On Sunday, December 1, 2019, my husband and I braved the icy roads of Mount Pocono to pick up a dog that we had agreed to foster for the New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue Network (NJSRN). The dogs all came from a Puppy Mill.
Buddy was a 7-year-old male miniature schnauzer from an Ohio puppy mill. He was rescued along with 14 other schnauzers. Buddy had been at this present foster home for 8 weeks, however the elderly gentleman caring for him was having a heart procedure and wouldn’t be able to continue to care for him. We were asked to take a turn.
On first meet, Buddy wanted nothing to do with my husband nor I. His “fight or flight” mechanism was firmly triggered to flight. My husband, Bill, and I were about to be schooled in what a puppy mill dog really was.
What is a puppy mill? A dog breeding operation where dogs are basically considered crops and profits are more important than the dog’s health. “These dogs rarely go outside. In some mills the animals are allowed outside for a short amount of time per day, otherwise the dogs get no time to walk or play because they are housed in small crates with little space. Being in a small space and not being able to be active causes stress and affects their development
Buddy was afraid of humans.
All humans. He didn’t know how to come down steps and had only recently learned how to climb steps. Buddy was afraid of doors and had no concept of windows and mirrors. He didn’t play with toys.
He didn’t accept treats. You name it, we tried it: cheese, chicken, eggs, hotdogs. Buddy would sniff it then walk away. I would place it on the ground and leave the room, he would still ignore it.
We took this sweet but very damaged dog home with us. He rode very well in the car inside his kennel. We were optimistic about our new visitor and committed to helping him enjoy his new life. The meet with Ace and Mollie (my miniature schnauzers) couldn’t have gone better. They both accepted him almost instantly, as he accepted them.
An Introduction to a new life.
Buddy was a sweet soul. Although he ran from us, when we would catch him, we could pick him up without growling. He never showed his teeth. We could lay him next to us and he would stay, which was very unusual since he did his best to avoid our eyesight. I’d love to say it was comfort, but my gut tells me he sat still out of fear.
Puppies do not get to interact with other humans when living in puppy mills; they do not get treats or toys. Not being able to interact with humans can lead to behavioral problems.
We allowed him free roam on the first floor. He continuously circled the perimeter of the house. When he was away from the other dogs, he would bark for them. Place one or both with him and he was fine. If I moved slow enough towards him, showing him my hands and asking permission, I could pet him for a bit. He would not give my husband that permission, however.
After a week, Buddy started to make eye contact, although not for long. When Ace and Mollie were getting love from us, he would watch our interactions as if trying to comprehend what was happening.
This sweet darling had gone 7 years without experiencing love from a human.
While Buddy did enjoy being with Ace and Mollie, but he didn’t know how to play with them. Mollie tried often to get him to play, to no avail.
On Saturday December 7th, our friend was visiting with her mixed breed dog named Rico and we got a glimpse of Buddy trying to be a dog. For a couple minutes Rico and Buddy played, and Buddy even chewed on a toy for several seconds. Things were changing for the better. The joy that we felt watching for a brief moment this creature try to be a dog was so heart-warming.
For the first time, I knew there was a real dog in there!
Every morning when I would let Buddy out of the dog’s room, there he would be curled into the tiniest ball inside Mollie’s kennel. There are 4 kennels in that room and 2 dog beds. I never once saw him lay in a dog bed. Buddy preferred Mollie’s kennel and would often go into it when he wasn’t feeling safe or needed a break. I let him commandeer her kennel and placed her in another kennel when needed.
Puppy mills are unsanitary: the water is usually dirty, the food is not healthy for the dogs, and no one cleans up after the animals. Puppy mill dogs get little or no veterinary care.
Unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances… tragedy struck.
On Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 tragedy struck. I received a frantic call from my husband on my drive home from work. We had a delivery and the garage door was left open; however the interior door wasn’t shut completely and the wind blew the interior door open.
All the dogs got out. Ace and Mollie stayed in the yard, but Buddy did not. My heart dropped.
How do you catch a dog that is afraid of humans, doesn’t respond to his name, and doesn’t eat treats?
Not to mention, we live in a rural area with hundreds of acres of land.
My husband and I drove in separate cars around the neighborhood looking for him. It was dark and raining. There were no signs of Buddy. A couple months ago I wrote an article on what to do if your dog runs away and I followed these guidelines to the letter.
- Placed his kennel on the front porch
- Called the police
- Called the local shelters.
- Notified neighbors
- Posted on social media. (Berks Dog Search is a godsend!)
Within an hour we received a call from the police. A dog fitting Buddy’s description has been circling a house but would run away whenever anyone got near it. The address was two streets away. We jumped in the car and headed there.
What a great way to meet neighbors. They were trying to coax Buddy with treats. There were dog biscuits and slices of cheese strewn across their porch in hopes to lure him back. You could still see his wet pawprints on their concrete.
But, we were minutes too late. He either watched us from the dark distance, or he had moved onto another property. But he was not interested in returning to a human’s company.
On Wednesday morning I was awaken seconds before my alarm went off by someone calling to inform me that they had seen my dog. The police had passed our number along. The report stated he was limping and wet.
We rushed to the address the caller gave us. We pulled into the home and decided to ask the homeowner if she/he had seen Buddy. Then suddenly I looked over the railing and there he was, laying in a tiny ball, covered with a blanket, shivering. He had some small cuts.
Did you know that according to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 10,000 licensed and unlicensed puppy mills in the United States, in total selling more than 2,000,000 puppies annually?
Not the experience we had hoped for.
I wish this story had a happy ending. We aren’t sure what Buddy went through in those 12 hours that he was out of our care. He did not have signs of an accident or a fight, but something caused a seizure.
Buddy left this world at 2:30 PM on Wednesday December 11th, 2019. I was there with him, letting him know that he was loved and that I was sorry he never got to experience the true joys of being a dog. I told him he was a good boy. And he was.
This is one story out of thousands about the poor lives of puppy mill dogs.
I wish every day that door hadn’t blown open by the wind. But I can’t help but wonder what the world must have looked like to Buddy that day. Runaway dogs do often survive for days using their instincts. But Buddy was raised so improperly, it’s hard to say what instincts he still had available.
If you love dogs, and you want to do something very impactful and loving with your life, you can make a difference for thousands of beautiful dogs who just need a chance at a happy life. Mistakes will happen – like in our story – but we let this mistake serve as a reminder of how important our role as foster parents are to these souls.
Author: Amy Dietrich is a blogger at woofster.net and supporter of several Schnauzer rescue organizations.
NOTE: If Amy and other fosters, rescuers and shelter folks knew how to communicate with animals, they could have made a bigger difference with Buddy by talking with him. Animal communication when done correctly can accelerate bonding, help wounded and damaged animals heal, and can teach them what they don’t know yet. Opening the conversation heart to heart, mind to mind, gives animals a chance to tell you what they think, what confuses them, what they’ve experienced, what they need and what they want. If you’d like to learn how to communicate with animals, begin your journey now. Start here at The Heart School of Animal Communication with your free ebook: Hidden Secrets to Communicating With Pets.
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