If you read my post from last Thursday, then you know about Maggie, our new foster dog.
That post provided you with some general information on Maggie’s background and her fears and shared some videos of her outside.
If you don’t know, Maggie came from a puppy mill and has been staying with us just a little over a week. Dogs like Maggie, are often damaged – emotionally and physically. Building trust with them is difficult. It takes time, patience and dedication. Oh yes, did I mention time?
My Lab Daisy took almost three years to come out of her shell. People who meet her now would never guess how emotionally damaged and scarred she was when she came to me just over 6 years ago. I still see it sometimes, it never goes completely away, but she is miles from where she started. For that, I am grateful.
When Daisy first came to live with me, I made sure to give her a lot of time and space – time to get used to me, Aspen (my dog) and our routine and space to decompress and adjust to this new life she had. I wanted her to have a say in what she felt comfortable doing and I wanted it to be on her timeline. Building trust with her was my goal, but that could’t be done completely on my terms. That had to be done on her terms. If I forced her to do something just because I wanted her to do it, I would have risked her shutting down or regressing, and I most certainly would have destroyed any trust she had with me. So instead we worked together, in tandem, with Daisy telling me when something was too much for her and when she felt she could trust me enough to push past her discomfort. it required me to listen to her and to watch her body language in order to know I needed to stop or move forward.
What I did with Daisy is similar to the approach I am using with Maggie. The only difference between then and now is that I have a little more wisdom and experience this time around, and I have a few more resources at my disposal.
In Maggie’s first few days with us, I tried to give her some space, some time to adjust – to me, to my dogs and to our routine. Now I am focused on building her trust. There are two things I am doing to help build that trust (with more to follow as she progresses). The first is modeled after a video I shared on my blog a year ago showing how you can determine if your own dog likes to be petted by you. I recommend watching it, if you haven’t already, and trying it with your own dog.
Briefly, what I have been doing is petting Maggie for a short period of time and then letting her tell me if she wants me to continue or stop. It’s taken some time for her to figure out that she has a say but she has started to realize that if I pet her and stop, she can tell me if she wants me to continue by simply nudging her nose at my hand or by touching my hand or making a movement with her nose towards my hand.If she does not want to be touched she stops nudging me and I stop petting her.
Here is a video demonstrating that behavior. As you can see, there is one point at which she becomes distracted by a noise and looks around. I let her and wait to see if she chooses to come back to me for more petting. I don’t try to get her attention back, I just wait and let her decide, which she does. This is Maggie choosing on her own what she wants from me. Pretty cool huh?
The second thing I am doing is similar to the first, except I am asking her to do something in return for some cheese. It’s called hand targeting. I don’t have a video of this with Maggie yet, but Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com was kind enough to direct me to some of her videos on hand targeting that she did with her dog Nibbles, who came from a hoarding situation. I have included one video below, but I would really recommend going to her post titles “Nibbles” so you can see a few of the videos of her work with Nibbles and hand targeting.
If you are working with a dog like Maggie or Nibbles, you should absolutely check out the rest of Debbie’s videos and blog posts about Nibbles. He has made such amazing progress in her expert care. To me, Nibbles is proof that sometimes you can rehabilitate dogs like he and Maggie and give them a good quality life.
I will continue to work with Maggie to help her along her journey, but I know it will be a slow process that will have its ups and downs. It just takes time and patience.
Note: Maggie is one of the lucky ones, she got out of her puppy mill, but there are many more still living a life of hell. Please continue to spread the word about puppy mills and the damage they do to dogs like Maggie. Not every dog can be saved, but every dog should have a chance.
If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen me post a picture of a new dog that is staying with us right now. Her name is Maggie. She is a foster dog and will be staying with us for a while.
Maggie had the unfortunate luck to be born in a puppy mill in Pine River, Minnesota. (I wrote about the Pine River puppy mill in a previous post - How many Pine River Puppy Mill Raids will it take to change laws? That’s up to you. and shared a video of the dogs that came from there.)
Unlike most of the dogs rescued from Pine River, Maggie was too frightened to be adopted out right away, so she came to Minnesota Sheltie Rescue for additional time and attention. She is very afraid of people and strange sounds (and sudden movements by me), but like many puppy mill dogs she is not afraid of other dogs, including mine.
