Monday, January 18, 2016

Puppy Mill Dogs

In 2010, we took in Dirk, a male Golden Retriever who had spent his first 8 years in a puppy mill. When we agreed to foster him for the rescue organization we volunteer for, we had no idea what being a puppy mill dog meant - for us or, more importantly, for the dog.

We brought Dirk home, and he met our two resident dogs without incident. But that was where any shred of normalcy ended. He was afraid of everything that our resident dogs took for granted: the TV, the ceiling fan, carpeting, tile floors, stairways, doorways. And when I say "afraid", I mean cowering, trembling, frozen fear. He had no idea what to do with a toy. He was startled by every loud noise and sudden movement. I didn't see how we could keep him.

But miraculously, over many months, Dirk's dogness began to shine through. He watched our resident male intently and followed him everywhere. I will never forget the evening Dirk lay on the floor, watching our resident male chewing on a rawhide snack. When our resident finally tired of it and walked away, Dirk slowly made his way over to it, sniffed it a few times, then lay down and began chewing it. It was a genuinely moving moment to watch this little soul find within himself a little bit of what it means to be a dog.

Dirk eventually learned how to play, and would dash around our backyard with our other two. He was incredibly fast, and seemed to delight in just running free - perhaps for the first time in his life.

One day, Mrs. Cynical announced that Dirk would no longer be our foster dog, and we would no longer be posting updates on the rescue website. We would be adopting Dirk ourselves, and he would be the next member of our family. I knew better than to argue.

Today, now 13+ years old, Dirk still exhibits some of the traits he first came to us with. He still startles at loud noises. He hesitates before climbing stairs. And, oddly, he still does not like having a camera pointed at him. I have many photos of Dirk with Mrs. Cynical, in which just one of his eyes is peaking out from behind Mrs. Cynical. But for the most part, Dirk is just a quiet, gentle, happy boy, soaking up all the attention we can give him.

My point here is this: If you want a dog, please look into what puppy mills are and how their dogs are treated. Very often, they are isolated for years with little human interaction. As a result, they are very poorly socialized and without the skills and knowledge you expect in an adult dog. Your local pet store very likely gets its dogs from a puppy mill.

My suggestion? Go to your local dog pound or Humane Society. Lots of great dogs are looking for homes there. If you're bound and determined to get a specific breed, look into the many rescue organizations out there. Many are breed-specific, and have dogs of all ages looking for homes. Please don't contribute to the suborganic scum who are creating dogs like Dirk, then casting them out when they're done with them so that someone else can fix the damage they've created.


Heidi said...

Wonderful post! It's hard to beat watching a dog who was emotionally shut down come into their own, trust the love and learn the joy of being a happy dog.

The first stray dog we found and kept, she acted like she could not believe she was being fed! Another meal today?? WOW! Wait, you're feeding me AGAIN??? I can't believe it!! This went on for months. Eventually she trusted the food would keep coming at regular intervals and she relaxed into it. I'm not sure who enjoyed that more...her or me.

Dirk's a lucky boy.

Anonymous said...

This story makes me happy.

Lucky Dirk...and lucky Cynical family :)

Hildy said...

When you get rescues, you often wonder what could have caused the strange behaviors they have. And the possibilities that account for some of these behaviors usually make me wish I had the power to find out who did that to them and kill them.

Officer Cynical said...

@Hildy 10:25 - At my house, that's called the "ice pick in the ear" fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. And by puppy mills, don't forget to include your local "pet store." At Walmart, when merchandise becomes too old to sell, they dumpsterize it. Now ask yourself, what becomes of the puppy or kitten that passes the 8-12-week cute stage and is no longer easily saleable? Every possible answer you can come up with has happened at least once. All answers are horrible.

Nana said...

Another possible source for adopting...your local vet. People who've loved a pet and can't keep it (for various good reasons) may ask their vet to re-home it. My family got several wonderful dogs this way. Big benefit: knowing the dog's history.

Anonymous said...

While on the road working, I've found a local cat shelter where they don't mind if people come in for a while and socialize with the cats. Some of the cats want nothing to do with me, while others...I spent a very pleasant afternoon providing a lap for a cat who craves human company.
I'd love to take them all home, or at least cats like Bernie, but I can't have any cats where I'm living, and at home we have 4 rescues already.
The small shelters are more open to those of us who want to spend some time with the animals, even if we can't adopt them. After a long week at my client, it is nice to spend some time relaxing with a book and a purring cat.

Anonymous said...

My Josey was a feral rescue, and it took nearly 2 years for her to understand the concept of "play". She now chases a tennis ball with great delight, but still isn't fond of little stuffed animals or rawhide chews. She starts at loud noises, but doesn't growl every time hubby walks into the room. Instead, greeting him jubilantly as though he's been away a long time.

I am NOT allowed out of her sight when I'm home, and she is now free with hugs and kisses after many months of shying away when a hand reached for her.

She is kind, gentle, loving, and the most devoted animal I've ever encountered. She's also the most beautiful white GSD I've ever seen.

Rescue..always rescue. If everyone did that, the puppy mills would disappear over time.

Anonymous said...

On January 18 I celebrate with my dog her adoption anniversary date. For 12 years she has been a sweet, loyal, close and absolutely hassle free companion to me. I found her at my local humane society. There are plenty more out there.
Thank you so much for the wonderful work you choose to do on behalf of these dogs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful post! I work in rescue and can attest to the horrors of puppy mills and the after-effects on the animals if they are lucky enough to be rescued. Sadly in the South, there are no laws against backyard breeding so we have an uphill battle but there is a committed and growing movement to change this. Thank you so much for sharing the message and encouraging people to adopt rather than "shop" for pets!!

sp77 said...

I own a Border Collie (I live on a sheep farm) from a BC rescue. He was a puppy mill puppy, impulse purchased at an urban pet shop... by a woman who was afraid of dogs, and kept him crated in her basement for 20+ hours per day. For 3 years. Then she surrendered him to rescue due to overwhelming behavioral issues.

Now he's 8, has a cushy life, loves herding my sheep flock, but it took a long time to get him there. He was adopted and returned to the rescue twice before I got him. He's a sweet, handsome dog, but the 1st 2 adopters couldn't manage his issues. When I adopted him, his feet were still so soft that they bled from simple stuff like walking on grass.

He's never going to be a totally normal dog (he still has a ton of phobias), but he's worth it. I want to kick the people that made him this way!