This week is Puppy Mill Action Week (click here for more information), what a perfect time to recap my experience last week when I met Precious.
Precious is the namesake of Annie’s rescue group. In December of 2014, the rescue arm of the Newfoundland Club of America was notified that there were “several” dogs ready to be surrendered due to the death of a commercial breeder. Commercial breeders operate puppy mills and sell their puppies online and to pet stores. They consider their dogs to be cash crops and have little regard for the care and well-being of their breeding dogs.
Volunteers were assembled and arrangements were made to travel to rural Michigan for the pick-up. When the volunteers arrived, they were overwhelmed by what they found. They expected to pick up a handful of dogs, they discovered about 100 dogs living in deplorable conditions with obvious signs of neglect. The weather at that time was harsh, sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow. The dogs were outside in wire pens, their only shelter was a couple of unheated open sheds. They were all underweight, dirty and matted, many with lesions and sores on their bodies. The scene still haunts the volunteers who were involved.
Eventually, 44 Newfoundlands were surrendered. The breeder’s son was in charge of the operation and he was reluctant to surrender them all at once. He auctioned the young and healthy dogs and released the remainder to rescue over the course of six different trips. The final pick-up happened in early January 2015 and Precious was the last dog to be handed over.
She was dragged out of a dark, unheated building and put into a traveling crate. She had very little hair left on her body (remember this is still the middle of very brutal winter conditions) and she curled up into the fetal position and hid her head. She didn’t have a name or papers and had been completely ignored. The volunteers decided to name her Precious, because every life is precious and everyone deserves a name. She spent the next 3 months under constant medical care, slowly showing a few signs of improvement, before she was placed with her current family.
Let’s fast forward 3 years to the Newfoundland National Specialty last week. Precious was there with her 3 Newfoundland brothers who have been instrumental in her recovery. It’s been a long road to recovery for her with many ups and downs but the best word to describe her is miraculous. She is still shy, but she ventured out for several quick meet and greets with other Newfoundland owners who have followed her story and cheered her on from afar.Her human mother Sue and I have communicated several times over the last couple of years but we have never met. She was incredibly kind and supportive after Annie died. Precious and Annie shared a similar skin condition. They both used the same medication that brought them relief from constant itching and discomfort so I was happy to send Precious the remainder of Annie’s prescription. When we finally met, I immediately started shedding uncontrollable tears.
We sat and talked for quite a while. She shared a bit of the experience of the multiple trip rescue and I learned a few more details that I didn’t know. I was always worried that Annie was surrendered to one of the last pick ups, having stayed on the property and watched members of her pack be taken away to the unknown. The whole experience must have been so scary for all of the dogs but Sue thought that Annie was in one of the early pick ups and for some reason I found that to be a relief. She was careful not to overwhelm me with information, she and I both knew I wasn’t ready to hear all of it, but I hope sometime in the future I will be. My goal with Annie was to march in the Rescue Parade at The National, and I was there without her and it broke my heart. Sue very graciously invited me to march with her and Precious but I declined, that was their moment to share, I would watch and cheer them on.
The next day, I met Precious and we had a lovely moment. She, like Annie, was eager to take a treat from me but she watched me carefully as I talked to her. Her eyes darted about from side to side, surveying everything around her, making sure the situation was still safe. Annie always did that too and I forgot about it until I saw Precious do the same thing. She reminded me so much of Annie, it was almost overwhelming but I loved meeting her and seeing how well she is doing. Her fur is full and covers her body. It also looks like Annie’s, not solid black but black flecked with white hairs. She had a sweet expression on her face and a beautiful white blaze on her chest. She is petite and looks happy and healthy.The fact that Precious could be at a big event like that is a testament to the love and support she has received from her family. They were very careful with her, letting her meet just a few people at a time and making sure she wasn’t overwhelmed by her surroundings. She really enjoyed meeting other dogs that were there, which makes sense since she came from such a big kennel and she has always found safety and comfort in the company of the dogs in her family, especially Henry. Henry is her rock, she will snuggle up next to him when she needs a little extra boost. He is always with her when she goes outside, she won’t do that by herself. Those few minutes with Precious happened right before I packed up the car to head back home and were the perfect way for me to end my first experience at The Newfoundland National. Seeing her reminded me of Annie but unlike the day before, I smiled as I thought of her because I felt so lucky to have had her in my life. Annie was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known and we were meant to be together. I wish she didn’t have that horrible experience before I found her but the last years of her life were her best years and certainly some of my best years as well.