Crippled Tiny Tim Gets a Second Chance and Beats the Odds

It was around lunchtime last January when Corey Tillman, an Alabama Animal Control Officer and Kennel Manager for the City of Mobile Animal Shelter, noticed a cardboard box outside the shelter’s front gate. As he peeked inside, a Chihuahua-mix puppy with deformed legs looked up at him.

“He was really weak and couldn’t stand up,” Corey recalls. He then began following medical guidelines for puppies found in distress. “I brought him inside, put him on a heating pad, and began syringe-feeding him. As the day went on, he got stronger.”

“He was puny,” adds Janine Woods, Executive Director of the Mobile SPCA. Janine was at the Mobile Animal Shelter that day to pick up and transfer some puppies back to the Mobile SPCA shelter for adoption.  After meeting him, Janine ended up taking Corey’s find back with her as well, naming him Tiny Tim.

Upon a full medical exam, it was discovered that Tiny Tim had been born with bilateral congenital limb deformities in his front legs, permanently fixing both his elbow and wrist joints. On top of his deformities, he was also hypoglycemic, anemic and had a cold and a small umbilical hernia. 

Despite these handicaps, Tim was “feisty and mouthy and full of himself,” recalls Janine. “Those legs never slowed him down for a second.”

In mid-February, Rebecca Pollak, a contract driver for the ASPCA Relocation Program, heard about Tiny Tim as she was loading dogs for a transport from the Mobile SPCA to an Ohio shelter. Rebecca routinely transports dogs for the ASPCA’s Nancy Silverman Rescue Ride (NSRR), relocating them from overcrowded shelters in the Southeast to locations in the Northeast where they have a better chance at being adopted.

Rebecca, struck by this small, resilient dog’s backstory, shared Tim’s story with Michele Lago, the ASPCA’s Animal Relocation Manager, who contacted DeeDee DiCesare, Animal Intake Coordinator at Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village in Novelty, Ohio. After thoroughly discussing Tim’s medical conditions and consulting their veterinary team, Rescue Village agreed to take him. 

“It is so great to work with destination shelters that have the lifesaving resources that can help dogs like Tim,” says Lago. “Relocation is really about uniting shelters across the country to help save more lives.

Tiny Tim arrived in Ohio on March 6 and immediately showed his BIG personality.

“We weren’t really sure what to expect,” says DeeDee. “But I fell in love with him as soon as he arrived. I was taken in by his giant personality and his ability to get around despite his deformity. He offers a giant lesson on determination and resilience.”

DeeDee took Tiny Tim home with her for the first night, and the next day, an adoption counselor resumed foster care until Tim was medically cleared for adoption. In the meantime, the courageous Chihuahua-mix was seen by a team of orthopedic specialists who discussed strategies for his continued recovery, including potential surgery to correct his legs.

“He was such a little trooper,” explains DeeDee. “We knew surgery wouldn’t come without significant risks, and it certainly wasn’t urgent.” Given the risks, DeeDee and shelter staff decided against moving forward with surgery. Instead, they chose to explain Tiny Tim’s condition and prognosis with potential adopters, keeping the orthopedic team involved in Tim’s case in the meantime.

Then on March 30, the day Tiny Tim was placed up for adoption, Tom M., a detective with Geauga County Sheriff’s Office, saw Tim’s story on Rescue Village’s Facebook page. He shared the post, tagging his wife, Libby, who agreed that the family, including daughters Ellie and Haddie, should meet the pup. 

“It was love at first sight for all of us,” Tom says.

The family adopted Tiny Tim that day, adding him to their family of three rescued dogs, Heffner, Flyntt and Nucky, and two cats Nigel and Bindi. They call the family’s new 10-lb. addition “Tiny.”

The family understands Tiny’s medical needs and conditions—including arthritis and potential surgery. They’re aware of the orthopedic team’s interest and have discussed getting Tiny a cart.

But for now, “Tiny is always in a playful state,” says Tom, who loves seeing him run and play on the family’s three acre spread.  

“We thought Tiny might be a challenge, but there’s nothing we do differently for him than we do for our other dogs,” Tom explains. “He climbs stairs, goes outside, even jumps on furniture. He does everything normal dogs do, and he’s housebroken. He doesn’t even realize he has a problem.”

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