A lack of early socialization with people and new environments, and mostly negative experiences with people (her puppy millers), has made her afraid of most everything she sees or hears. Her first reaction to something that scares her is to run. For that reason, she is a flight risk. I
n the week that she has been with us, Maggie has worn (and will continue to wear) a harness with a leash attached and a martingale collar that can be attached to a long line. It is for her protection that she wears these items. If she were to get loose, she would run and there would be no chance of catching her. Absolutely none.
For most Americans (at least those who know what a puppy mill is) a puppy mill is a terrible place where dogs are bred to be sold online or in pet stores. Most of what you and I know about puppy mill dogs comes from images we have seen of a puppy mill raid. Usually these include images of the squalid and dirty conditions in which these dogs are kept and pictures of their rescuers carrying them out of a facility like Pine River. But what we don’t often get to see is what happens to these dogs once they leave the facility. Nor do we see the emotional damage that remains with a dog that comes from these places. I wanted to share Maggie’s story with all of you because I think it is important to show you the emotional state of a puppy mill dog after it has been rescued.
Maggie has been with us just under a week now and continues to be afraid of most things. Here is a list of the things she fears:
- Hands reaching out for her
- The sound of the furnace turning on and off
- Cars going by the house
- Planes flying overhead
- Me pulling up the blinds in the morning
- Me cleaning out the hall closet
- Sudden movements by people
- The house settling
- Birds eating from the bird feeder outside
- Shadows or reflected light on the walls
- Having the long line attached to her martingale collar
- Coming into the house from the garage (she makes it in the door and readily follows the other dogs, but needs me to back away from the doorway so she has time to run to the living room or her safe spot in the kitchen
Maggie’s response to these fearful things is to do one of the following:
- Run away from the source of the fear.
- Run to her safe spot in the kitchen (next to the refrigerator).
- Run to her safe spot on the couch.
- Run to her safe spot in my bedroom, my closet.
- Cower and freeze.
- Look at the ceiling or in the direction of the sound.
Sense a theme here? Yes. When faced with something fearful, running is her first choice. Her only concern is getting away from that which scares her.
Can you imagine living in a heightened state of fear almost every hour of the day? This is the life of a puppy mill dog.
Imagine constantly having adrenaline running through your body because the terror you feel is in reaction to everything in your environment or not being able to sleep deeply because you are constantly on high alert in case you need to run and hide from something or someone.
I don’t think many of us would want to live like this. Would you? That is why in some cases euthanization is the kindest thing you can do for a puppy mill dog. I am hopeful that Maggie won’t be one of these dogs, but it is unfortunately an option that we have to look at when dealing with many puppy mill dogs.
Maggie gives me hope because even though she is afraid of many things, she is not always in a state of fear. She sleeps deeply enough to snore when she sleeps next to me on the couch. She is not afraid of my touch and even seeks it out when I sit on the couch with her. She is smart and a quick learner which should help her in the days ahead. She has already discovered that when all three of my dogs come into the kitchen it is because I am handing out treats. She is not afraid to venture out of her safe spot to grab a piece of cheese. She is fine with doorways and has no problem going through them. (Side note: Daisy was afraid of most all of these things when I first adopted her.) Maggie is also curious about new things in her environment and not afraid to investigate them (Side note: Jasper is very much afraid of new things in his environment and likely to run away in fear and bark than to investigate them.)
Over the coming days, I hope to share more about Maggie and her progress, but for now I wanted to introduce you to Maggie and to share with you what happens to a dog after it has been rescued from a puppy mill. I hope that you will share her story and help educate people on the emotional damage a dog suffers when it lives in a puppy mill. We need to change the laws in this country, but we cannot do so until people understand why we need to change them. By the way, Maggie’s puppy miller is still in business and breeding dogs so there are many more dogs like Maggie who will likely be faced with a similar situation some day.
Here is Maggie on her 2nd day with us.
Here is Maggie on her 7th day with us.
I recently saw someone share a petition on Facebook that made me do a double-take. The title of the petition?
