Pet Connection: Social networking helps sponsor, save springer in need

In January, a sporting-dog rescue group asked Lori-Lynn Clayton of San Angelo, Texas, to go look at a dog in her local shelter thought to be an English springer spaniel or Brittany. He was a springer, emaciated and near death. She struggled to get him released, battling shelter workers and then veterinarians who said it would be better to euthanize him.

She got on the phone to Beth Maryan, the north Texas representative for English Springer Rescue America, who agreed to help, and arranged a flight for him with Pilots N Paws volunteer Tyler Chapman to Carrollton, Texas, where he could get the specialized veterinary care he needed.

Kim Mrozek stepped up to foster the dog, soon named “Clayton,” once he was well enough to leave the hospital. No one can quite pinpoint why, but people who saw the dog’s picture fell in love with him.

As specialists fought to reverse the effects of starvation and dehydration and figure out why his body wasn’t absorbing nutrients, people across the country and around the world followed his progress on ESRA’s website and then on Facebook, where Mrozek set up a dedicated page for him called, simply, Clayton.

Within 18 hours, the Clayton group had 600 members and eventually rose to 1,759. They called themselves the Clayton Nation. The social media exposure ensured that Clayton’s extensive veterinary bills – $23,000 for three weeks in intensive care – were covered, and then some. Mrozek estimates that people donated approximately $50,000. “It seemed like every time I would post about him, people would go to his ESRA site and start donating money,” she says.

“There were people sending $500 at a time. He had more donations than any special-needs dog ever.”

Not every pet can be a Clayton, but Christie Keith, social media manager for the Shelter Pet Project, the Ad Council’s public service campaign promoting pet adoption, says social media is an incredibly powerful tool that has revolutionized the pet adoption landscape.

“It enables individuals who don’t even work or volunteer for shelters or rescue groups to help spread the stories and photos of pets who need homes or are looking for other kinds of help,” she says.

“They can do this literally with the click of a mouse or a click on their mobile device, and there is no barrier to them being able to get a pet in front of people who aren’t connected to the rescue or shelter world: their friends, their family, their college roommate. You never know when someone is looking for a pet or when a pet’s story will inspire someone to adopt.”

Although his life hung in the balance for two weeks and he needed a feeding tube for two months, Clayton’s story has a happy ending. Tony and Mary Davies of Durand, Ill., adopted him after following his story from the beginning. They drove to Texas in May to pick him up and on the way back made stops so other Clayton supporters could meet the springer celebrity. He made a smooth transition to life on their 20-acre farm. “It is a glorious sight to see this dog who was knocking on death’s door finally get to live the life he deserves,” Mary Davies says.

When he’s not playing with the Davies’ other dogs or digging holes, though, Clayton keeps busy with important work. He makes appearances at ESRA functions to raise money for other special-needs springers. “He is giving back, and we are grateful for everyone who has helped him,” Davies says.