Oh, Mork is so little! I don’t know why I expected a larger dog: a knee-high fellow with a big wrinkly face, hamburger-bun paws, and a long, wibbly-wobbly tail. Maybe it’s because Mork’s caretaker, Nikki Carvey, runs an L.A.-based dog rescue called Road Dogs & Rescue that specializes in bulldogs, or maybe it’s because Mork has such a giant personality on his Instagram page, @morkskywalker. In reality, he is a little piglet-puglet of a dog, the perfect size to cradle in your arms, but I settle for a polite ear skritch. After all, we’ve just met. All dogs are celebrities, but Mork is a canine superstar. His rescue from a meat-market truck in China coincided with the popularity of Disney’s Star Wars spinoff series, The Mandalorian, and it only took a few posts on the Road Dogs social media accounts before people were comparing Mork’s creased forehead, button nose, and half-up, half-floppy ears to the character known to fans as Baby Yoda.
“I didn’t even know about Baby Yoda at all,” says Carvey, while Mork poses in a fluffy sweater for our photographer. “People kept referring to him as Baby Yoda and I was like, ‘What’s that?’ and then I saw the character and went, ‘Oh!’” The comments on Mork’s posts started lighting up the Road Dogs account. Even a special effects tech who worked on The Mandalorian contacted Carvey to tell her he was a fan. “I sent him some Mork socks,” she says. With so much attention on Mork, Carvey decided to make him his own profile; as of this writing, @morkskywalker has over 215,000 followers. Mork has made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, in People Magazine, and on numerous websites, but Carvey says that becoming famous was never her goal in adopting Mork. “I just saw his little face and I was like, ‘Oh my God, we want him.’”
She goes on to say that Mork’s looks and fame are a mixed blessing. The positive side is that she is able to reach a wider audience and bring attention not only to the work being done to rescue dogs from the meat trade, but also bring more awareness to the rewards of adopting a special needs dog. The downside is that there are always critics of Mork’s appearance — and worse, people who like the way he looks so much that they want to recreate it. The latter concerns Carvey so much that she won’t even make a guess as to his breed. “He’s popular on social media because of the way that he looks, and when people ask what he is, I tell them, ‘He’s 99-percent cosmic awesomeness.’ I’m not doing DNA tests on him. I’m not trying to figure out what he is because I just know that there are people out there who will try to recreate him, and he has all these health issues that shouldn’t be repeated.” She’s not wrong; “Breed” is one of the first things Google auto-fills if you type in “Mork Skywalker.”
While she’s talking, Mork is doing a hopeful little dance with his cute duck-paddle feet. He doesn’t worry about DNA or Instagram influence; he just wants a treat and some pets. Mork doesn’t know that his deep wrinkles and cartoonish, floppy jowls — Carvey calls them his “chubbychibbychops” — also cause his skin and breathing issues. He has digestive problems that could be from his rough start in life; they could also be genetic due to inbreeding. Even his wide-splayed feet are likely due to damage from standing on a wire cage bottom during his puppyhood. “A lot of dogs that have been kept in cages, their feet tend to spread out more,” says Carvey, lifting one of Mork’s paws. He pulls away and then returns and puts both front feet on her knee. “I’ve noticed that in a lot of puppy mill dogs.”