What? Why would Iowa State University and the CDC be teaching people how to run a puppy mill? Surely they must be mistaken. That made absolutely no sense.
According to the petition, the Center for Food Security & Public Health (located at the Iowa State University), with funding from “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers an eleven-part course in Regulatory Compliance for Commercial Dog Breeders.” The petition went on to say that it was “unconscionable” that these two agencies would help to facilitate the breeding of dogs when so many are sitting in shelters waiting for a home. Well, I cannot argue with that. It’s a legitimate point.
But, I wanted to know more about their claims. So, I Googled the Center for Food Security and Public Health. It wasn’t hard to find them, or the 11-part course offered to breeders. As it turns out, the courses they offer are nothing more than a series of PowerPoint presentations covering the licensing and regulatory requirements under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In essence, they inform a potential puppy miller of the rules and licensing requirements of a USDA- licensed breeder. They probably are required to offer the courses by law.
I think what is more laughable is that they offer these courses at all.
I mean, how can one not laugh when one reads the slide (Slide 16) on the Enforcement Measures in the course labeled Presentation 1: Introduction to APHIS Animal Care and the Regulatory Process:
If violations of the AWA are found, enforcement measures can include:
- Confiscation or euthanasia of animals
- Issuance of a cease and desist order (stopping a business from buying/selling dogs)
- Monetary fines
- Suspension or loss of a license
- Formal prosecution (being taken to court)
Very few USDA-licensed commercial breeders ever face these types of enforcement measures. Take Deborah Beatrice Rowell, a USDA-licensed breeder in Pine River who was raided this summer and had 130 dogs seized. The seizure wasn’t conducted by the USDA. No. It was Minnesota law enforcement who stepped in, alongside the ASPCA and Animal Folks MN.
In fact, the USDA seems to have done nothing despite reports showing noncompliance over several years.
It took the USDA years before they shut Kathy Jo Bauck down too, and that only happened after CAPS video-taped the horrible conditions in her facility and it was aired on TV news.
Also laughable is the course on dog exercise (see slide 11 of that presentation):
Let’s go through an example.
Sparkles is a Scottish Terrier that measures 18 inches from the tip or her nose to the base of her tail.
First calculate the minimum floor space required for her by taking her length 18 inches and adding 6 inches and multiplying the sum by itself. This equals 576 inches (4 sq ft.) This is the minimum amount of space Sparkles needs for housing purposes.
To calculate the inches of floor space required if Sparkles will not receive additional exercise, take 576 and multiply by 2 to equal 1152 inches (8 sq. ft).
If Sparkles will not be taken out for additional exercise, she needs to be in a primary enclosure with 8 square feet of floor space.
Try measuring your own dog once. Start at the tip of his nose and go to the base of his tail. Now follow the calculations above for minimum housing requirements where exercise is needed. Then measure the size pen your dog would live in for life if they were in a pen not requiring any exercise. At all. Ever.
Now you can start to see the ridiculousness of such a requirement. The sad thing is that most puppy mill dogs live in housing that is at the smaller requirement, the one that requires exercise, and yet receive no exercise at all. Ever.
I don’t have a problem with the Center for Food Security & Public Health and CDC educating commercial breeders on the requirements of federal law.
What I have a problem with is the fact that they even bother at all. Educating breeders on USDA licensing requirements is like threatening to punish your child and not following through. How much is your child likely to respect you and your rules if they know they can get around them every single time? How likely is it that a commercial breeder will either?
On July 16th of this year, a Minnesota puppy mill was raided and 130 dogs were rescued from horrific conditions. For months, these dogs and their puppies (many born after they were rescued) were kept in limbo as the court case against the puppy mill owner wound its way through the Minnesota court system.
Deborah Beatrice Rowell, was charged with seven misdemeanors and two petty misdemeanors for animal cruelty (misdemeanor charges carry a 90 days in jail and or a $1,000 fine). In the end, she got a plea deal and pled guilty to one count of failure to provide dogs with adequate shade. She was ordered to pay a $135 fine and is now back in business. Unbelievable isn’t it?
