Hong Kong (CNN) — Some cases are so awful that dog rescuer Catherine Lumsden doesn’t have the words to express how angry they make her feel.
One evening in August, the founder of Catherine’s Puppies, a shelter in Sai Kung, a district in northeastern Hong Kong, received a call about Chloe – an 18-month-old chihuahua mix and new mother of three.
Chloe was found by volunteers a few days prior, heavily pregnant and without paw pads or claws on all four of her little legs.
“The vet said she wasn’t born this way, and there is no way this happened by accident,” Lumsden said. “They were at some point cut off by a person, not a vet. I have absolutely no way to find the monster who did this.”
Chloe couldn’t put any weight on her front left leg, the pressure was too much on her fragile bones. The vet suggested it could be infected, possibly requiring surgery to ease the pain, but that would mean losing more of her leg. X-rays were needed to get a better understanding of her situation, the vet said, and she may need a prosthetic in the future.
The costs began adding up, and Lumsden – who runs the shelter on donations and says she barely scrapes by each month – turned to the shelter’s Facebook page to make an appeal to her 22,000 followers.
Chloe’s doe-eyed face and pixie ears melted the hearts of animal lovers across the city, and donations flooded in for her treatment.
Nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) away in Discovery Bay, a well-heeled development on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, Preeti Sharma didn’t have to think twice.
“We can foster Chloe – just a msg away,” she wrote.
Slowly building trust
Sharma, a mother of two, took in Chloe and two of her pups (the third had already been adopted), adding to the family’s growing brood of rescue dogs.
“There was no question we had to rescue Chloe and her pups,” Sharma said. And within the first five minutes of the taxi ride home, she knew that she wouldn’t be letting Chloe go.
“When she first came home, she was terrified and scared of every human being. She wouldn’t let anyone – especially my son – come near her,” Sharma said, adding this makes her family believe her paws were cut off by a man.
Chloe would hide in their garden for hours and would only come out when she saw her puppies.
“If anyone tried to go near Chloe, she would surrender, close her eyes and cry,” said Sharma. “Which is why we feel her ‘human’ used to beat her as well.”
But slowly, and with the help of Sharma’s other rescue – Ivy, a former breeder dog, who is fully deaf, partially blind, and has cancer and epilepsy – Chloe’s quirky personality started to come through.
About two months later, the family made it official. Chloe was adopted – and became the Sharmas’ seventh rescue dog.
“It took her three months to trust and live without fear, and learn that in his house, no one beats her, and everyone loves her,” she said.
Chloe’s new boots
Now, Chloe is more mobile than doctors thought she would ever be.
But to give her the best chance of a comfortable life, they have ordered a special pair of boots for her two front legs, which will arrive from Sweden around Christmas Day.
“Her back legs are okay and she sort of stands like a kangaroo,” Sharma said. “But she’s using her bones to walk, and you can see it’s not comfortable as she keeps switching between her two front feet to balance.
“We are hoping this helps her, but she may still require a prosthetic,” said Sharma, who is planning to run 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) in January to raise money for it.
Lumsden, who cares for around 90 dogs at her shelter, says thinking about funds is “beyond stressful each month.”
In October, she made a public appeal to help clear more than HK$123,000 ($15,000) debt at her local vet clinic for her dogs. Medical bills, coupled with the shelter’s upkeep and buying beds and blankets for the dogs, among other things, make the situation increasingly difficult.
“It’s beyond anything you can imagine,” she said. But seeing Chloe – and all the other dogs she’s saved – thrive in their new homes makes it all worth it, she added.
At the Sharmas, Chloe spends her day playing in the garden with Sharma’s other rescue dogs, getting lots of belly rubs and cuddles.
“Chloe is a special soul who has a special place in our heart,” Sharma said. “She’s become the love of our lives.”
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