Tag Archives: Rescue work

A Dog Rescuer’s Point of View on Puppy Mills

Image from Facebook

You may get a puppy from a puppy mill and it turns out fine, so you think what’s the big deal.

Your thought process says, “My puppy is healthy and all is well”. That’s great but where did that puppy come from? I’m betting the parents are not well. They are are probably living in squalid conditions and receiving little to no veterinary care. You’ve seen the photos. I’ll spare you those here. But, look at the offenses documented above.

Why wouldn’t the kennel owners provide veterinary care to the dogs? Because the dogs are seen as a product and spending money cuts into the profit margin. The dogs are a commodity and it is cheaper to get another one than put money into the adult dogs that live there. Ditto for any puppies that cannot be sold for a profit. Compassion and emotional well-being are not a factor that is considered.

Your puppy mill dog may be perfectly healthy and be a fine companion. But by buying from this source you are promoting the system and allowing it to go on. Each puppy sold provides more money for these people to continue with what they do.

Some people buy their puppy directly from the puppy mill farm. They see the conditions the dogs live in and pay for that puppy and take it home to get it out of poor circumstances. This is a double-edged sword. You save the puppy you went to meet, but you feed the system. It continues with the parents left behind and new generations of puppies born into suffering. I would not condemn anyone for choosing to buy the puppy and save it after you have fallen in love with it. I don’t know what the right answer is. But you should have the full knowledge of what you are doing before you make the decision.

I am the President of a local breed rescue for Northeast Ohio. I have seen some of the dogs who make it out of the puppy mills. We rarely get puppies from any source. When it comes to puppy mill farms, we get the breeders and the dogs that didn’t work out as expected. The dogs who didn’t produce enough puppies or they have health problems that the owners don’t want to deal with. They come to us generally in poor physical condition and they have not been socialized.

These dogs are afraid of people and life in general. They are afraid of going outside. They are afraid of coming inside. They are afraid of stairs, petting, and direct eye contact. Our rescue had one who would only eat in the dark, after the rest of the household had gone to bed. These are the dogs that usually stay in rescue for a year or more. They go to homes where people are willing to live with their issues. Sometimes, they stay with their foster families forever, because we don’t want to subject them to the trauma of going through it all again. Also, it is not easy to find the special families who are willing to work with these dogs. If they do get adopted, there is the possibility of them being returned.

The average dog owner wants a dog that they can do things with, like go to the dog park, take a leisurely walk around the block, and snuggle on the couch. Many of these puppy mill survivors will take many months or years of work before they get to this point. Some will never make it.

There are those puppy mill survivors who are able to integrate into a normal life with a bit of retraining and lots of love. If you become the owner of such a dog, the rewards are great. Knowing you have turned life around for a dog like this is a feeling like no other.

Some rescues and shelters frown on buying purebred dogs from reputable breeders. They think the only answer is adoption from a rescue or shelter. And I agree, adopting from rescues and shelters is indeed a wonderful thing! I recommend people looking for dogs, check into adoption first. There are many wonderful dogs awaiting their forever homes. Many of them have no issues whatsoever and are there through no fault of their own. Purebred and mixed breed dogs who would fit into many homes seamlessly.

And I think there is also a place for the reputable breeder as well. The good breeders go to great lengths to plan their litters. They take great care to make sure their dogs are healthy and receive prenatal care and general veterinary care. They may do genetic testing if it would be beneficial. They breed for maximum health and to maintain breed standards. These dogs and puppies are housed in good and safe places, often the breeder’s own home. The resulting puppies have been handled and are used to people. The mother dogs only produce a few litters, so their bodies do not wear out. And when the puppies are gone, the adult dogs are still a part of the breeder’s family life. These puppies may cost a little bit more, but it is an investment in the health and quality of the dogs. And reputable breeders take their puppies or dogs back if they do not work out or the buyer cannot keep the dog at any time down the road. They will take the dog back until they can re-home it, or they may decide to keep it.

Sometimes our rescue will even refer people to a reputable breeder. We may not have an available dog that is right for every situation. If we are not sure our rescued dogs are good with small children, we may refer them on to someone who has puppies. The children and puppies can grow up together. If someone wants a dog for a specific activity like agility or herding, we may refer them to a breeder who specializes in dogs who were breed for this. When the dog is a good fit for the home, things tend to work out.

If you plan to make a canine addition to your home, think about how you expect your life with a dog to look. Do you want a companion? A working partner? A running buddy? Pick a dog that is likely to fulfill the plans you have. Be willing to put in the work.

And above all, consider where they come from. By making an informed choice, you have the ability not only to set yourself up for success, but to play a part in ending puppy mills and the suffering that takes place. YOU can make a difference!

A Memory Captured

Super Weasel

This is a sketch I drew of one of our foster dogs a number of years ago. I know it’s no great piece of art, but it captured a memory.

