January 2018. A man marches up to the entrance of a veterinary center, carrying a tiny dog. Heading to the receptionist’s desk, he hands over the quivering puppy – and instead of asking for advice or a check-up, he declares her “defective” and says that she needs to be put down. But as it turns out, not everyone is so ready to discard a living creature with a wagging tail and a big heart.
Dogs love their owners unconditionally. At Social Tees Animal Rescue, staff believe that this devotion should be returned. Their strictly no-kill, not-for-profit animal shelter based in New York’s East Village is a vital halfway home for abandoned animals. And its volunteers are responsible to rehabilitating and finding owners for 3,000 birds, cats, dogs and exotics each year.
Social Tees’ co-director, Dimitra Molossi, happened to be in the vet’s at the fateful moment when the “defective” pup arrived. She witnessed the handover and could plainly see, along with the receptionist, that the lively baby Chihuahua was in good health, contrary to the man’s claims.
Molossi learned from the receptionist that the man who’d left the dog was the proprietor of a local pet store. What’s more, he reportedly had a habit of leaving animals at the vet’s when he couldn’t sell them. As the puppy was examined by a veterinarian, Molossi was on the phone to her rescue partners. And before long, the search for a foster home was underway.
Social Tees decided to call the homeless puppy Clover. The moniker was inspired by the moment of good fortune that she’d enjoyed, being saved from euthanization and welcomed into their rescue center – with loving owners hopefully waiting in the wings.
The vet explained that Clover – who was just five months old at the time – was a little bit wobbly when moving about due to having a bent front leg. This might have been a deformity caused by inbreeding, or a symptom of being reared in close confines, or even the result of an untreated infection. But she was healthy and not in any way “defective,” so there was no chance that she was going to be put to sleep.
It turned out that the little trooper had slightly bent back legs as well. These were probably caused by either a lack of exercise or an infection that hadn’t been treated. “Exercise and the course of antibiotics she’s on may help,” Social Tees explained to potential adopters on its Instagram page. The post also reported that Clover was “happy-go-lucky and super cuddly, despite her wretched start to life.”
Clover was sent to a foster home that first night, following some tests and vaccinations. She was put on a course of medication, too. Despite her wobble, though, she was an inquisitive and friendly pup, happy to play with any dog that crossed her path, before snuggling down for a nap on the nearest blanket.
The first Instagram post featuring Clover received over 3,000 likes. Then, three days later, Social Tees decided to make another post urging interested dog lovers to come forward. In the comments, some people shared their experiences of owning a dog with mobility problems, while others begged Social Tees to let them have Clover.
The amount of adoption applications for Clover that were now pouring in was heartening for the Social Tees team. A new, happy life with those who’d care for her was on the horizon. Sadly, though, Clover’s backstory – being bred for sale and raised in insanitary, cramped conditions – is far from unique.
Puppy mills are farm-like breeding enterprises where dogs are shut up in cages and pens before sale. They are given minimal – if any – human contact or veterinary care. And, more often than not, the dogs are confined to enclosures with very little natural light. While the young are shipped off to pet stores, the mothers remain in the mills and continue reproducing.
Chihuahuas are often favored by these breeders, because the animals’ small statures allow more of them to be kept in such enclosures. And Chihuahuas are still popular with the public, after gaining a high profile due to Paris Hilton and the Legally Blonde movies.
In 2017 California became the first state to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs. But the problem stretches across the U.S., because aside from pit bulls, Chihuahuas are currently the most-killed breed of dog in the nation’s shelters. So, Clover has had a lucky escape.
Thanks to Social Tees, Clover is on the road to recovery and is likely to soon find stability in a permanent home. Commenting on the positive changes in Clover, Molossi said, “She’s not in any pain now and is already starting to walk better. She was so smelly – you could tell nobody paid attention to her.”
As for whether Clover could suffer in the future due to her puppy mill experiences, Molossi – who owns three dogs herself – said that this was unlikely. After all, Clover’s still just a baby who, with any luck, won’t even remember those early days once she’s grown to adulthood.
But Molossi thinks it’s a travesty that anyone would choose to have a dog killed just because no one will pay a thousand of dollars for it. “[Clover] was just sitting in this box at a pet store, and everyone passed her up because of her leg,” she explained. “He was probably trying to sell her for at least $1,500.”
Clover is now kicking back in a foster home, waiting to be transferred to a forever home in the near future. Her current carer gives Clover massages a few times a day to bring strength back to those weakened legs.
Once a capable and adoring dog parent comes to claim Clover for their own, she will hopefully become a shining example of how rescued dogs can make wonderful pets. The online #AdoptDon’tShop campaign, led by shelters all across the globe, urges those who want to bring home a furry friend not to buy one, but instead to choose one that has been abandoned or has lost its owner.
The tale of Clover – which is so heart-warming that it’s even been featured on the Today show – demonstrates how a little compassion goes a long way. What’s more, the happy little girl shows no signs of having been scarred by her experiences. “She runs around and plays all day,” Molossi added. “Her tail won’t stop wagging.”
Social Tees Animal Rescue gets 100 per cent of its funding from donations. If you’d like to make one, you can click here. All money received is used to help provide the animals with the care they need, ranging from food to vet fees for operations.