Today is Puppy Mill Awareness Day and I must shine the light onto Annie.
We adopted her when she was 9 1/2. She had been in foster care for a year after being rescued along with 43 other senior and sick Newfoundlands from a puppy mill that had been in business for decades.
I had a feeling she would need some extra loving when we brought her home. We had adopted rescue dogs before, but I had never been exposed to such a deeply traumatized dog.
The first few weeks were difficult, really difficult.
The best way to describe her would be completely shut down. Her eyes were vacant as they darted side to side, nervously watching everyone around her. She trotted around in circles, not coming directly toward me if I called her. She didn’t like narrow spaces, going through doorways, stairs or getting into the car. She would put on the brakes and become dead weight until she was ready to do something.
She was terrified of men, especially young men and anyone in a baseball cap.
She didn’t like going outside by herself, especially at night. I would walk beside her in circles around the yard to try to get her to go potty. In the beginning, she preferred a spot in the house where no one could see her. She found that easier than having to go through the door and venturing outside. I learned to watch for certain subtle signals and I would walk with her to the door so that we could go out.
She would sneak out of her crate and watch me from afar, but if I caught her eye, she would run back to her crate and hide. The only time I could call her out of her crate was feeding time, when I would set her bowl down in the kitchen.
I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor a few feet from her crate. I would quietly read or work on my laptop, usually with some treats next to me and slowly, very slowly, she would start to move closer to the edge of the crate. I knew we were making progress when she would stretch out in her crate or have her body half in and half out reaching for one of the treats. Eventually she left her crate and made her way toward the middle of the room to stretch out on the rug.She always hid from visitors, choosing the safety of her crate. Often times she would start out barking, eventually stopping to listen to our voices. Occasionally she would make her way out so she could take a look at whoever was there. Sometimes she was brave enough to join us in the same room, sometimes not. Chances were better if the voices were all female.
Her leash was like a security blanket. If her leash was on and I was holding it, she felt safe. If it seemed like she wanted to visit a room with strangers (peering in multiple times and waiting by the doorway), I would put on her leash and she would immediately come with me to say hello. After scanning the room, she would then relax by my feet and go to sleep.
She was the bravest dog I’ve ever known.
Her life was so hard before she was rescued, but figuring out life after being rescued was hard too.
I slept on the couch in the same room with her for the first two weeks, I didn’t want to leave her alone in a strange, new environment and she wouldn’t come upstairs with us at night.
It took a few weeks til we started to see changes in her as she began to trust us. She was so sweet, so gentle and so guarded. I did my best to always use a soft voice with her and not make any sudden movements. I let her take her time getting used to us and our house and eventually she relaxed and started to let us see more of her personality.
When she was ready, she finally climbed the stairs to an unknown part of the house and was rewarded with a big comfy bed. She had never had a bed of her own and she would snuggle into it every night, rub her face along the bumper and let out happy, groaning sounds.
She loved food of any kind and eventually was underfoot whenever we were in the kitchen.
She learned to love car rides, walks and little adventures but she always remained glued to my side. She never strayed far from me, trusting that I would take care of her in every new situation.
I got used to having her by my side and at my feet, wherever I was. She became my constant companion and her eyes were happy and filled with love.Last year, I wrote about the day she got her new rabies certificate that listed my name as her owner. We were finally able to shed the last physical reminder of where she came from. That was such a memorable day for me. You can read about it here.
She blossomed in her final years but she was never fully able to exorcise her demons. Every now and then, something would remind her of her previous life and I could see it in her response.
I say all of this because behind all of those cute, fluffy puppies in pet store windows and featured online, there is a mama that isn’t getting the proper care, love and affection that she deserves. I fell in love with one of those mamas, and she was unlike any other dog I’ve ever known.
My Brown Newfies has written an important post about how to spot a puppy mill puppy. It’s not specific to Newfoundlands, but to all puppies featured in newspapers, online, in pet stores or sold out of the back of a truck in a parking lot. You can read it here.
Shelters are filled with dogs that were purchased this way. Reputable breeders would never want one of their dogs to end up in a shelter and will always take their dogs back to find them a new home. It’s usually stated in a contract that is signed at the time of purchase. A reputable breeder will expect some sort of contact with you, the new owner. They want to know where their puppies are going and what their home life will be like. They most certainly would never sell to a broker or 3rd party.
So please, if there is a specific breed you have heart set on, do your homework and research breeders before you purchase that squirmy, fuzzy puppy. If you aren’t allowed to meet the mama and see how she lives, don’t buy the puppy.
If you are in hurry to bring home a wonderful new family pet or don’t have a breed preference, check out your local shelter or rescue group. I guarantee you will find a dog that will love you unconditionally and will fill your heart more than you could possibly imagine.
I have written more about Annie’s recovery and becoming a part of our family here.