Meanwhile the Animal Humane Society (AHS) spent $200,000 caring for the animals and giving them long overdue vet care and vaccinations. A grant from the ASPCA made the raid possible and helped to give these dogs a chance at a new home and a new life. The puppy mill owner responsible for the conditions of these dogs? $135 fine.
If you find yourself saying any of the following right now…
“She should be in jail!”
“How can they let her off with $135 fine? That’s horrible!”
“The laws have got to change. She shouldn’t be able to get away with this.”
“How can they let her be back in business? That’s not right!”
She should be in jail.
She shouldn’t have been let off with $135 fine and allowed to be back in business again.
The laws have got to change.
And you know how that happens?
It takes you to…
- Get involved and call a legislator when the puppy mill bill comes up again.
- Write a quick note to committee members and ask them to support the bill.
- Share the information with your friends and family and ask them to take action.
- Join the rally at the capital.
- Speak up.
- GET INVOLVED.
Laws don’t change unless someone cares enough to speak up. Elected officials are swayed by their constituents, but only if they speak up.
Words left unspoken fall on deaf ears.
Need motivation? Watch the video AHS put together of the Pine River raid and the dogs they helped.
If care about dogs like Blue #9, then take action. Help us change the laws so this doesn’t have to happen again.
We don’t need another puppy miller getting off with just a $135 fine.
In light of some recent disheartening puppy mill news…
It’s encouraging to see some good news coming out of one of the states with the most puppy mills – Missouri.
In 2011, Missouri passed the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act (CCPA), requiring puppy mill owners to provide better care, submit to veterinary inspections once a year, provide access to outdoor exercise areas for all their dogs and removal of kennels with wire flooring.
Despite legislative action to weaken the bill, which it did, and a lawsuit brought by 83 dog breeders, Missourians still managed to keep some major provisions that will now have the opportunity to impact puppy mills where it hurts – in the pocket-book. In fact, it already has begun.
- The breeder lawsuit was withdrawn thus leaving the CCPA in a good position to move forward – My friend Sue over at Talking Dogs Blog provides some highlights from the breeder lawsuit and the testimony that likely led to it being withdrawn (you really must read it to understand how badly they underestimated their ability to sway public opinion). Mischief Monday: Missouri Puppy Mill Lawsuit Withdrawn
- The Hunte Corporation, the largest broker of pet store puppies in the country (think Petland), has seen business decline by over 50% and they have had to downsize the number of employees from 350 to 150 since the act was enacted.
- More than 1,000 dog breeders have chosen to stop breeding dogs rather than comply with the requirements and more are expected to do so.
And in California, there’s more change. Several cities are taking the lead on banning puppy mill puppies sold in pet stores.
[San Diego] City Council votes unanimously to ban ‘puppy mill’ sales (Did you know San Diego is the 32nd city in North America to ban such sales?)
[Los Angeles] Ban on sale of puppies in L.A.
Did you know San Diego is the 32nd city in North America to ban such sales? Here’s a full list of the cities choosing to ban pet sales in pet stores.
Even though Minnesota has yet to pass any bill regulating dog breeding operations (we have some of the largest puppy mills in the country), I am encouraged, because the tide is turning. It’s only a matter of time.
Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy came to live with me. Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old at the time I adopted her. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.
I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward, there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward. The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.
This post is from April 25, 2010, about two and a half years after Daisy first came to live with me. Since this post was written Daisy has learned to swim and has done so in several lakes and in the Mississippi River.
If you’ve owned a Labrador Retriever at any time in your life, then you know that they LOVE water! It’s instinctual right? It’s part of what makes a Lab a Lab.
When I first got Daisy, I made that assumption too. After all, ALL labs love water right? As it turns out, not necessarily. Daisy taught me that one should not make assumptions where dogs are concerned. Not all dogs are the same and not all dogs fit what we think is instinctual to a breed. Early experience has a lot to do with how dogs react to and deal with new things, including people, other dogs, and, as it turns out, water.