Many of the dogs that do end up on the slaughterhouse trucks are strays or dogs from breeders that are considered unadoptable. While attitudes toward dogs and cats are changing — China has a nearly $30 billion pet industry — there aren’t many anti-animal cruelty laws, and only a small support network for stray and unwanted pets, which means that even if being cruel to an animal is frowned upon, there is no legal recourse to discourage it. Unlucky dogs are shipped to places like Yulin, Guangxi, which holds a controversial dog meat festival every summer. That might have been Mork’s fate had he not been rescued by the team at Harbin SHS, a group of animal advocates based in Harbin, China, who work with local shelters to save dogs and cats from the meat trade and find them homes around the world.
Carvey doesn’t know for sure that Mork was a puppy mill dog, but she does know he spent time in a wire cage. She suspects he was unwanted as a pet due to his cosmetic abnormalities and sold as livestock. Dog meat is legal to eat in most of China — which sounds shocking until you realize it was legal in most of the United States, too, until the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act outlawed it in 2018. Although there are Chinese food safety laws against the sale and breeding of dogs for consumption, and eating dog and cat meat was banned in two cities in April of 2020, there is still a market there for dogs as food. “It’s a very small portion of the population that still do this,” Carvey says. “The average Chinese person does not eat dog meat. I want to emphasize that.”
Carvey had worked with Harbin SHS through her Road Dogs rescue, which is very experienced with bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, and other brachycephalic — short-snout — breeds and mixes, so it was a no-brainer for Harbin SHS to place Mork with Carvey. But it wasn’t certain that Mork would make it to rescue day. “He was very sick when they got him,” Carvey says. “They weren’t sure if he was going to survive. He’s only alive because of the amazing vets that work with Harbin SHS. He was probably in the hospital for about three months before he was finally able to come here. He arrived just before Christmas.”
“Mork! You were a Christmas present,” I say to him, and he wags his whole back half, which sets up a sympathetic jiggle all through his chubbychibbychops. My notes get a little hard to read around this time in our visit, because another of Carvey’s rescues, a tiny French bulldog named Malcolm, decides my notebook might make a good chew toy and does his best to wrestle it away from me. When Malcolm gives up on the notebook he starts chasing Mork, which makes Carvey smile. “When Mork first arrived, he was quite shut down. He wasn’t playful, he was very quiet and aloof. He weighed only 12.2 pounds, he was super skinny. He’s 18 pounds now, not quite where we want him but closer, and he’s come out of his shell. Now he gets his little zoomies and he’ll run around. He’s quite a happy little guy.”
Carvey says there’s no magic trick for getting a rescue to relax; it just takes patience and empathy. “You have to let them come around in their own space. Sometimes we’ll give them a little bit of a cuddle and be like, ‘Okay, you’re not comfortable with that,’ and just leave them so that they’re not forced to do anything they aren’t ready for. Since Mork has been here, he’s never been crated or put in a cage or anything like that. He’s always been free to do what he wants, and that’s probably been vital as well to making him feel safe.”

Seeing these transformations from sickly and unwanted to happy and loved is what keeps Carvey going. It’s not just about the way she and other rescuers can improve the lives of the dogs they foster, but also about how those dogs go on to improve the lives of everyone around them. “Not only does Mork make me smile at the end of the day, I hear from people all over the world who are dealing with depression and anxiety and they say that he really helps them, which I think is wonderful. I want him to help people and give back.” Carvey says that all dogs do this, but that there is something in particular about special needs dogs, which is why her rescue focuses on animals with brain and spinal injuries or genetic conditions that many shelters would deem unadoptable. “We rescue these little special needs ones because I believe that they help people become more compassionate. When everything is about perfection, it makes people harder and more narcissistic, whereas accepting imperfection makes life more joyful.”

To highlight Carvey’s words, Malcolm takes a particularly joyful, flying leap off the chair he’s sitting on, and is expertly scooped up before he hits the ground. Carvey suggests maybe everyone might like to go outside and run around. We make a funny parade — me, Carvey, the photographer, Mork, and mouse-sized Malcolm — as we walk through Carvey’s living room, which is decorated with the numerous throw blankets all dog owners seem to have on their couches, books on travel and healthy eating, and various bulldog figurines and fan paintings of Mork.


Carvey says that while caring for special needs dogs takes commitment and has its share of sorrows, the reward is knowing that you’ve made life better for another living being, and that by treating conditions that used to be considered untreatable, you may be contributing to medical knowledge that will help vets and doctors save future patients. “Of course it’s hard, the emotional part,” she says. “Because of the kinds of dogs we take, we lose a lot of them, but with the special needs dogs, it’s not about how long you live, it’s how you live. Same thing with adopting a senior dog. A lot of the time people will say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to adopt a senior, because it’s going to die.’ Instead of looking at it like that, you can say, ‘Well, I can adopt a senior and make that dog’s life amazing in the last few months or years.’ Turning it around like that — not putting the focus on yourself, but on the animal— that’s something very good for humans as well. Interestingly, when you let go of asking what you’re going to get from a situation and focus on what you can give, you end up getting a lot more back.”

She gives Mork a chin skritch and does a little sniffle that turns into a laugh. “Ugh, am I sounding clichéd? I’m sorry. I really do love seeing the seniors get pampered and get bucket lists and stuff. It’s so sweet.” She opens the doors to the backyard, where a pair of older bulldogs are stretching in the sun. Mork jumps up for a quick cuddle, then jumps down again to roll on the grass. “Look at him,” Carvey says. “Less than a year ago he was in a cage on a meat truck and now he is in the sunshine and online, reaching all these people with a message of hope and light. It’s a great thing to put out there.”

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