Sunday, January 09, 2005

Stop Puppy Mills

There is a new occupant at our house, a Boston terrier named Mollie. She is a registered representative of her breed, but sometimes she seems to be a little fragile. Fortunately, Mollie has been cared for from her beginning with, shall we say, a near obsessive level of TLC. But her Mom didn't know when she got her that she was a product of a "backyard breeder." Online associations of dog owners exchange information among themselves, but newcomers sometimes discover too late that they may have unforseen problems. A recent post on the message board related the story of a puppy that simply died one night of unexplained causes.

Mollie is currently enduring her first heat, after which she will be spayed. Even at seven months she has learned to look pitiful to get what she wants, but her Momma, our daughter, is caring enough to let her get away only with things that won't do her harm. We have learned a lot about dogs over the last few months, not the least of which is the problem of unscrupulous breeders. The Humane Society warns prospective now owners about what can happen if you get a dog from what is called a "puppy mill."

Puppy mills are nothing new. These mass dog-breeding operations have been around for decades, but they continue to be a problem because unsuspecting consumers keep buying those adorable puppies in the pet store window. Or on some slick Internet site. Or even through an ad in the trusted local newspaper.

But behind the friendly fa�ade of these pet shops, web sites, and newspaper ads, there often lies a puppy mill. These canine breeding facilities frequently house dogs in shockingly poor conditions, particularly for "breeding stock" animals who are caged and continually bred for years, without human companionship and with little hope of ever becoming part of a family. After their fertility wanes, breeding animals are commonly killed, abandoned or sold to another mill. The annual result of all this breeding is hundreds of thousands of puppies, many with behavior and/or health problems.

For readers who don't get it, here is a letter from one of these puppies that has been circulating the internet for a while.
Go get the kleenex.

I don't remember much from the place I was born. It was cramped and dark, and we were never played with by the humans. I remember Mom and her soft fur, but she was often sick, and very thin. She had hardly any milk for me and my brothers and sisters. I remember many of them dying, and I missed them so.

I do remember the day I was taken from Mom. I was so sad and scared, my milk teeth had only just come in, and I really should have been with Mom still, but she was so sick, and the Humans kept saying that they wanted money and were sick of the "mess" that me and my sister made.

So we were crated up and taken to strange place. Just the two of us. We huddled together and were scared, still no human hands came to pet or love us. So many sights and sounds, and smells! We are in a store where there are many different animals! Some that squawk! some that meow! Some that peep! My sister and I are jammed into a small cage. I hear other puppies here. I see humans look at me. I like the 'little humans', the kids. They look so sweet, and fun, like they would play with me!

All day we stay in the small cage, sometimes mean people will hit the glass and frighten us, every once in a while we are taken out to be held or shown to humans. Some are gentle, some hurt us. We always hear "Aw, they are so cute! I want one!" but we never get to go with any.

My sister died last night, when the store was dark. I lay my head on her soft fur and felt the life leave her small thin body. I had heard them say she was sick, and that I should be sold as a "discount price" so that I would quickly leave the store. I think my soft whine was the only one that mourned for her as her body was taken out of the cage in the morning and dumped.

Today, a family came and bought me! Oh happy day! They are a nice family, they really, really wanted me! They had brought a dish and food and the little girl held me so tenderly in her arms. I love her so much! The mom and dad say what a sweet and good puppy I am! I am named Angel. I love to lick my new humans! The family takes such good care of me, they are loving and tender and sweet. They gently teach me right and wrong, give me good food, and lots of love! I want only to please these wonderful people! I love the little girl and I enjoy running and playing with her.

Today I went to the veterinarian. It was a strange place and I was frightened. I got some shots, but my best friend the little girl held me softly and said it would be OK. So I relaxed. The Vet must have said sad words to my beloved family, because they looked awfully sad. I heard "Severe hip dysplasia," and something about my heart... I heard the vet say something about backyard breeders and my parents not being tested. I know not what any of that means, just that it hurts me to see my family so sad. But they still love me, and I still love them very much!

I am six months old now. Where most other puppies are robust and rowdy, it hurts me terribly just to move. The pain never lets up. It hurts to run and play with my beloved little girl, and I find it hard to breathe. I keeptrying my best to be the strong pup I know I am supposed to be, but it is so hard. It breaks my heart to see the little girl so sad, and to hear the Mom and Dad talk about, "Now might be the time."

Several times I have gone to that veterinarian's place, and the news is never good. Always talk about Congenital Problems. I just want to feel the warm sunshine and run and play, and nuzzle with my family. Last night was the worst. Pain has been constant now, it hurts even to get up and get a drink. I try to get up but can only whine in pain.

I am taken in the car one last time. Everyone is so sad, and I don't know why. Have I been bad? I try to be good and loving - what have I done wrong? Oh if only this pain would be gone! If only I could soothe the tears of the little girl. I reach out my muzzle to lick her hand, but can only whine in pain. The veterinarian's table is so cold. I am so frightened. The humans all hug and love me, they cry into my soft fur. I can feel their love and sadness. I manage to lick softly their hands. Even the vet doesn't seem so scary today. He is gentle and I sense some kind of relief for my pain. The little girl holds me softly and I thank her, for giving me all her love. I feel a soft pinch in my foreleg. The pain is beginning to lift, I am beginning to feel a peace descend upon me. I can now softly lick her hand.

My vision is becoming dreamlike now, and I see my Mother and my brothers and sisters, in a far off green place. They tell me there is no pain there, only peace and happiness. I tell the family goodbye in the only way I know how - a soft wag of my tail and a nuzzle of my nose. I had hoped to spend many, many moons with them, but it was not meant to be.

"You see," said the veterinarian, "pet shop puppies do not come from ethical breeders." The pain ends now, and I know it will be many years until Isee my beloved family again.

If only things could have been different

(This story may be published or reprinted in the hopes that it will stop unethical breeders and those who breed only for money and not for the betterment of the breed. Copyright 1999 J. Ellis)


vietnamcatfish said...

May the force be with you-the synchronistic force, that is. clif's dog is named Molly. What are the odds? We bought a puppy from the pet store 20 years ago. Sam was a cocker spaniel and was cuter than cute. While me and Kitty watched our adorable little pup through the store front window, a long wad of goo suddenly came out of his nose. Around 6 inches long. Undeterred, Sam sucked it back into his nostrils with a quickness.
We had our doubts but bought him anyway. He lived about 12 years and was a faithful companion. But he was sick the first time we took him to the vet. One neat thing about Sam: he was a howler. All I had to say was "arf titty arf" and he would get a quizzical look on his face, rear back his head and howl for minutes. I swear. Don't know why the connection. Good luck with Mollie! v.c.

Deborah said...

Ooohhhh, how sad. And sweet. Our 7 year old baby, a dachschund, came from a puppy mill. We bought her the classic way, out of a store window. We adore and spoil her, but no more puppy mill babies.