This was a foster dog that came to us with the name of Lawrence. Our neighbor Larry had recently passed away and I felt odd standing in our yard repeatedly saying “Lawrence, do you have to pee?” Not to mention, it was a formal name for a one year old sheltie. He had a vey slender build and was always jumping up into the air. He especially liked to jump up and hit me in the butt with both his front feet when I would turn around to walk away. I often turned and said “You little weasel.” This eventually led to me affectionately calling him by the moniker Weasel.

Hence, this sketch with “W” on his front that I call Super Weasel.

He was a wonderful little dog that I loved dearly. I still remember tearing up when we left him at his new home. He went to a great family that also loved him dearly. He was renamed Scotty and became best friend and companion to a young girl. He became a 4-H dog and went on to run lots of agility. I couldn’t have asked for a better home for him.

Scotty left us to go to the Rainbow Bridge much too soon. I am still happily acquainted with his family, and that young girl is now an adult who has since adopted another sheltie from our Rescue.

Sometimes You Get It Right

Do you ever feel like fate has a hand in your life and when you follow your gut instinct, sometimes you get it right?

I recently did away with our landline and switched that number over to my cell phone. The old cell number is now defunct. I felt that it was important to maintain the old landline number because it has been used for our dog rescue business and is printed in numerous places so that people can reach us when they need help. I could have replaced it with another number, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. It would have been a fair amount of work and just didn’t seem right.

Well, I got a call today from someone in our Rescue family. They fostered and adopted a dog from us recently and this was not their first dog from us either. Rescue members become a real community and like family. I would not have received the call if I had not kept that phone number. The changes would not have been updated to our documents yet.

Our Rescue friend’s wife had passed away unexpectedly two days ago. We talked for a bit and I was able to offer condolences and some kind words. I was blessed to hear how the dog he has from our Rescue group comforted him. He thought we should know what happened and I am touched that he shared this with us. I hope I was able to bring him a small bit of comfort in this difficult time.

I have long said that rescuing dogs, is helping people too. I am blessed to do both.

A Heart of Gold

This is Maizie. She was our foster dog seven years ago and passed to the Rainbow Bridge after spending a little over a year with us. She had a heart of gold. Following is what I wrote at that time.

Dear Person Who Abandoned this Senior Dog,

Maizie was found by the pound and when they sent you a letter to come and get her, you did not come. She spent 30 days in the pound kennel waiting for you before the efforts of two rescue groups brought her to our house as a foster dog. Today we discovered that she has kidney failure and will live out the rest of her life with us however long that may be. What lesson am I supposed to learn from this? Perhaps to have compassion for you and not be judgemental? I will work on that.

I know that I have been blessed to know this dog who is sweet, loving, and grateful for every bit of attention. She smiles at us constantly and is one of the happiest dogs I have seen. Occassionally she will try to play and has a small, joyful hop to her step. Our lives have been enriched by knowing this kind dog.

My dreams will be sweeter knowing that I have helped and loved this girl. May you be able to sleep at all.

Welcome Home!

This is the newest member of our family! Meet Claire. She has been our foster dog for the past 6 months so if you know us, she’s not new around here.

I honestly did make a good effort to adopt her out. Our rescue isn’t doing home checks right now because of the pandemic. Over the past three months I did speak to previous adopters about her but the time and situation wasn’t right for any of them.

Mercifully, after speaking to the last potential adopter last week, they decided the timing was not right. I say mercifully because after I got off the phone with them before they had decided, I fell apart at the thought of Claire leaving us.

I don’t know if I’ve changed? Or I lost my edge after taking a year and a half fostering break after Zekie came to us? Or if it’s due to the fact that I’m home all the time now? Or if it’s just Claire. But the thought of her leaving is unbearable.

This does mean that we are on a moratorium from long term fostering for now. We will still be available for fostering those shelties that only need one or two weeks here.

So Claire is home! As you can see, she is quite happy about this. And so am I.

Foster Dog-Two Weeks In

Claire has been with us two weeks today. It has passed quickly, mostly because she keeps us so busy. You must keep your eyes on her at all times when she is not crated. She spent some time in her crate because she is in heat and some of the time just because we were not able to watch her every minute.

She hasn’t had a potty accident in about a week. Before that I think it was mostly marking due to being in heat and not actually accidents. Claire also wanders around the house. A lot. I don’t know if this is a trait of bitches in heat or just because everything is new to her.

And I mean everything seems like a new experience to her. Walking on a leash, people eating food, cats, things on coffee tables. You need to constantly watch her or she will take things and then be puzzled about why you are upset.

Claire is learning though. When I say no, she stops what she is doing to look at me which gives me a chance to praise her. She is getting along with the cats better, although she still reacts sometimes. Luckily she thinks the cats are great fun rather than viewing them as snack items.

