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Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Puppy Mill Awareness Day

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.IMG_0995She 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.Version 2Last 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.IMG_2956

I have written more about Annie’s recovery and becoming a part of our family here.

 

 

Our heart grows with each dog

I’m feeling sad today, I just heard that one of the dogs from Annie’s rescue group has passed away. Like Annie, she was a senior girl who survived many years of breeding abuse and neglect.

I think it’s hitting me especially hard because I am out of town right now, and will be for another week.  I’ve always known my time with Annie is limited because of her age and this is a reminder that we need to make each day count.

Amber was with her owner for 2 years and had a lovely life with him.  He loved her and spoiled her and she learned what a dog’s life should be. Her final meal was a stack of bacon cheeseburgers that she thoroughly enjoyed. Last year she was joined by another, younger Newfie girl from rescue that turned out to be her niece. She was from the same kennel but I think had been one of the many puppies that had been purchased and then later surrendered to rescue.  Several other dogs from this kennel have ended up in rescue, another common trend of disreputable breeding practices.

In his tribute to his special brown girl, her owner posted this poem by Erica Jong.  It beautifully sums up the feelings of many of us dog owners.

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love,

they depart to teach us about loss.

A new dog never replaces an old dog,

it merely expands the heart.

If you have loved many dogs your heart is very big.

 

Rest in peace sweet Amber.

Amber (Autumn) was one of the dogs featured at the end of this blog post: Adopt or shop, just do it responsibly

 

Adopt or shop, just do it responsibly

It’s happened again, a story about Newfoundlands living in deplorable conditions, used strictly for breeding for profit and finally being surrendered due to the owners declining health. These poor dogs lived outside in extreme heat, never received any veterinary care and didn’t even have names.  They were filthy, matted and in poor health. They are all in fair condition but thankfully are under the care of a Newfoundland rescue group. They have been bathed and groomed, probably for the first time in their lives and will be nurtured back to health before being adopted to loving families.

I understand people wanting to buy a puppy for their family. Maybe there is a specific breed they have an affinity for, they don’t want to bring a dog with “baggage” into their family, or any other reason that makes sense for their family.  I don’t take a strict adopt-don’t-shop stance, just shop responsibly with care and thought. I love the Newfoundland breed. Their size, their looks, their loyalty, their need to work and their gentle, sweet personalities.  I have had two Newfies that have come directly from breeders and two Newfies that have come from rescue groups.  Our very first dog came from a huge Chicago shelter.  He was a scraggly terrier mix who still holds a very special place in our hearts.  I think there is room for these different preferences, but the caveat to that is that no dog should be used for breeding with no care for their well-being.

If you want a pure bred puppy, do your research on breeders and research more than one. The first step is to go to the national website of the breed you have chosen. They will have a list of approved, reputable breeders. A reputable breeder will want to meet you to determine if your family is the right placement for one of their puppies.  They will want to get to know you and form a relationship that can carry on through the life of the dog. They will most likely choose which puppy they will place with your family based on your family dynamic and the puppy’s personality. After you have found a breeder that you like, you will probably have to wait a while for your puppy. You might get turned down, don’t be offended, the breeder just wants the best for their puppies and wants to make the best placement possible. They will always want the dog returned to them if circumstances change and you can no longer care for the dog.  They will make every effort with their breeding to ensure a healthy litter.  They will also provide appropriate vaccinations and health screenings before sending them to their new homes. A reputable breeder has nothing to hide and will want you to come to their property to meet their dogs and puppies.  IF YOU CAN’T MEET THE MAMA , DON’T BUY THE PUPPY! A reputable breeder WILL NOT sell to pet stores or on-line because they will want to know where their puppies are going.

Red flags will include releasing a puppy prior to 8-10 weeks of age (this varies by breed and recommendations stated by the national breed group should be followed), advertising “rare” colors that don’t comply with breed standard and offering to meet you half way so that you don’t see the breeder’s property. Colors that don’t comply with breed standard are mismarks and with ethical breeding shouldn’t happen. Deliberately creating rare colors is careless and is generally done for profit only.  Don’t buy a puppy from a pet store or on-line. Receiving AKC registration papers does not mean that puppy has been carefully and ethically bred. For the NCA rescue region that handled Annie’s group,  1% of Newfoundlands come from reputable breeders and 4% are strays. The remaining majority come from backyard and commercial breeders (these breeders provide pet stores with their puppies).

If there is a breed you love and you want a puppy or dog right now, Petfinder is a good resource.  I found Annie and Charlie on Pefinder by searching for Newfoundlands.  Many, but not all, rescue groups and shelters will post animals that are ready for adoption.  You can also contact the specific breed rescue group in your area.  You will need to fill out an application, have a conversation with the person who is fostering or caring for the dog and will probably have to have a home visit before you are approved. These dogs have already come from a circumstance that wasn’t good for them. The people who have taken them in will want to make every effort to ensure that they are going to a good home, they don’t want them to end up in another inappropriate situation.

Shelters all over the country are overflowing with animals looking for good homes.  Puppies get adopted pretty quickly and might not be available, but there are so many rewards to bringing in a dog that is a little older (2 bonuses of an older dog are easy house training and no chewing). Many shelter dogs are mixed breed and will live very healthy lives because they haven’t been improperly bred by an unethical breeder. Our first dog Bogart lived to be almost 15 and didn’t have any major health issues. They are all looking for love and often times you will find your perfect pet by paying them a visit and looking into their eyes. Many people who have found their beloved pets at a shelter say they knew immediately which one would be the one. Adopting from a shelter is one of the many steps to eliminating the breeding abuse of animals.  If the demand isn’t there, puppy mills and unethical breeders will go out of business!

Pets change our lives and bring so much to our families. They are forgiving and loyal and will love you unconditionally forever.  All they want in return is love and kindness. They are a big responsibility and the decision to get a pet should not be made lightly.  Annie was the most challenging dog I’ve ever dealt with.  She had lived her whole life producing puppies with little to no human interaction.  She had never learned to trust because she had been so neglected and had no reason to believe that she could be cared for in a loving manner. She is now my constant companion and craves as much attention as possible. I can’t imagine my life without her. Shelter, health care, food and water are the obvious needs to be provided but attention, affection, and engagement will guarantee the best friend you’ve ever had, for life.

A few of the dogs from Annie’s rescue group (taken from the Newfoundland Club of America rescue site).

Sugar
Hope
Tatoo
Silvia
Tank
Debra
Autumn
Sugar