Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To The Rescue

Being in the puppy mill state of mind, having just taken in the 10 sweet but very frightened Chinese Cresteds from a mill in Texas........I received an email from Terrie Varnado (the person who alerted us to the situation and brought them to us) that was poignantly enlightening regarding the subject.  I've heard stories of puppy mills, but have only been to one in my imagination.
This report by Toni Webb, Cavalier King Charles rescuer, who went undercover to a puppy mill auction opened my eyes in a way I'd rather not have them opened (if you know what I mean). A perfect example of 'ignorance is bliss.'  But alas, self imposed ignorance is for cowards, and so I implore you to read the following with an open heart and mind, and if you are as moved as I am.....a vow to take action (no matter how small) to make a difference in this abhorrent business that persists among us.

The Greatpets.com Newsletter
By and For Rescue/Shelter Workers
Volume I, Issue XL

"I do not believe I will ever look at the world in the same way
again. This weekend was worse than I had imagined, worse than I
had even been told to expect. I attended my first puppy mill
auction in Missouri Sunday, determined to bring home every last
Cavalier on the auction block. Lucky Star was successful. We
got all six Cavaliers being sold. Hoorah!

But that was only 6 dogs out of 200+. I wanted them all. I
wanted to run, ranting like a mad woman through the dirt isles
of stacked cages, a screaming pied piper, opening and releasing
every last one of those imprisoned souls. What I saw behind
those latched doors broke my heart, and made it almost
impossible to maintain my equilibrium or my sanity, much less
the undercover role I was expected to play. Every 15-20
minutes my husband was at my side, asking if I was okay,
telling me I could do this, HAD to do this, for the dogs. For
the dogs....

Periodically, I had to escape the nasty atmosphere of the barn
for a gulp of the cold Missouri air, hoping the frigid gusts
would calm and fortify me.

Some cages held one-eyed dogs, others held dogs with recent
cuts, and old, ugly scars, dogs with toenails an inch long,
dogs whose hair was one large mat, pregnant bitches close to
delivery, dogs missing ears, legs, teeth.

There were no wagging tails, no yelps of delight; no bright,
trusting eyes or barks of playful banter. Most cowered in the
farthest corners of their cages, two or more huddled close
together, as if their closeness would bring them some measure
of comfort in dealing with their shared misery.

Dog after dog was auctioned to the highest bidder, often with
such sales pitches as: "Missing an eye, but sees well enough to
hit his mark": "This girl is only a year old, but she has
earned her keep by already producing one litter - now she's got
another on the way - a bonus for you"; "This bitch has had 19
pups in a year and a half - just the kind you want"; "If you
just sell one of this pregnant bitch's puppies, you will make
more than you've paid for her"; "Bitch only has three legs -
big deal, she won't be passing that on." And on one male dog,
who refused to stand on the table because of an injured foot,
the auctioneer remarked, "Don't let that bother you, he can
still get it on."

Dogs were often held high in the air for all to see, tails
lifted to gauge whether they were in heat, mouths probed
roughly to check their bites, and abdomens poked and prodded to
check for pregnancy because "this one's been running with Jax -
could give you a surprise."

The Cavaliers were one of the last breed on the block. My
heart stopped, and my eyes welled when I saw the first, and
only two females brought to the table. Their eyes remained
downcast, their tails tucked, their bodies postured with fear.
"Look at the coats on these beauties," the creepy auctioneer
said. "These ladies have produced some gorgeous pups." That
sealed it -- I wasn't leaving that place until I had every
single cavalier in my possession.

Our babies brought the highest and liveliest bidding, with
bidding often reaching feverish levels, the bids coming so fast
and furious, I was afraid I could not keep up. I hated
bidding; I hated NOT bidding.

When I got the highest bid, the auctioneer said, "Which one do
you want?" "I want them both," I replied. "Great," he said,
"You're saving me time, little lady." When we got the final bid
on the puppies, the last to be auctioned, I breathed a sigh of
relief, and said a quiet thank-you to the man upstairs.

While waiting in line to get the dogs, one man approached us,
and asked how many of "those Charlies" we had. I said I only
had three. "Well," was his response, "you are certainly in
business now." Yes, I told him, you better believe it.

Rescuing just a few is worth the effort, worth the heartache,
and worth the dirt, stench and barren, desolate miles my
husband and I endured. Six are safe, but so many more are not.
Rescuing from these sleazy breeders is a necessary evil. It
is only a drop in the bucket, I know, but it is SOMETHING. It
certainly is not enough, and we must work diligently to try and
save them all.

A number of people I talked to before leaving on this trip knew
nothing about puppy mills. They know about them NOW. Educate.
Please educate. Tell everyone you know, and people you don't
know, what puppy mills are all about. Relate my horror story,
and the stories of other rescuers. We CANNOT shut down the
puppy millers without the education of the public.

Before I sign off, let me tell you about MY bonus. I came home
with seven puppy mill dogs, my seventh being a male, 2 year old
Lhasa Apso. He was placed on the table and the auctioneer
opened the bids at $150. No bids came. Down to $50, still no
bids. At $25, the auctioneer said, "Come on, folks, he's
worked his tail off in his short life - been one busy little
guy. Worth a heck of a lot more than $25. If you don't want
him, I'll put him back to work for me." At $15, my husband saw
the sadness in my eyes. "Toni," he said...too late.

The auctioneer said, "Well, do I hear $10?" My hand shot up
before I could stop it. "Sold, to the little lady for $10."
"Got yourself quite a bargain," was the auctioneer's parting

The Cavs hadn't even come up yet, and I knew we had a long way
to go. "Sorry," I told Chris. "I couldn't help it." "It's
okay," he said. "By my calculations, using the luggage rack on
top, we could probably haul back another 20 or so." He was
joking, of course, he simply understood that this business was
deplorable, and resigning these dogs to a pitiful existence was
heart wrenching.

Find it in your heart to get involved with rescue, in whatever
way you can. Attend an auction, donate your money, foster a
rescue, or just encourage and advise those of us who are just
getting our feet wet. You won't be sorry. Your heart may
break, your eyes may be red-rimmed for days, but I promise you,
you will be forever changed."