And occasionally she will lay down. This makes me happy. A few minutes for me to relax is appreciated. She improves a little bit each day. We’ll get there.

First Foster Dog 2020!

A new foster dog has arrived! We have been without a foster dog for over two years. That is an eternity for us. We had not been without a foster dog before this since 2003. When Zeke came, he was such a handful that we could not deal with any other new dogs. So when I decided to adopt Zeke, we had to take a break from fostering.

Zeke is still a handful. I would say that his behavior gets marginally better all the time. At this rate he will be a normal level of crazy in several more years. Well, either Zeke is a bit better or our tolerance for trouble has increased. Because in the late fall, we decided that we were ready to foster again. Turn-ins to our group Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue slowed down and we have some other great foster homes available so it didn’t work out for a dog to come to us until yesterday. This girl’s name is Topanga. We will be renaming her soon as that is quite a mouthful and she doesn’t seem very responsive to it.

Topanga was turned over to our Rescue group along with four other dogs. All of the dogs are female Shetland Sheepdogs and about 4-5 years old. Two are sables, two are tricolors, and there is one blue merle. The owner is apparently beginning to suffer from dementia and is no longer able to care for the dogs. I applaud the owner for realizing her limitations and doing what is best for these girls no matter how hard it is. Many of us could end up in a similar situation and I can only imagine the grief it would bring. The other dogs are going from their initial intake home to long term foster homes too. They will all get any updates to their care that is needed along with love. Love is what our foster homes do best.

I would like to point out that as with all Rescue groups, we have a protocol that we follow before placing dogs in adoptive homes. We require applications and then we conduct vet checks, followed by home checks. Then we place each dog into the approved home that is the best fit for him or her. We have enough approved homes on our waiting list to provide an adoptive home for all of these dogs. If you are interested in a dog, it is wise to get an application in early so you will be ready when we have more dogs come along.

I have to thank Cheryl, who picked up the dogs from the owner for us. And a big thanks also to Kathi who met Cheryl at the local pet store and both ladies spent their evening bathing, trimming, and transporting these dogs. These are two ladies from the local Shetland Sheepdog breed club as well as members of our Rescue. It is great and always a help when these two parts of the dog world can work together. Bravo ladies!

Topanga will be here for a few weeks at least while we update her veterinary needs and get her spayed. We can already tell she is quite a character. She was jumping and trying to play with me when I was grooming her yesterday. She keeps running around and trying to get the other dogs to play. She is also trying to get the cats to play but so far that results in hissing and a swat or two. I’m sure it’s only a matter of a few days before she is outside playing with the other dogs in our fenced pasture.

Updates to follow!

Maizie, A Good Dog

This is a tribute to Maizie who we fostered for Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. She arrived in 2013 and passed on to the Rainbow Bridge about a year and a half later, while laying on a dog bed in our living room, with me by her side. She now lies buried in our woods with our others who have passed.

The letter below is one I wrote in 2013, right after we discovered she had kidney failure. We are blessed to have known her. She enriched our lives.

Dear Person Who Abandoned this Senior Dog,

Maizie was found by the pound and when they sent you a letter to come and get her, you did not come. She spent 30 days in the pound kennel waiting for you before the efforts of two rescue groups brought her to our house as a foster dog. Today we discovered that she has kidney failure and will live out the rest of her life with us however long that may be. What lesson am I supposed to learn from this? Perhaps to have compassion for you and not be judgemental? I will work on that.

I know that I have been blessed to know this dog who is sweet, loving, and grateful for every bit of attention. She smiles at us constantly and is one of the happiest dogs I have seen. Occassionally she will try to play and has a small, joyful hop to her step. Our lives have been enriched by knowing this kind dog.

My dreams will be sweeter knowing that I have helped and loved this girl. May you be able to sleep at all.

It Takes a Village

One of my first impressions of Nash, besides the fear, was the smell. Nash had such a doggie odor that after working with him I would smell the same way. I had to hang my coat out in the hall at work rather than near my desk. I noticed nobody wanted to pet him much because it involved washing your hands every time you touched him. So, on his second evening with us I decided to give him a bath. You can imagine how that went. Nash literally thought I was trying to kill him. I felt so bad for him fighting for his life that I almost gave up, but I didn’t want him to think he could get his way by throwing a fit in the future. So, I sang him stupid songs and washed away. His struggles became less after a while. Luckily, he didn’t have too much fur at this point, so it went pretty fast. He really enjoyed the towel drying at the end.  Needless to say, the bathroom and I were both covered in water and I was exhausted and sore.

I took Nash for a walk the first day after work and it went about how you would expect. He couldn’t walk in a straight line and kept tangling me in the leash. Every so often he grabbed the end of the choke chain in his mouth and tried to get free. And he was furiously trying to eat all the snow he could like he thought he would never have water again. All in all, it could have gone a lot worse. We made it a little over a mile. It did nothing to calm him down though.

