September 14, 2016 02:07 PM

When a groomer shaved off 35 pounds of matted fur from his body, it was like a rebirth for Lazarus.

The dog was severely neglected by his previous owners, who are terminally ill, and, as far as rescuers know, he’d never had a haircut.

“His coat was in the process of matting to his skin,” says Amanda Charsha-Lindsey of the Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, who is now fostering the Great Pyrenees in Virginia. “When it gets to that point, brushing and trimming aren’t options any longer and the shears have to come out. It was quite literally mats on top of mat on top of mats.”

As you can imagine, Lazarus’ new look took a little getting used to. A YouTube video shows the naked pooch unsteady on his feet at first.

“I know it was a new feeling he had never felt and he seemed unsure,” Charsha-Lindsey tells PEOPLE. “After a few treats and some encouragement, he took his first few steps without his coat.”

His amazing transformation has startled Facebook and Charsha-Lindsey hopes it will create more conversations about animal rescue, and, clearly, the amazing things it can do.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Lazarus — who Charsha-Lindsey describes as “joyous” and “grateful” — arrived at his foster home on Labor Day. In his time there, he’s enjoyed sitting outside in the mornings, sniffing the grass, and getting warm in the sun.

“Slowly, he is learning to dog,” Charsha-Lindsey says, adding that he’ll remain there until he’s ready for a forever home. “Showing him new things brings us joy as well, just to see the smile on his face every day. He has started seeking out affection from us and won’t go to bed without a hug and a smooch.”

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