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Found chained to a West Philly dumpster, this underdog is now having his day

This pup was left for dead among trash, but thanks to a community of people he's got a new leash on life — and an Instagram account.

At left, Charlie, as he was found by Nicole Rubino in October. At right, Charlie today with his furever dad, Bill Gross.
At left, Charlie, as he was found by Nicole Rubino in October. At right, Charlie today with his furever dad, Bill Gross.Read moreNicole Rubino and Bill Gross

When Bill Gross adopted his dog Charlie from the City of Elderly Love animal rescue last week, founder Erin Lewin told him to be ready for questions.

"She said, 'You will always be asked for the rest of his life what happened to him, so be prepared to tell it over and over again,' " Gross said.

See, Charlie the Philly Miracle doesn't look like other dogs. Much of his jowl had to be removed last year, leaving him with a toothy perma-smile on one side. He looks like the furry, adorable, non-villainous canine version of Two-Face from Batman.

And, like Two-Face, Charlie has a heartbreaking origin story.

In October, a picture of Charlie tied up among piles of garbage behind the Cobbs Creek Recreation Center was posted to the West Willy Facebook group.

Neighborhood resident Nicole Rubino, 29, a former vet tech with a reputation for rescuing strays, went out to save the then-nameless pup.

"He looked dead when I got there. He wasn't moving," Rubino said. "He was soaking wet, and there were flies all over his body."

But when Rubino untied the dog and opened her car door, he got right in. She took him to the Philadelphia Animal Hospital for treatment.

"The vet was almost in tears when I brought him in," Rubino said.

Meanwhile, members of the West Willy group started donating to a GoFundMe to help pay for his care.

"He touched the whole neighborhood with his story," Rubino said.

The dog, whom Rubino named Charlie, required extensive surgery. Almost half of his swollen jowl was removed because it was necrotic and teeming with maggots. It took three months of treatment, with estimated costs of around $10,000, before Charlie could enter a foster home.

The Philadelphia Animal Hospital covered the costs and donated the more than $2,000 raised for Charlie to the City of Elderly Love, a rescue for senior pets. The organization agreed to foster Charlie, who is believed to be around 8 years old.

The founder, Lewin, 33, estimates that the group has saved more than 625 animals since its start in 2014.

In January, after his medical care was complete, Charlie spent time in two foster homes.

"He was an easy placement," Lewin said. "He's just a great dog."

It's hard to imagine what happened to Charlie — or who did it. Though he had a chip implanted, there wasn't enough evidence to tie him to anyone. It's not believed he was used for fighting extensively, but it does appear he was in a fight, suffered a cut that got infected, and perhaps was left by owners who panicked, Lewin said.

Familiar with Charlie's story, Gross, 39, of Northeast Philly, reached out to City of Elderly Love and expressed interest in adopting him.

"I've always been a guy who roots for the underdog," Gross said. "Charlie just spoke to me in a way that I know I can give him the best rest of his life that he can have."

Gross started an Instagram account for Charlie to document his progress. In a week, Charlie already has more followers than his furever dad.

This weekend, Gross took Charlie to visit his 97-year-old grandmother, Elaine Santore, at the retirement community where she lives.

As Lewin said they would, people asked Gross what happened to Charlie.

He told them.

"People were crying here and there," Gross said. "But they were also giving him hugs and giving me hugs too."