During the first days when I would take Nash out of his crate and try to pet him he would constantly jump, lunge, and try to kiss. I mean he didn’t ever stop trying. After the bath incident he actually laid still for several minutes as long as I kept petting him. It was a fight to get the choker and leash on and off of him every time I needed to take him out. And getting him back in the crate involved forcibly putting him in, which sometimes involved wounds (scratches) to the person involved. I knew he would take more work than any other dog I had fostered but that he would also be the most rewarding.

After a couple of weeks with us Nash was still neurotic and needy. I thought he loved everyone but that was not the case. He wanted to chase off the furnace repair man, didn’t like a friend of ours who came over (a large man) and attacked my brother’s dog when he came to spend the weekend. On the other hand, he liked my daughter when she came home from college for the weekend and liked my sister-in-law the two times he met her. And on the day my brother’s dog, Dakota, came I got him out on leash when I came home, and he was fine with Dakota. They never had another problem. Nash has met a number of visitors to our house since then and after he warms up to them he is fine

As time goes by I am sure he was abused. We still can’t pick him up without him going into self preservation mode. Sometimes I just pick him up anyway and let him put his mouth on me since there are things I have to do. Like put him in a crate to ride in the car or give shots. Oh, and anytime your foot comes into contact with him which can be often since he follows so close he runs into your feet, he squeals like you are trying to hurt him. He also has the strong food drive that you sometimes see in dogs that went without for a long time. He will try to take food from any of our seven dogs. And if we are eating you better believe we keep an eye on our food.

Nash, or Nashville as we like to call him, has been with us for a couple of months now. He has come a long way since the early days although he still has a way to go. His frantic kissing and attention seeking are down to about the first 15 minutes after I come home. Of course, he is willing to sit on my lap for the entire evening if I will let him. And you need to be careful or he will jump on your lap anytime. On two occasions this resulted in me wearing an entire cup of coffee. These days Nash runs in his crate eagerly and turns around with his head sticking out waiting for the biscuit he knows is coming. And a couple weekends ago I took him on a three mile walk at a nearby state park where we passed other walkers with dogs and some bicyclists. He circled the leash around me a few times but was otherwise well behaved. By evening when we are relaxing if I tell Nash to get down, he will go lay quietly on a cushion in the corner. Of course, anytime I make eye contact with him he comes running to see what I want, and I have to tell him to go lay down again. But he has come so far.

Nash is ready for a home with the “right person” who will have the patience and understanding to continue working with him. If someone with the right skills doesn’t come along in the near future, we will keep working with him until he is ready for a home. I say “we” because it is a family affair. Everyone in our family has a hand in Nash’s transition and so it will need to be with his new family.

I wrote this tale about Nashville’s escapades in 2009 when he came into Rescue. He was adopted by a wonderful family with two children later that summer and they adored him. I remember sobbing uncontrollably as I drove away from leaving him with his new family. Even though it was a great match, I had invested so much of myself in him that I loved him dearly. The family did comment that he hoarded cans of food in his crate. He must have somehow thought that he would need this food to survive if times ever got tough again. I don’t know how he planned to open them. Nashville was one of those dogs that as a coping mechanism, I always considered to be mine and that another family was just taking care of him for me. Thanks Sara, for his initial transport to us. It takes a village…

Smiles All Around!

It’s a happy day. A friend contacted me about finding a home for this dog that an acquaintance of hers cannot keep. I do shetland sheepdog rescue. This is a red merle border collie. She is a 2 1/2 year old, spayed little girl.

Since the couple got her, the wife’s health has taken an unfortunate turn and the husband is working long hours now. This pup is loved but needs and deserves more than the family is able to give her with current circumstances.

I had a number of suggestions. Find a neighbor to walk the dog. Or contact a training club or 4- H group about adoption. Post a flyer at the vet office. Anyone who is there takes care of their dogs. Our rescue could do a courtesy post.

But look at that face! What would happen to her? I worry about these things. I spend time sitting around pondering options. You might say I become obsessed. It is in the forefront of my mind for hours. When I am presented with situations like this, my brain takes responsibility. I have to exhaust all avenues open to me to fix the situation. Dogs well-being, if not their lives, depend on it. I do not take this lightly.

I was copied on a post of someone who was looking for a sheltie. Or possibly a small collie. We don’t have many shelties in rescue right now. I thought, hey, they’re willing to consider a sheltie or collie, they don’t really have their heart set on a specific breed. A border collie is a herding breed. Maybe they would be interested in this dog. After hearing more about this person, I am confident they would provide a very good home.

So, long story short. They are going to meet this little border collie girl on Saturday and probably will adopt her. Sometimes things just fall into place. This appears to be one of those times. Smiles all around!