Shelter says it will keep 'unicorn' puppy, despite hundreds of adoption offers

A Missouri shelter says it can't bear to part with a dog who became a viral sensation due to the unusual second tail growing on his face. "We all fell in love with him.”

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Attention holiday pet shoppers: The "unicorn" puppy is no longer up for adoption.

The founder of a Missouri shelter that caused a stir last month when it revealed it had rescued a puppy with a second tail growing out of his face said she plans to keep the dog and care for him herself, despite hundreds of adoption requests and a few hefty offers to buy him.

“It’s not just a decision from me,'' Rochelle Steffen, the owner of Mac's Mission in Cape Girardeau, told the local Southeast Missourian newspaper. "The whole rescue cannot fathom him leaving. We all fell in love with him.”

An adorable "unicorn" puppy named Narwhal has become a sensation for the tail growing off its face. Mac's Mission

Steffen added that a few people have made "giant" offers to buy the 13-month-old pup, but the shelter wasn't interested.

"If somebody is going to make money off of him, I would love to see it go toward the rescue, and save thousands more dogs,” Steffen told the Southeast Missourian.

Steffen said the shelter had initially wanted to give the dog up for adoption after monitoring his health for a few months. But they decided against it, in part, because it would be too daunting to vet the more than 300 people who applied to adopt the dog.

Instead, he'll serve as a spokesdog for a "Different is awesome" campaign and eventually be trained as a therapy dog. For now, rescuers were focused on socializing him and getting him vaccinated.

“He’s just kind of a perfect little guy," Steffen said.

Last month, Steffen told TODAY that the second she laid eyes on the tiny "unicorn" puppy — as he has been dubbed in the media — she had two thoughts.

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"I looked at him, and I was like, 'This is the most ridiculously adorable puppy I've ever seen,'' Steffen said. "Then my million-dollar question was, 'Did the tail wag?'''

Steffen, 43, immediately named the dog Narwhal after the type of whale that lives in Arctic waters and has a protruding tusk.

And while the tiny puppy is indeed adorable, the tail on his head does not wag.

"I'm not gonna lie, I really wanted to name him Wipers,'' Steffen joked.

The dog has become an instant sensation on the organization's Facebook page.

Steffen has run the shelter for special needs dogs for seven years and seen everything from pooches with spina bifida to one with five legs and two urinary tracts. But she has never seen anything like Narwhal.

"The vet had pretty much the same reaction I had: jaw on the floor," she said.

Steffen took Narwhal to be examined by Dr. Brian Heuring, a veterinarian at Cape Small Animal Clinic in Cape Girardeau. He X-rayed the dog and found no bone structure in the tail hanging off his face.

"I've been a veterinarian for 16 years, and I've never seen anything like this,'' Heuring told TODAY. "It certainly looks just like a tail, but we did X-rays, and it's all just skin."

The growth is a congenital anomaly, essentially a birth defect, according to Heuring.

"I certainly do not see anything that's causing any harm or complications,'' he said. "The puppy couldn't be any sweeter or happier. He's really just an awesome puppy that brings awareness to the great work at Mac's Mission."

Dr. Brian Heuring, a Missouri veterinarian, examined Narwhal and found that the growth on his face is all skin and does not affect the dog in any negative way. Mac's Mission

Narwhal is a stray that was found in the Kansas City area and referred to Steffen through Facebook last week because Mac's Mission works with special needs dogs.

"We have a real problem in rural Missouri of dumped dogs,'' Steffen said. "He was found as a stray with another dog. People knew that he was unique and didn't want to see him get run over. He's special."

At the time of his rescue, the tiny puppy was about 10 weeks old and weighs 4.4 pounds. The tail on his face is about a third of the size of his actual tail, Steffen said.

X-rays showed that there are no bones in the tail on the dog's face, which his veterinarian says is a congenital anomaly. Mac's Mission

"Somebody made the comment that it was like there was assembly required and he came with extra parts,'' she said.

Steffen's best guess is that Narwhal is a Dachshund-terrier mix, but he also looks like he has some golden retriever in him.

"He's just your 100% Missouri mutt,'' she said.