A 10-week-old rescue puppy with an extra tail smack in the middle of his face is now bringing happiness to everyone he meets, thanks to a team of rescuers in Missouri.
Rochelle Steffen, the founder of Mac's Mission, a non-profit shelter in Jackson, Mo., which rescues animals in particularly rough condition, told In The Know she first learned of the "special" puppy, dubbed Narwhal over the horn-like appearance of his extra tail, from a community Facebook group dedicated to animals in need of help.
"He was posted on social media in one of the rescue groups, and I subsequently got tagged," Steffen recalled."The second I saw a puppy with a tail coming out of his head, I said, 'Absolutely.'"
A team of volunteers made the hours-long trek to pick up Narwhal from Kansas City, Mo., where he had been found wandering on Nov. 8 amid freezing temperatures with another dog, a roughly 2-year-old wire-haired wiener dog mix nicknamed Papa Smurf, who Steffen says acts as "the protector" of his younger pal.
"He's always checking on him," she mused. "He plays with him. It's like they knew each other."
Both pups were then brought back to Mac's Mission, which typically houses dogs in much worse condition than either of their new residents.
"We pretty much take the worst of the worst," Steffen explained. "We take the dogs with mange, where their skin is falling off. We take the dogs that have been hit by cars, that have been shot. We take the cleft-palate newborns that are going to be euthanized."
"Pretty much anything that we take in doesn't have a chance," she added. "And we just have a knack at getting them to a point where they've persevered the worst thing ever and they're ready for adoption."
Once situated in Jackson, Narwhal was evaluated by Dr. Brian Heuring, a veterinarian at Cape Small Animal Clinic, who was able to share a good prognosis on the pup's signature appendage — and no, it doesn't wag, if you were wondering.
"Dr. Heuring is completely not on board with cutting it off at this point," Steffen shared of the extra tail, which is said to be about a third of the size of the tail on Narwhal's posterior. "We took X-rays and there is no medical reason for it to be removed, other than just cosmetic."
"We are always willing to do the medically necessary thing to make sure our animals have a good quality of life, but at this point, it doesn't bother him, it's not in his way," she continued. "He doesn't know any different, so he just runs and plays and is wild, like a normal puppy with a tail on his face."
Steffen sounded thrilled about her new resident's viral fame, adding that raising funding and awareness for the shelter hasn't always been an easy task.
"We have had a very limited amount of exposure, so the majority of our efforts have been grassroots," she said. "We don't have the big benefactors, we do this with dollars from our dedicated donors. Now, there are a lot more people that know we exist, and that's huge for us."
"Every one of our dogs has such a huge story," she added. "And the fact that we have such awareness right now about these special needs dogs is ridiculously cool."
So, what lies next for Narwhal? The shelter plans to hold on to the tiny celebrity for a while longer to observe him and ensure his extra appendage doesn't cause complications as he grows.
In the meantime, Steffen says she's trying not to get too attached to the puppy, whose demeanor she describes as absolutely magnetic.
"If you even are in the same room with him, you literally feel the need to hold him," she said of Narwhal. "He makes you smile when you look at him."
"Everybody just wants a little bit of positivity right now," she added. "And he literally is magical."