TEHACHAPI, Calif. (KTVU) - Hooch is a 6-year-old French Mastiff with a troubled past. He has badly cropped ears, and a broken tail. He's also missing his tongue.
According to Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue, Hooch has "a spirit so bright as to outshine all the darkness that has befallen him." Instead of letting his past dictate his future, Hooch provides a message of living in the present moment.
When Marley's Mutts rescued Hooch from a Bakersfield shelter three years ago, he was 40 pounds underweight, dehydrated and malnourished. Since his tongue had been sliced off at the base, he had extreme difficulty eating and drinking.
Amy Klein with Marley's Mutts tells KTVU they'll never know for sure, but they believe Hooch was abused as someone prepared him to be a bait dog for dog fighting.
When he arrived at the shelter, veterinarians worked to find a way to get Hooch the nutrients he desperately needed.
After trying a feeding tube, and trial and error, they learned Hooch could be hand-fed. Veterinarians moistened his dry kibble and put it in the back of his mouth. Hooch was then able to tip his head back to gobble down his food. He was able to teach himself how to drink by submerging his head in a water bowl.
To this day, Hooch is still hand-fed.
Since he can't swallow - drool is consistently dripping from Hooch's snout. Klein says if he dribbles drool on someone they refer to it as "being Hooched."
Hooch is described as having a very loving and kind personality. Klein says, "He loves belly rubs, loves being pet. He's just the sweetest, calmest dog. You can tell he opens his mouth to try to give kisses. He's a good boy."
Hooch found a special bond and his forever home with Zach Skow.
Skow started the rescue operation Marley Mutts after battling addiction issues and end stage live disease. He says if he's having a bad day, Hooch helps him focus on the present moment. According to Marley's Mutts, "The dogs and Zach work together, creating magic out of fear and rejection, lifting each other up and infusing an infinite amount of love into their surroundings wherever they may be."
Hooch and Skow work together to have a positive impact on the community by helping children who have autism or special needs through a Barks and Books program. While kids may have trouble reading to volunteers, Klein says its often easier for them to read to the dogs because they don't worry about being judged. Hooch also works with homeless adults as a therapy dog.
Hooch has won an award as an Emerging Hero through the American Humane Association.
Now, he's being considered for the Ultimate Hero Dog award. You can vote for Hooch here.