Daisy’s first experience with water was tentative at best. I remember walking down to the lake near a hiking trail we use. I thought that she would run right in, but instead, Daisy came to a dead stop and refused to go near the water. She looked at it, watched it for a while, watched other dogs playing in it, but she had no intention of entering it. It was only after I took my shoes off, rolled up my pant legs and went in myself, that she took her first steps into the lake. You could tell she was nervous. Unsure and scared. Having lived in a cage all her life, she had never experienced a lake or a pool. Her only experience with water was probably what came out of a hose or what appeared in her water dish. On Daisy’s first foray into water, she would only go in far enough to get her toes wet. Then, it was back to shore (where she felt safest) to hang out on the beach or explore the nearby woods. That was good enough for her.
Over time, Daisy has become more comfortable around water. I got her a kiddie pool that summer. I am certain my neighbors thought I was insane. A pool for a dog? Seriously? But, it was a great way to expose Daisy to water and let her decide on her own terms if she wanted any part of it. I’ll admit. I kind of hoped that instinct would kick in and she would suddenly decide that playing in water was fun. Instead, she came to view the pool as more of a giant water dish. It was great to stand outside of it and get a drink, but step into it? Uh-huh. She wasn’t sure about this pool-thing. But after watching some of her friends enjoy the pool and hang out in it over the summer, she finally gave it a try and stepped in… to drink some water.
And so, that’s how it has been for the past 2 1/2 years – Daisy walks into the water (not too deep!) and drinks. On occasion, she has even dipped her whole snout into the water (very definitely a Lab thing to do!). Until this year.
I don’t know if it’s because she now has a companion who is not afraid of water (Jasper) or if it is because Daisy finally seems to be coming into her own (i.e., finding her inner Lab), but for some reason this year something has changed. Something has clicked with Daisy.
We’ve been lucky enough to have an early spring this year, so we’ve already hiked the park trail several times this year. Daisy and Jasper have really enjoyed the opportunity to check out all the new smells and to fly through the woods, chasing one another, flying over fallen trees and tall prairie grass – wild and free. She and Jasper have also enjoyed taking a dip in the lake that is along the trail. In the past, Daisy would have approached the lake slowly and gone in just far enough to dip her snout and lap up some water. But, not this year! Daisy has suddenly taken a liking to water. Something I have never seen her do before. Now, she thinks nothing of going in far enough to get her belly wet. She stays in longer and enjoys dipping her snout in and walking around. She has even taken to sticking her whole head under water! Who’d have thunk it?
I think today’s adventure was perhaps my favorite. Oh how I wish I had brought my camera!
This afternoon, Jasper was chasing after Daisy, who was running full out through the woods, stretching her legs as she flew across the wooded floor and out into the clearing along the lake. Without hesitation, she continued into the clearing, ran down the hill and… straight into the lake! Then she did something unusual. She began to leap and jump in the water in such a way that I can only describe it as ‘frolicking’. Daisy was having fun. Water was finally fun!
The moment didn’t last long. She and Jasper splashed around. She dunked her snout, lapped up some water and that was it. She was done. But it was more than enough to bring a huge smile to my face. Daisy was no longer afraid of water. She loved it. Who’d have thunk it? Go Daisy Go!
Last Thursday the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) came out with their “Horrible Hundred” – one hundred puppy mills it feels need closer scrutiny by state and federal authorities (“A Horrible Hundred: 100 Problem Puppy Mills“).
These are not necessarily the worst puppy mills in the country, but they are indicative of many puppy mills who provide inadequate and substandard care. Most of these facilities have been repeatedly cited by federal and local officials and have at least 100 dogs or more, including one in Minnesota with 1,100 dogs. Yes. 1,100 breeding dogs.
Many, if not all, of these facilities sell their dogs at pet stores (and over the internet) all across the country. One of the four puppy mills listed for Minnesota has been found to have sold dogs in pet stores in Michigan, Chicago, Ohio and California.
Want to see if any from your state are listed? Go here.
You can read a more detailed report on each of these mills here.
So which puppy mills were on the list from Minnesota?
Carole and Larry Harries/ Harries K-9 Ranch – Alpha, MN
Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) investigated the Harries back in 2007 and called out issues with the wire mesh flooring, which allowed the dogs legs to slip through. They also documented dirty kennels, dirty water dishes, matted fur on several dogs, feces build up and up to 5 dogs per kennel in several kennels.
