring in the cost of treatment, chance of recovery and how likely the animal is to adjust to its adoptive home. The organization also must have a volunteer willing to foster the animal until it has recovered.
Sometimes, she said, euthanasia is the most humane solution, and, in some cases, the only solution from a financial standpoint.
"If we took on every animal that came to us in the conditions that we see animals, we'd be broke," she said.
But she said the vast majority of animals brought to the Humane Society are adopted eventually.
"Sometimes, you just want to save something," Malcomb said.
Honey's was a special case: Normally, the Lexington Humane Society does not take in any animals from outside Fayette County.
Because the days-old compound fracture in her shin couldn't be repaired, Ubelhor had to amputate the leg.
Honey's gunshot wounds didn't require much treatment — she was just lucky the man wielding the shotgun "was aiming high," Ubelhor said.
"If they had been a little bit lower, they would've gone into the chest," she said.
Instead, one entered and then exited her side; the other just injured the skin, burning the fur away.
The big question that day was who would be willing to take the dog home during the Christmas holidays.
It wasn't long after that Brad Rister, who used to live across the street from Malcomb, dropped by.
His family's aging cocker spaniel had died recently, and they were hoping Malcomb could keep an eye out for a house dog that might be a good fit for them.
The family did its due diligence before taking Honey in: They had a play date.
"She didn't chew up anything" recalled Will Rister, 5.
Honey bonded with Will, quickly — something Brad and wife Lauren said was important because their previous dog had never adjusted to Will's birth.
Honey also has responded well to training. She played fetch and could do tricks, including "sit," "shake" and "leave it."
She wagged her feather-shaped tail and growled playfully at a plastic bear toy. And though she has only three legs, she keeps up with Lauren Rister just fine when they go jogging.
"She's an amazing dog, a little miracle dog," Rister said.