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Posts Tagged ‘adopting a puppy mill dog’

Puppy mill dogs as the Sad Story Dog

March 24, 2015 13 comments

puppy mills 1This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here:  BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)

The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.

You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid.  Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.

None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.

Oh yeah, that is the spot. #maggie #SheltieWhen foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?

All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.

As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.

Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.

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Daisy rides in a car – A look back

October 24, 2013 8 comments

DSC00869Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy first 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.  It highlights the progress Daisy has made since 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.

Time has a way of smoothing the edges of our memories. What once was crisp and clear, and ever so real in my mind, has been replaced by more current memories. But if I take a minute to look back and think about the early days with Daisy, I can remember some of what I have forgotten.

This past week I was thinking about Daisy and our early trips in the car. How different they used to be from today. Even now, I don’t really know if it was the car that terrified her or the movement of it.

What I do know is that she would readily jump into the car after the first week, but then immediately lie down and sprawl the entire length of the car. And there she would lay, frozen, for the entire trip. In the early days this would pose a problem because Aspen also had to fit into that back seat. I quickly learned that Aspen had to get into the car first or there was no room for her. Even then, Daisy was just as likely to lay directly on top of the elderly and delicate Aspen as she was to lay next to her.

I could not explain to Daisy why I needed her to move, and tugging gently on her collar or trying to physically move her were an impossibility. Have you ever tried to move a 60-lb dog who immediately freezes and clings to the car seat for dear life? It is not a great experience – for  the owner or for the fearful dog. It used to make me feel like the worst person in the world where Daisy was concerned.

So to help make the experience less stressful, we developed a routine that included starting over (something we did a lot in the early years). What this meant was that I would call Daisy out of the car as if we were unloading (i.e., getting out) and then re-load her into the car. This allowed me to adjust Aspen, move Aspen or help Daisy to leap in and lay next to her vs. on top of her. It often took 2-3 times, but we would usually get it right and then could be on our way.

Over time, Daisy learned that the car was not something to be feared but something to be excited about. This is because it usually meant we were going for a walk at the dog park. I remember the first time she sat up in the back seat to look out the window (it still makes me smile to think of that moment) and the first time she tentatively stuck her nose out the back window to sniff the air rushing by. Who could have ever guessed that my sweet fearful girl would learn to enjoy the simple things that most dogs enjoy every day?

Now, Daisy loves riding in the car and is usually the first one to jump in. She loves looking out the window, but is just as happy to lay sprawled out in the back seat so she can doze as we drive to our destination. She knows when we are getting close to the dog park and when we are close to home. These are the times when she perks up and stands and wags her tail. No more fearful frozen moments for her. I love hearing that now familiar thump, thump, thump as her tail hits the back seat. How far we have come from those early days. This November it will be six years since Daisy came home with me. Time may have muted my memories of those early days, but it has not muted my love and pride for her and her progress.

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Daisy learns to drink from a water jug – A look back

October 17, 2013 5 comments

IMG_7586Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy first 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.  It highlights the progress Daisy has made since 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.

When Daisy first came to stay with Aspen and I as a foster dog, I gave her space. I didn’t try to force myself on her or ask her to do anything. I didn’t try to get her to trust me right away. Instead, I let her settle in. I let her get a feel for the place and for our routine.

Over time, she started to come out of her shell, and as she did, I started to introduce her to long walks in the neighborhood and tips to the dog park. She was always her happiest at the dog park. It was the one place she seemed most happy. She was able to interact with other dogs and she had enough space to get away from humans if she felt uncomfortable.

I loved to watch her interact with dogs in those early days. She was fascinated by them. She wanted to “be” them and would often mimic their behaviors in an attempt to be like them.

You would think being a dog would come instinctively, and to some degree I am sure that it does, but for Daisy, these novelties had never been experienced – toys, sticks, playing, chasing birds or rabbits, swimming, etc.

One of the things that fascinated Daisy was the way some dogs would drink water directly from the water jug instead of waiting until it was in the bowl and drinking it from there. I cannot count how many times I watched Daisy watching other dogs as they drank directly from the jug at the dog park. She was intrigued by this behavior. It was if she was trying to figure out whether she had been doing it wrong all along and needed to needed to change her approach.

One day, her curiosity got the better of her, and as I started to pour water into the water dish she leaned in and tried to drink the water as it flowed out. Water spilled all over her snout. She sputtered and backed up. Then tentatively, she leaned in again and tried to drink from the flow again. Success!

It might seem like a small thing, but I was so proud of her for trying something new and for being brave enough to try again when she didn’t succeed the first time. Many dogs that come from puppy mills are so damaged that trying anything new is beyond their ability or comprehension. Daisy showed me that she might be tentative and afraid and skittish, but she was capable of observing, learning and working things out. She wasn’t afraid to try something new. To explore. To satisfy her curiosity.

You would think that with Daisy’s small success in drinking water from a water jug she would have continued to do so. She did, for about a week, then she decided that she really preferred drinking from the water dish instead. Why? I suspect it’s because she really prefers dunking her whole snout in the water then having it pour over it.

I love this about her too. Daisy is happy to experiment and explore and learn from other dogs, but in the end she keeps what she prefers and discards the rest. She is her own dog. There’s something to be said about that – Go Daisy Go!

Turbo and Daisy1

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Living with Daisy in the NOW – A look back

June 26, 2013 11 comments

IMG_4259Today 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. 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 October 28, 2008, almost a year after Daisy first came to live with me.

