Unknown to most of my readers, I took in two puppy mill survivors who were adopted by a family from a local shelter (“local” being a relative term here in the West). Unfortunately, the family was in a serious automobile collision necessitating emergency back surgery. Because of this … and the fact they lived in a second story apartment … they were no longer able to care for the dogs and get them in/outside.
Unlike our first mill survivors (MaeMae and McKenzie) who came to us at less than two-years of age, Andy (5) and Tess (6) had spent many years in the mill. They both bolt from their crates when the door is opened, like it’s on fire. To my knowledge, the only time Tess was handled (if one can even use that term) was when the miller reached into her cage, grabbing whatever body part he/she could to pull her out and then remove her puppies. Given that’s the only contact Tess had with humans, her behavior was like a wild, cornered animal. If one managed to get her picked up (and in the process sustaining long scratch wounds from her nails), she emotionally shut down. Her fear of handling by humans so great that she defecates on the spot, physically shutting down as her heart races and her eyes lose focus.
Separation from other dogs causes anxiety as well. She’s climbed a 24-inch exercise pen, a 30-inch exercise pen and a 27-inch baby gate. Contained in a crate, she managed to break a lower canine chewing at the door. Any anxiety causes her to soil her crate. Short of putting her in a 2×3 or 3×3-foot pen with a secure lid on it, there is no other way to contain her. Certainly that’s doable but then she’d be removed from the other dogs as space is an issue. Putting her in with one of my dogs doesn’t work because they get upset with her behavior.
That someone could do this to a dog — solely for for profit — just infuriates me. And it greatly saddens me because Tess could have been a sweet dog given even the littlest bit of handling and socialization.
When I first became involved in rescue, my mentor shared the following: “Some dogs are so damaged they can’t be fixed … some dogs are so badly damaged they shouldn’t be fixed.” After several consultations with my vet (who does rescue herself), a trainer, use of an anti-anxiety drug and a course of Rescue Remedy, we came to the conclusion that her psyche is so damaged she will never accept handling. Her fear is so great that she is miserable, living on the fringes and scurrying away from humans. I also had to accept the fact that if I … an experienced rescuer and dog owner of some 28+ years … could not handle/manage her behaviors, then she was not, by any definition of the word, adoptable.
I have cried over no less than seven dogs on the euthansia table in my lifetime. Some my beloved, long-time companions; others, badly-damaged fosters, victims of circumstance or greed. It never gets any easier even when we know it is the right thing. Godspeed Tess … I hope you can, at last, find the joy that eluded you here on earth.
The next time you see a cute puppy in a pet store, remember Tess. Remember what was done to her, all in the name of profit. Remember that she wanted to be a good dog but didn’t have even the basic skills to interact with humans. Remember that there are thousands and thousands more like her, living in misery in the mills. So broken that they can’t be fixed by anyone. Remember.
Andy is one of the lucky ones … he’s making weekly progress, is learning to interact with humans and to play with his canine housemates. My deep thanks to John and Neil who said “yes” and took on the challenge.