By the summer of 2009 I had worked with over four thousand rescues. I had developed a pack oriented rehabilitation program and was having great success.
Late that June I received an email from a woman. She had taken in eight puppy mill rescues, all but two of the dogs had been found loving homes, the two that were left had been adopted out more than once, but the adopters kept returning them.Obviously they had issues this woman could not deal with. She asked if I would take them and work with them.
The animals were being housed at a doggy daycare in Orillia, Ontario. A friend and I drove up the next morning to assess the dogs and determine how we could help them. We entered a large open concept kennel room where dogs were kenneled together in one of four large chain link pens. Off in a corner pen two little dogs cowered together in a corner. These must be the puppy mill rescues I had come for.
In good shape physically, they had gained weight since their rescue and had been groomed for the first time.Their psychological health was a different story. Entering the pen, we sat on the floor and talked, ignoring the dogs completely. The miniature poodle got curious and leaving his corner approached my friend. When the dog got close enough she scooped him up in her arms and left the pen with him.
I was left alone with the smaller of the two dogs. I sat there pretending he didn’t exist. I was waiting for the curiosity to kick in as it usually did, but this dog did not move, he just sat there and shook. Standing up and turning my back on the dog I backed up into the corner. When I felt my back hit the wall I slid down and sat on the floor beside the little dog. I reached down slowly and picked him up, taking him out of the pen.
Securing both dogs in a crate in the back of the van we headed for home. The larger one seemed to be doing well, I decided to send him home with my friend who had agreed to foster one of the dogs. We named him Romeo. The smaller of the two was obviously far more psychologically damaged, he would come home with me for the pack to train. I named him Hercules, hoping he would gain strength and live up to his name. It was the first time in the two years since their birth the dogs had been given a name.
Romeo would find a successful forever home three months later. His new family would make a ten hour round trip to pick him up and take him home. This time he would not be returned.
Hercules was the smallest dog I had ever worked with, but would become the most difficult challenge I had ever taken on. He displayed none of the normal dog behaviors I expected from a rescue. It was time to let the pack do their job, and they performed miracles. Hercules soon became one of the pack, but still would not voluntarily approach a human, preferring to run and hide under a piece of furniture.
Over a year has passed since that day, and Hercules is still with us. He now comes to my husband and I (on his own terms,) but still runs when a stranger enters our home. He may never recover completely. He will stay with us for life.
Puppy mills are hell on earth for dogs. Cramped into tiny cages with two or three other dogs unable to turn around, sometimes unable to lie down, these dogs spend their lives never knowing a gentle human touch. They are not vetted, their health is unimportant to their captors, their only worth to these people is the production of puppies to stock retail stores. Every time someone purchases a puppy from a pet store they are supporting the abuse that these dogs are subjected to. It is high time for a ban on retail sales of animals. If retail stores can not sell animals puppy mills will not survive the decrease in demand.
If you are considering adding a dog to your family please adopt, don’t buy. If for some unknown reason youMUST have a purebred dog consider an older rescue. There are many wonderful breed specific rescues out there with amazing dogs who need a second chance. If you must have a puppy, find a reputable breeder that puts the health of their dogs above the profit they bring.
Until Tomorrow Remember
BE THE CHANGE
(Part two will run tomorrow.)