Three legs are just as good as four

Q&A - Tory Joyce

Images of Clover, the tiny wonder dog who has won a big place in the hearts of people in West Cork, becoming a champion for the West Cork Animal Welfare Group.

Animal shelters across the country are full to bursting with dogs of all descriptions. Big ones, small ones, shy ones, boisterous characters, sweet-natured types who just want a bit of a walk, a nice dinner and to curl up by the fire.

And no matter why they have ended up where they are, they cannot be blamed for their plight. Because dogs, like children, have no control over their circumstances.

If those who are charged with their care chose not to feed them properly, give them the attention and exercise they need, provide them with a comfortable and secure home, well then, the outcome is unlikely to be good for anyone involved.

Personally, I believe that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

Very occasionally, there might be the odd rogue dog who, for reasons of genetics or other medical problems, is simply not safe.

But then this is hardly their fault, and responsible dog ownership means seeing that such animals are properly managed.

Dogs are loyal, generous of spirit and generally want nothing more than to please you and to be your best buddy. Growing up with a dog is a fantastic experience for a child.

Their canine companion offers them unconditional love and provides them with a non-judgemental confidant at any hour of the day or night.

We’ve always had dogs and when my own daughter was about eight, we had a particularly affable golden retriever/alsatian cross known as TC. He was her shadow and he worshipped the ground she walked on. The feeling was mutual.

On Saturday mornings the pair of them would snuggle under a blanket together and watch cartoons.

So it came as no surprise when one day my daughter informed me with great seriousness that they were going to be married.

I was to officiate at the ceremony, she said, and there were to be chocolate brownies, red lemonade and a selection of TC’s favourite chews. It all went off without a hitch, I’m glad to say and TC — as ever — handled the whole thing with his usual aplomb. We still remember that event fondly and we both still have dogs. Indeed, I couldn’t imagine a home without at least two around the place.

But prospective dog owners also have to be prepared for costs such as feeding, visits to the vets kennelling fees at holiday time and the commitment of time a dog needs when it comes to exercise and grooming.

After every Christmas there’s always a sharp increase in the numbers of dogs that are either abandoned or handed in to care and this year it was worse than ever. This always mystifies me. Did people pick up a puppy for next to nothing?

Or maybe they had a bit of a shock when that small fluffy puppy suddenly became a large, boisterous and voracious teenager with a fondness for designer shoes.

Whatever about it, there’s still no getting around the fact that it was up to them to do their homework in the first place.

The basic requirements of dog care are hardly rocket science and advice is readily available on many websites.

There are hundreds of sound, handsome and willing dogs who have been neutered, have had their injections and who are desperate for new homes. And just when you might be feeling a little despondent about these numbers, along comes a story that restores your faith in the human species.

At birth, tiny Clover was only the size of a mouse. She was delivered by caesarean by a mother who was too small to breed from. But when the owners realised that Clover only had three legs, they gave instructions for her to be euthanised. West Cork Animal Rescue’s fundraiser Tory Joyce tells me what happened next.

How did you first come across Clover?

“She came to us when she was six days old. She’d been left at the vets to be put down because she was so tiny. She only had three legs and a tiny stump where the fourth leg should have been. So they didn’t want her. She really was the size of a small mouse and it was hard to believe that she could survive. But we found a lactating mother at our centre that took her on, and with the incredible care she got from the staff here, Clover held her own. She was about three inches in length at first. She would sleep in the crook of your neck.”

Considering how difficult it is at the moment to re-home all the unwanted dogs, did you ever think you’d find the right home for Clover because of her problems?

“Re-homing unwanted dogs is a constant challenge. But you know, right from the beginning, we all knew there was something about Clover. She has a very special spirit and she’s a really pretty little thing. We were delighted when we found a remarkable couple that wanted to adopt her.”

And then I believe you heard that Clover had acquired her own Facebook page?

“Yes. It’s called ‘All About Clover’ and in less than a week, it had over a thousand visitors. Now people from all over the world visit regularly to chat with her, find out how she’s doing. Clover has hundreds of friends, including a little girl in a wheelchair who likes to take Clover out with her. She seems to have reminded people that just because you are born with a disability, it doesn’t mean to say that you should be thrown on the scrap heap.”

I believe that there was quite a crush around her when you took her to a fund raising event recently at Schull market?

“Yes, it was quite extraordinary. There was a long line of people waiting to meet her. She took it all in her stride of course. Some of her Facebook friends send her little jackets and knitted toys. Clover has had a huge effect on so many people.”

Three legs are just as good as four

West Cork Animal Welfare

The West Cork Animal Welfare Group (WCAWG) was founded in May 1999 in response to the critical situation facing many unwanted, abandoned and neglected animals in the area.

The centre helps re-home over 360 dogs and puppies every year and is run by a handful of dedicated volunteers. All funds raised and donated go directly toward caring for the dogs.

They provide shelter and treatment, neuter and spay all dogs prior to re-homing and have a non-destruct policy. But, like shelters all over the country, WCAWG is frequently inundated. Spaying, neutering, micro chipping and tagging are the single most important things the public can do to alleviate this awful problem.

Volunteering and donating is also important of course. And for those not able to take on a dog, WCAWG have a sponsorship programme to support long-term residents like Scamp, who can never be re-homed.

Scamp is 13 now and when he was a still a pup, he was rescued from a group of teenagers who were using the terrified animal as a football in the park. Scamp is still afraid of any human he doesn’t know really well.


Conservationist Giles Clark takes on the illegal wildlife trade, as well as the task of building a bear sanctuary in Laos, South-east Asia, in BBC Two series Bears About The House.Five minutes with ... Giles Clark

Forget G-spots. Let's focus on the C-spot and close the orgasm gap once and for all.Sex File: The G-spot is dead. Long live the C-spot

Workshop leaders from the West Cork Literary Festival offer tips for writing in areas such as biography, short stories and travel, writes Des O’DriscollSo you want to be a writer?

'He told us we were so scared of dying, we forgot how to live” - Guru: The Dark Side of Enlightenment is this week's podcast pickPodcast Corner: Guru tells of sweat-lodge tragedy and James Arthur Ray

More From The Irish Examiner