Tag Archives: puppy mill survivor

Meeting Precious

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.IMG_6907Her 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.IMG_6908IMG_6909The 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.  IMG_6904Those 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.

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Annie 6/7/06-1/12/18

Two years ago…

I met Annie and we brought her home to be a part of our family.

At the time, it was clear that she was nervous, scared, withdrawn, suspicious and very reluctant to come with us.  I understood that she had been through more than any dog should, but I didn’t fully grasp the depth of her trauma.IMG_0837I knew in my heart that we were meant to be together, and I was willing to give her the time and patience that she would need to feel comfortable in our home, but after a few weeks with very little change, I began to suspect that she would never let herself bond with us.

But then she did!

Very slowly, she started coming towards me voluntarily.  She’d follow me, join me in another room, greet me at the door, plop her head on my laptop and nudge my elbow for an ear rub.  All such normal behaviors for a dog, but major signs from her that she was beginning to trust us.IMG_2462I learned so much from her about resilience and forgiveness. Her demons never fully left her, but she was able push them aside and allow herself to learn about a new way to live.

I learned so much about myself.  I never knew that I had the level of patience that was needed to make her feel comfortable. I never knew that I could feel so much empathy. I never knew that I could be so dedicated and committed to doing whatever necessary to help her heal.

And it was all so worth it!

She was a remarkable dog. So sweet, so loving, so gentle.img_2913 She loved to eat. She’d come running when she heard sounds in the kitchen. She made so many discoveries and never turned down a taste of whatever we gave her.img_2870 She loved to walk along the beside me. At the beach, we would walk up and down the water line while Maisie and then Winn ran around, played and splashed with other dogs and each other. I was never worried about her being off leash, she never left my side when we were out.IMG_0332She loved to sleep. She would nuzzle up in her crate along the bumper of her bed, rubbing her face and letting out little sighs.  That was the first bed she ever had, in her whole life, and she loved it so much. She fell asleep for the final time in that bed and it went with her.  It seemed right that she should have her beloved bed for eternity. img_2888Last year, I wrote a special post for Annie’s gotcha day. I was so happy that we had made it to the one year mark.  A couple of months ago I was fully confident that we would have at least another year with her.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the stars, but the time we had together was so amazing.  I treasured every day with her, and every milestone was celebrated.  I really feel that she gave me more than I gave her.  I’m a better person for having her in my life and our relationship will continue to shape my relationships with my other dogs. Annie was very, very special and I’m so honored that she chose to love me and trust me and that I was able to show her that life could be good.  She was so happy, even in her final moments.  She kissed me goodbye and I knew that she was content and that she left this world feeling safe and loved.

Happy Gotcha Day Annie! I wish you were still here but you will always be in my heart and be remembered on this day that changed our lives, January 31st.

 

Goodbye

This is the day that I have dreaded since that very first moment I gazed into your soulful eyes.

Your gray whiskers were the hint that you had already lived out the majority of your days.  At the time, I guessed that you were about 9 years old, a few months later I was able to confirm that you were 9 1/2, but I never thought twice about bringing you home and giving you the life that you deserved.

I wish we could have had more time.

I wish your previous life was not so difficult.

I wish I could have known you as a puppy.

I wish we could have marched in the Rescue Parade.

I wish you didn’t have to be afraid of so many things.

I wish I could have fixed you.

You taught be me so much about love, trust, resilience and forgiveness.

You were strong, stoic, gentle, affectionate and so, so sweet.

You inspired me to write your story.

You invited me in, and let me be your person.

You were everything I could’ve asked for.

You were like no other.

I will never forget you, I will always love you and you are forever in my heart.

Goodbye precious Annie, my sweet, sweet girl. IMG_2757

 

Annie the adventurer…who knew?

Every time Annie does something remotely “dog like”, I take note.

Behaviors that might seem completely normal and maybe even annoying in other dogs, are behaviors that she is learning.  She wouldn’t take a treat from my hand.  She wouldn’t come into the same room with me.  She wouldn’t go through new doorways.  She wouldn’t go upstairs.  She wouldn’t voluntarily leave her crate. She wouldn’t leave our yard to go to the car or for a walk. Slowly, as she got more comfortable with us and her new home, she started doing these things.  One day at time.  Sometimes she would regress, and we would start over, trying to make her comfortable.

She still won’t roll over for a belly rub. She still barks out of fear when someone other than my husband or I walks through the door, even if it’s someone she knows well.  She still hides behind me when we are out for a walk and someone is walking towards us.

Imagine my surprise Sunday morning, when I heard a commotion at the front door.  Maisie and Winn were crowded together with their tails were wagging and I could tell they either saw someone on the sidewalk or even on the porch that they knew.  Annie was in the middle of the living room barking her alarm bark.

I went to the door and my next door neighbor was there.  He didn’t ring the bell but when I opened the door, he said one of them was wandering outside in front of his house and he had just brought her back. Winn had recently brought in the paper and maybe I didn’t latch the door all of the way.  I was a little surprised, but thanked him for returning the rascal.  I figured it was Maisie.  As he turned to go down the stairs, he said “it was the dark one”.  The dark one!  I said, “Annie?”. “Yep”.

I couldn’t believe it!  I was cleaning the bathroom when I heard her barking, and that’s when I went around the corner and saw the other two with their wagging tails at the door.  Apparently he had returned Annie, she ran inside and then started barking which led the other two to check out whatever was happening.  I can not believe she actually left the house and went for a stroll.  That is something completely new!

I certainly don’t take it lightly that she got out, but there is a part of me that can’t help but smile because it’s one more little sign that lets me know that she is confident enough in her surroundings that she thought she would go say hello to the neighbor.