It was a match made in fiberglass. A case manager at veterinary prosthetic provider OrthoPets, Olivia Kong, felt a connection the moment she saw the body mold belonging to Daffodil the Chihuahua.
“She was a tiny, tiny pup then. She looked like a little potato,” Kong tells Dogster from her home in Denver, Colorado.
A colleague of Kong’s was managing Daffodil’s case, helping the San Francisco SPCA outfit the little dog with a custom wheelchair. Born with a congenital forelimb deformity, the bones in Daffodil’s front legs never fully formed, leaving her with little nubs instead. She needed extra care, but the first humans in her life didn’t give her that.
“She was found as a very small puppy at the age of about 4 weeks. She was actually abandoned in a box on a rainy night on the streets of San Francisco,” Kong explains.
Thanks to the efforts of a Good Samaritan, Daffodil was rescued from the soggy box, cuddled, fed, and brought to the San Francisco SPCA.
“He said that he had seen several people pass by and pick something up from a box and put it back down and carry on their way,” says Kong. “So eventually he became curious and went to find Daffodil.”
When the sweet pup arrived at the San Francisco SPCA, she was an instant hit with staff members. Despite the expense of custom prosthetics, the organization contacted OrthoPets and ordered up Daffodil’s very first set of wheels.
“They determined that it would be best for her development for her to have that opportunity to grow up with wheels rather than having to learn at a later date as an adult,” Kong explains, adding that a wheelchair is not only great for Daffodil’s mobility, but also serves to protect her spine and hind limbs.
Daffodil didn’t know it yet, but the wheelchair wasn’t all she would get from OrthoPets. Kong had fallen in love with the little pup from a distance, but was certain a dog this cute would already have a home lined up. When she asked the folks in San Francisco if Daffodil was available for adoption, she was shocked to find the answer was yes. Although she’d never had a special needs pet before, her professional experience made her the perfect adopter for young Daffodil.
“I bought a plane ticket the very next day,” she says.
Despite a travel itinerary plagued by bad weather and delayed flights, Kong was filled with joy when she finally arrived in San Francisco to pick up her pup.
“Literally from the instant she and I saw each other, it was just a bond that couldn’t be broken, and we’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since.”
Used to providing medical and biomechanical assessments for OrthoPet patients and providing support to clients and vets after a device is built, Kong got Daffodil rolling on a physical rehab plan that would build muscle and coordination while teaching Daffodil how to drive her new wheels.
“It’s one thing to be kind of rolling accidentally, it’s another thing to be voluntarily and deliberately controlling where you choose to go,” she says, adding that while Daffodil has gotten used to life on wheels, there was definitely a learning curve.
“She initially favored turning only to the right, so we did a lot of rehab and training encouraging her to go both right and left,” Kong explains. “She’s now progressed to the point — after many hours of working together — that she can now go over obstacles, and she’s very independent in them rather than just doing what I’m asking her to do as part of a training exercise.”
Daffodil’s old friends in San Francisco have watched her progress through Facebook and Instagram accounts — and so have many other fans of the growing girl. Now 11 months old, Daffodil is on her fourth set of wheels, all of which have seen countless adjustments and modifications thanks to Kong and her colleagues at OrthoPets. They, along with the folks at the San Francisco SPCA, have been instrumental in the once abandoned Chihuahua’s success.
“Daffodil does a lot just because of her determination and her abilities, but there is also a huge team of people that have helped her get there,” says Kong.
The proud pet hopes Daffodil’s social media fans are as inspired by the little dog as she is.