Apparently, not much has changed since 2007. In February 2013, the Harries were cited for a repeat violation by USDA inspectors for several dogs in need of veterinary care, including a shih tzu whose teeth were so rotted that the inspector could see the roots of her teeth, and two dogs with excessive matting around the tail with feces matted into the fur.
Ted Johnson / Funtime Kennels – Windom, MN
Ted appears to have a revolving door policy when it comes to his USDA licenses, often letting them lapse and then reapplying (maybe he couldn’t make it just selling over the internet or just trying to hide his business from people like me?). He has also had multiple violations at his kenneling facility.
Back in 2011, he was cited for failure to establish and maintain adequate veterinary care as is seen in this USDA inspection report.
In April 2013, USDA inspectors found two Maltese dogs his kennel that had such severe dental disease that they had lost most of their teeth. One of the dogs had only two teeth left, and one of her remaining two teeth “was loose and moved easily when touched.” The dog was seen “excessively licking its mouth with its tongue hanging out of its mouth most of the time,” according to the inspector. The USDA also noted that the ammonia (urine) smell in the facility “was strong enough to make the inspector’s eyes burn.”
John & Lyle Renner/ Renner’s Kennel – Detroit Lakes, MN
Renner’s Kennels have been cited multiple times for violations. This is one from 2004:
“One kennel that houses three golden retrievers (199, 176, 175) has an area of kennel wire that has turned inside the cage and the ends are poking out towards the dogs in the cage. Another kennel housing three huskies (238, 184, ?) has a pipe end that protrudes to the inside of the kennel that appears that the end of the pipe is sharp and may cause injury to the dogs.”
The most recent set of violations were received in January 2013, when they were “fined more than $5,000 by the USDA for repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act regulations.” Previous violations documented on USDA inspection reports include “dogs kept in small cages without the minimum required space; lack of proper cleaning and sanitization, violations for dogs needing vet care, including a husky who could not bear weight on his leg, a dog with a missing eye and discharge, dogs with swollen/oozing paws (common in puppy mills with wire flooring), dogs without adequate protection from extreme temperatures, strong odors and accumulations of feces.”
Wanda Kretzman / Clearwater Kennel Inc. – Cushing, MN (has 1,124 dogs as of February 2013)
According to Animal Folks MN, Wanda’s facility is THE LARGEST BREEDER/BROKER in MINNESOTA. She has over 1100 dogs and multiple violations covering several years, including violations for incomplete records, wire mesh floors that allow dogs’ feet to go through, not enough floor or head space in pens, and buildup of feces under kennels and in outdoor pens in 2006 (St Cloud Times, Mar 3, 2007) and violations in 2012 for seven dogs with bloody, inflamed and/or swollen feet, likely from straddling the painful wire flooring (HSUS, 100 Puppy Mills Report, May 2013).
Wanda’s puppy mill puppies have been sold in California, Chicago, Michigan and at dog auctions in Ohio. In an undercover video from the January 15, 2011 Farmerstown Dog Auction in Ohio, over 300 of the 504 dogs sold were from Clearwater Kennels (see the video below to learn more about dog auctions).
It’s hard not to see how this puppy mill ended up on the list is it?
Don’t see your state on the list? Chances are you will on a previous year’s report. HSUS has been highlighting some of these awful puppy mills for seven years now.
Want to stop puppy mills?
- Share with your friends. Pick just one person and educate them on where pet store and internet puppies come from and then ask them to share with just one friend. Spread the word.
- Send one tweet about puppy mills today.
- Post one story on Facebook today about puppy mills and let people know where pet store and internet puppies come from.
- Don’t buy puppies from pet stores or over the internet. Many puppy mills are turning to the internet to sell their dogs now because they are not required to have a USDA license nor are they subject to inspection.
- Get active. Write your legislator and ask him/her to support a law to tighten the standards of care for puppy mills.
Just before Christmas, a friend recommended a book to me. Being a sucker for a good book, I immediately checked it out on Amazon. It didn’t take much for me to know that I needed to add it to my Christmas list. I am so glad I did.
