STEP BY STEP – ADOPTING A RESCUED PUPPY MILL PET
There is so much compassion in this world when it comes to pets. Puppy mill busts that have been televised have shown us the cruelty these animals have faced and the squalid conditions in which they are kept. Countless volunteers from humane societies take in these pets, groom them and send them for proper veterinarian care. The pregnant animals are monitored, and the new mothers are given proper treatment. The eligible pets are put up for adoption to families who are interested in giving them a second chance. These animals have never felt human love, and are often times terrified of human contact. But what happens after these pets are adopted? How do potential adopters deal with the traumatized pets and teach them to adapt to regular home life?
FINDING A NEW FAMILY
I adopted two Yorkshire terriers from two puppy mills, one from Montreal and one from Kentucky. Little did I suspect all the challenges and accomplishments these two dogs would overcome, and ultimately how much I would learn and grow from the experience. Ribbon, 11 and Evie, 5, were two puppy mill moms who had given birth to puppies since they had hit puberty, and both of these beautiful dogs came to me with many challenges that they would overcome.
I had found both pets on petfinder.com, a site that links you with every humane society and organization across the board, showing you every pet each rescue shelter has, including their individual bio, a blurb from their foster parents, and whether or not the pet is good with children and other pets. After a month of interviews to make sure my husband and I were fit parents, the two dogs came to our home. It is an unfortunate circumstance that most puppy mill moms lose some or all of their teeth due to being constantly pregnant without any veterinarian care. When those two girls arrived with their toothless grins I knew that somehow everything was going to be alright.
Evie, the smaller of the two Yorkies, had never walked before. She, like many other pets in puppy mills, are confined to such small rabbit cages that they never see the light of day let alone go out for a stroll. I remember distinctly my friend Maggie coming over to see the dogs, and Evie was cowering in the corner, wanting so desperately to get away from us, but having no idea how to run away. Maggie picked up Evie and held her for hours, letting her know that she was safe and speaking softly to her. Ribbon on the other hand, walked into my home knowing she was safe, but it took her months to realize that the whole house was indeed her own. Oddly, Ribbon would also have horrible nightmares, screeching (not yelping) in the middle of the night as if she was being beaten. Both girls would have accidents, as they were used to going to the washroom on themselves. My friends and family would teach them how to walk. We also had to teach Ribbon and Evie that grass is not harmful, but just nature’s carpet. They feared grass because they had never seen it before.
The number one way to survive as a new caregiver to puppy mill pets is to get creative with your ideas to help them overcome their fear and adjust. My grandfather used to always say, “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Those simple words could not be more true. My husband and I immediately understood that these fearful dogs would not come out as well adjusted pets in a few days, even a few months. The challenge to help your dog adjust is a step by step process, and the key is patience. Evie had eventually learned to walk by instinct, but was terrified of the stairs. Once or twice a day, I would take fifteen minutes aside and put a little treat on the first step. It did not take tiny Evie long to love a little treats and she was so thin that any food would be a help to her tiny frame. She smelled the treat on the first step and put her front paws on them to eat it. I helped her lift her backside up so she was on the first step. I then put a treat on the third step and she put her front paws on the second to reach for the treat. I would then lift her backside to help her to the second step. This procedure continued until she was at the top of the stairs. I would give her praise, which she had quickly learned to love, and she knew she had done well. In two weeks she could go up the stairs, and in two more she learned to go down. Adopting a puppy mill pet is a perfect time to put your creativity in gear and come up with unique ideas to help your new pet overcome some challenges.
I can say with confidence that I got as many rewarding experiences as Ribbon and Evie did as they learned to adjust to a regular lifestyle. When we had our first snowfall, Ribbon and Evie had no idea what the white stuff was on the ground. Both dogs leapt through out my backyard, and Evie was snapping at snowflakes, thinking they were little white flies. Another wonderful memory is when Evie was huffing at me, and when I stood up to see what in the world she was doing, she leapt up and ran around my living room, chasing me and then encouraging me to chase her. She invented a game! Her toothless grin was priceless! Ribbon still has her maternal instinct, and when my friends little one year old started to cry, she would place her paw on his lap and place her nose on his face, which immediately made him stop. She sat with him until he got up again.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Adopting a puppy mill pet may be frightening. There will be accidents, challenges, and misunderstandings. It may not be the “norm” to adopt the dog or cat with no teeth, the kitten that is blind, or the pup with only three legs. I believe it is human nature to help those less fortunate. These pets may not fit a perfect mold, but we ourselves are not perfect. It may not be an ideal situation to have an abused pet, but they deserve a second chance, and your love, and you deserve a chance to think and act outside the box, and learn some amazing life lessons. If you have some extra time and a lot of love in your heart, I urge you to adopt a puppy mill pet. I leave you all with a quote from one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”