(NBC News) — Toast the King Charles spaniel is more than just a rescue dog — she’s a social media star and animal rights advocate.
With her signature toothless grin and lolling tongue, Toast has developed a loyal following, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and Snapchat.
“She’s toothless and silly and feels like a baby when you hold her. She melts in her arms,” explained owner Katie Sturino, a lifestyle publicist and founder of the12ishstyle.com. “People just really love her always.”
She has a great life now but didn’t always. Sturino saved her from a North Carolina puppy mill in 2011, a year after taking home another rescue dog, Muppet. The two now have a third sister, a Japanese Chin named Underpants.
Toast and her mom have made it their mission to educate prospective pet owners on the nation’s puppy mill problem. Many dogs for sale at pet stores come from puppy mills, where conditions are deplorable and the animals are often unhealthy.
The motto “adopt, don’t shop” rings true for Toast, who will visit New York City Animal Control ahead of Saturday’s nationwide Clear the Shelters adoption event.
“There are so many dogs out there that need homes and get euthanized, and they’re good dogs,” Sturino said.
Toast’s advice to anyone looking to take home a four-legged friend?
“Don’t get a puppy because puppies chew your shoes and pee on your house. Older dogs have their personalities out and developed and are more grateful for you,” Sturino explained.
She also warns pet parents to be aware of the fact that dogs’ sizes and energy levels don’t always correspond.
“You can get a big giant dog for your apartment that doesn’t do that much, or you can get a tiny dog who is a terror who eats your walls,” Sturino said.