If you have been lucky enough to adopt a second-hand dog, then you know the wondering that often accompanies their entrance into our lives. You wonder…Was my dog loved in his former home? What was my dog’s former owner like? Does she cower because she was abused? Was he treated well before he came to me? Where did he learn that quirky behavior?

For me, I never had any doubt that my last dog, Aspen, was loved by her former owners. She was such a loving and affectionate dog that I KNEW she had been loved and cared for during her early years. She displayed none of the typical behaviors (cowering, shaking, running in fear, etc.) that would indicate abuse or mistreatment. In fact, I was pretty sure that the decision to give her up was probably not an easy one. She was 9 years old, had medical issues, and likely cost her former owners a good amount of money. However, I did wonder why they surrendered her saying she kept jumping the fence when I knew that her nine-year old debilitated hips could never have allowed her to do so. Were they hoping to avoid giving her a death sentence by stating the truth? Did they surrender her because the medical issues just became too much? Or, as is often the case with an older and sick dog, did they surrender her to avoid having to make the decision to put her to sleep?

With Daisy, I often wonder a whole host of different questions:

  • How bad were her former living conditions?
  • Where did all the scars on her body – the spots where no fur grows – come from? Were they caused by another dog? Or, were they caused by the puppy mill owner himself/herself?
  • Was the puppy mill owner a woman? Is that why she is so comfortable approaching men – even ones she does not know? Is that why she is so tentative with women vs. men?
  • Did she live outside? Is that why her ears have scars? Did the flies bite them?
  • Does she like little dogs so much because they remind her of her puppies?
  • Why did the owner feel the need to tattoo a number in her ear (201)? Were all the dogs that lived at the puppy mill tattooed too?
  • Why was she surrendered to the service organization at age 4? How did she come to escape her personal hell?
I know that I will never have the answers I seek, nor am I sure that I truly want to know all that Daisy has been through, but part of me still wonders. When I am rubbing her belly, something she has only recently let me do, I see those scars and try to imagine what it must have been like for her. Disturbing thoughts I know, but when you love a dog as much as I love Daisy, you think that knowing what happened in the past will help you to erase those memories from her mind. The truth is that I can only start from here. Today. Now.
What I do today can only have an impact her the future, not her past. I choose to give Daisy everything she never had the chance to have before – love, kindness, the chance to run free in the woods, to experience new smells and new friends, and, yes, to have the occasional ice cream cone.
Living in the NOW with Daisy means forgetting about her past and focusing on being with her in the present (and in the future). Being present with her. Spending quality time with her – on her terms, and loving her. Could a dog want for anything more?

A Letter to Daisy – My Thanksgiving Gift

November 19, 2012 26 comments

My dear sweet Daisy.

Here we are about to enjoy another Thanksgiving together and I can hardly believe it.

I can’t believe it has been five years since you first came to live with me – first as my foster dog and then as my very own. Where did the time go?

I remember the day I first brought you home and how terrified you were getting out of the car, through the kitchen doorway and across that darn slippery wood kitchen floor. Do you remember how you used to run as soon as you hit that wood floor because it scared you so?

I remember those first few days and how you hid in your kennel, afraid to leave it for fear of what might be outside it’s safe confines. Do you remember how I used to sit on the floor outside your kennel and toss you treats in hopes that you would learn to trust me?

Aspen was your rock then. She was the confident dog who knew what to do around humans. She knew the couch was a safe place and you felt safe there too… as long as she was there. You would lie next to her on that couch with your head on her body and sleep so deeply, only leaving her when I got up to go into the kitchen or bathroom.

I didn’t know how much you had come to rely on Aspen until the first and only time I left you in your kennel and latched its door. Oh how you must have panicked. The teeth marks on the top and sides told me how scared you had been. I never shut that kennel door again did I?

Aspen and Daisy

Do you remember how you used to panic when coming in from outside? Those darn doorways have always been a bit of a problem for you. So many times I would hide behind the door and let Aspen lead you inside, but often there were times when something would spook you and you would back away from the door. Aspen and I would come back outside and try to lead you inside again – over and over again, until you felt safe.

Do you remember that time it was pouring out and you were too scared to come in? It wasn’t until I put your harness on that I was able to lead you back inside. I smile when I think of that crazy night now. How silly we must have looked.

I still remember the first time you saw a lake. You were  so scared. Get your feet wet? No way! I gently encouraged you until you let your toes touch the water. Who could have guessed then that you would come to love water so? No longer afraid, you now jump in as if it’s the best thing since sliced bread. And to you, it is just that.

I look back now and can hardly believe that it has been five years. You’re nine years old now, and oh how much you have grown.

Jasper and Daisy

I swore when I adopted you that I would give you the very best life possible. Sitting in a cage having puppies over and over again was a thing of the past. I wanted you to have every opportunity to enjoy all the things most dogs do – long walks at the park, swimming in a lake, playing with other dogs, cuddles and belly rubs, a chance to hang your head out the car window and enjoy the breeze, the pleasure of eating the occasional ice cream cone from Dairy Queen. I wanted you to live a life free of fear. I wanted you to feel true happiness and joy. I wanted you to be a dog. Not a scared, muddled mess of fear hiding away in a kennel for the rest of your life.

I am so proud of you my girl. You have accomplished all of this and more. You experience joy. You are not afraid to explore and try new things. You love most people and approach them on your own.You aren’t confident 100% of the time, but who cares? You are who you are and I love you just the way you are, here and now.

Happy Gotcha Day my girl.

I could not have ever guessed that the dog I offered to foster that day five years ago would bring such joy to my life. You have truly found your Inner Lab.

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