The book is called “As Bright as the Sun” by Cynthia Schlichting, and is about a strong but vulnerable victim of the dog fighting world, Bella.
I can hardly explain some of the emotions I felt as Cynthia wove the tale of Bella’s life, as told from her perspective. Some of the details are true and some of them are based on Cynthia’s imaginings of what happened to Bella prior to coming to live with them. It works. I found myself smiling at times and crying at others as I followed Bella on her treacherous journey. If Cynthia wanted to place the reader in Bella’s shoes, then she did a good job.
The book starts out with Bella as a puppy and follows her as she is kidnapped from her loving family and forced into the dark, cruel and sick world of dog fighting. For years, Bella is used and abused by her captors. She is bred over and over again for her puppies – all forced into the dog fighting ring, and she is also forced to fight. It was during her last fight (more of an assassination than a fight) that Bella faces her worst moment. She is tossed into a ring with a fighting dog with her legs tied together, unable to defend herself. Her captors intended for her to die there. Instead, she survived. So they tossed her into a roadside ditch – pregnant, bleeding, skin and ears ripped up, she lay there in that ditch all but giving up on life until a good samaritan comes along and saves her. A guardian angel was looking over Bella that day and the days to come.
By all odds, Bella ends up at the now infamous Chesterfield County Animal Shelter, where employees shot and killed 22 of their dogs and buried them in a landfill. Thank goodness she was pulled by a rescue before she could suffer that fate. The rescue cares for Bella’s wounded body and soul and shares her story on Facebook, where it is passed on by many.
It is there that Cynthia and her husband, Brian, read Bella’s story and decide they are the ones to give her a new home. What follows is their, and Bella’s, journey to bring her home (to Minnesota) and to give her a chance at a new life. She meets her new doggie siblings, Foster and Jane, and learns what being a dog really is when you live in a home where people love you.
It’s a powerful story and one worth reading
If I had but one wish it would have been that Cynthia had shared more about Bella’s life after she was rescued. For those of us with dogs who have suffered a horrible beginning in life, we want to know how she, and her husband, Brian, helped Bella to assimilate into her new world. But, I think I know why Cynthia chose to focus more of her time and attention on Bella’s story. It’s because Bella’s story is not just a story about Bella, it’s a story about every fighting dog still living in that world. It’s the story of those who try to help these dogs and what really happens in that cruel sadistic world that some consider a sport. If you didn’t know much about dog fighting before, you will after reading Bella’s story. You can even follow the work Cynthia continues to do to bring attention to this issue on her Facebook page.
Reading Bella’s story opened my eyes even more to the horrible world Bella lived in for so many years. She is a symbol for those who have come before her, and all those who will, no doubt, come after her. If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read her story. It’s one worth reading.
Yesterday, I saw a story announcing the opening of a new center dedicated to helping fearful dogs. The center, located in New Jersey, is a project being led by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Now dogs who have lived their whole lives in puppy mills or have come from a hoarding situation or were victims of animal cruelty will have the chance to get help meant just for them.
If you have ever had a fearful dog, one who has had little exposure to the world or has been abused, then you know that rehabilitation takes time. Unfortunately, time is not always an option for them. Many are euthanized because the amount of time and dedication (and money) it takes to work with a fearful or traumatized dog is more than most shelters can give.
This center is a source of hope for these dogs and the people who rescue them. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will take dogs from shelters across the country as well as those that come those animal seizures involving the ASPCA. Their first guests, Malamutes, are coming in from Montana in the next few days. These were the dogs who were seized from a breeder charged with animal cruelty (I wrote about them a couple of months ago).
Dogs who come to the center will stay on average about 6-8 weeks, but they are not putting a strict time limit on their stay. As anyone who has worked with a puppy mill dog knows, sometimes it can takes a year or more before a fearful dog can really function in their new environment. Knowing there is a center, and people, focused on helping these dogs is really encouraging. I hope that what they learn can be used to help more dogs in the future. I suspect Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com could tell them a lot, but I am hoping that more will be learned from their work that can be used by rescuers across the country to help dogs like these, like Daisy and Cupcake.
I’ll be watching to see what they learn. How about you?