Abandoned farm in the countryside, secluded, nobody goes there. They bark when the sun is up, bark when a truck drives by, but their cries don’t fall on human ears. Sometimes the lights are turned off. They bark less that way. The owner leaves food, but after awhile, the bowls are empty…so they are happy when the people come back and give food and water.
It’s been so long since there was grass under their feet, grass to chew on, trees to pee on. They’ve pretty much forgotten all of that. Instead there is wire grid under their feet, and they just pee right there in their little cage, and the urine runs down to the floor. The poop sometimes builds up in the corners of the cages; it helps keep them warm. Those cages suspended up in the air can get pretty drafty sometimes.
Two or three times a year they get to socialize with another dog-at least, long enough to mate. And then isolation again until the puppies come. Sometimes the birth doesn’t go well, and the owner tries to pull the puppy out. Sometimes they pull off a leg by mistake. Sometimes they can’t get the puppy out, so the mother has to die. Not a gentle peaceful death.
The babies are taken away from their mother, too young, but people want to buy little puppies. Sometimes they are sold to pet shops, but now it is mostly over the Internet. The puppies are sold to families that will give them a better life, but the mother stays behind, in her cage, to reproduce over and over again. That is the life of a puppy mill dog.
Last month we were called out to participate in a puppy mill seizure. As we entered the barn, the dogs huddled in the back of their cages, eyes wide with fear. The smell of feces and urine was intense. We were eager to take those dogs and puppies out of their environment. Each dog was examined and triaged, then sent off to the emergency shelter, the first stop toward a new life.
In the weeks that followed, the medical and surgical needs of the dogs brought us close to them as individuals, each with a personality of their own. Some were shy, because they just weren’t used to human hands. Some were social and happy to be handled; I always suspect that dogs like this have been sold over the internet by families that never dreamed their pet might end up breeding in a puppy mill.
Overwhelming numbers of people called to offer their support–through fostering and socialization, bathing and grooming, and adoption. Tonight was adoption night, a recognition of their efforts, and a celebration of a new life for these dogs.
Tonight, those dogs were adopted into new, loving homes. Their lives will be forever changed. Everyone on the staff, myself included, was literally brought to tears as, one by one, the dogs were chosen. A few of the “less perfect” dogs remained behind, but I have no doubt that they will be chosen tomorrow, or next week…they’re just waiting for the right family to see how special they are.
As our director said, it is times like this, I know without a doubt that we are doing right. We still have a long ways to go, there are still many puppy mills to shut down; but tonight, for these dogs, we made a difference.