To the girl who started it all, the one who fit the missing space in our family, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love you.
You are magic. Your presence has changed our family for the better since the day we saw you; first on Petfinder, with your terrified eyes and ridiculous looking picture – you still make yourself look like a fat turtle in some photos – and then, in person, at the rescue. Again you looked scared beyond belief but you rose above your fear to protect your fellow adult rescue, cutting her off to keep her from pacing too close to the wires where she would jump up and cut her feet. That’s who you are. A lover, a protector of other animals from whatever possible abuses you had experienced at the puppy mill where you had been churning babies out for years.
Even in your eyes on the car ride home, I could see the love blooming, despite your understandable myriad of fears.
I can’t fully put into words just how special you are, Callie, instead I have a photo tribute. Happy First Gotcha-Day baby girl!
Callie did amazing in her first obedience class.
And then she got to learn what a real vacation was on our Cavalier & Mother’s Day vacation at Wilburton Inn in Manchester, VT.
So much so, he taught you to play –
Dinner cake (boiled beef and pumpkin… YUM!)
Less Scary to eat on the chair
Mom made her dinner gotcha-day cake, although sitting at the table was a little scary!
I love you forever Callie Wag. I hope we will be so lucky as to be celebrating your gotcha-day next year when you turn 8.
If you want to see another small tribute to Callie, check out this post from the mini version of Callie’s Wag, a new blog on a local website called the DailyUV.
Charlotte was three months old when her mom adopted her. She had gone to the pet store for rabbit food, but,
“[There was an] adoption drive all set up and boy did they have puppies that day – tons. Most were in one big pen, jumping all over each other and yapping.
‘She was sitting by herself in her own crate. I swear she stared me down. When I walked over, she cautiously wagged her tail a little bit and sniffed my fingers. I asked if I could hold her and when I did, she put one paw on each of my shoulders and buried her head in my neck. So I got a puppy that day.”
Charlotte was from a puppy mill but was rescued when she was still a young pup. She was with a rescue called Coalition for Animal Rescue and Education (C.A.R.E.) out of Hillsboro Missouri.
She had already been bounced around between homes at only three months old. The first adopters gave Charlotte back and then she had two foster homes before her forever home came along. Her mom noted that it was a while before Charlotte realized she was going to stay.
As with many puppy mill puppies, Charlotte was often sick. Her mom said “I don’t believe she came from a very healthy mother. Most of a puppy’s immune system comes from their mother’s milk, and she didn’t have much of one at all. We went through a few upper respiratory infections when she was younger, lots of tummy troubles, and then it turned into a slew of eye infections, UTIs, and eventually diabetes when she was five.”
But even diabetes didn’t stop this pair from their exploits. Like many Cavaliers, Charlotte is her mom’s best friend. She’s 9 years old now.
“Charlotte is my nonstop adventure buddy. We have taken road trips all the way from our home in St. Louis to Galveston, TX, Key West Florida, Savannah, GA, northern WI, even NY, and everywhere in between. Most of the time, it’s just her and me on the road trips. Those are my favorite trips. Just me and my dog on an island, or a mountain, or lakeside, and in the car for hours. She loves fancy hotels and acts like a total diva when we stay in one. When we are home, we go to all the local parks, the drive-in movies or movies in the park events, food truck festivals, run in charity 5ks (her in the stroller) for local rescues, she rides on my paddle board while I paddle around local lakes, and we brunch out on dog friendly patios. Things got tricky when she was diagnosed diabetic, but learning to home test has meant that not only are her sugars very well controlled, but I have the freedom for her to live a normal dog life. I just take that meter and some snacks everywhere so that if there is ever a problem, I can detect it and treat it on the spot. 3.5 years diabetic and you would never guess it, she lives a totally normal, dog life, she just gets poked several times a day, which she doesn’t mind. She’s been the best friend I didn’t know I was missing. She is my absolute heart and soul.”
Recently, Charlotte and her mom decided that it was time to add to their rescue Cavalier family and they brought home Felicity. Felicity is a 6 yr old former puppy mill breeder who was saved from the auction block by Gateway 4 Paws, in O’Fallom IL.
Gateway for Paws attends puppy mill auctions where they sell off various breeder dogs and puppies, and they buy as many as they can to rehabilitate them and get them out of the cycle. And, as is often true for rescues, they spent four times what her adoption fee was to get Felicity out of that auction and fix her up. She got spayed, cleaned up, and had 11 painfully rotten teeth pulled.
Felicity’s new mom said, “9\16\17 is the day she was thrown up on the auction block, listed as a breeder, covered in matted fur, a mouth full of rotten teeth, and her eyes swollen shut from infection. She was only with them for a week. I adopted her on 9\24. She was still recovering from surgery at the time and required meds, and we are still treating the eyes (I’m betting that will be lifelong), but the foster knew what I go through every day with Charlotte’s diabetes, so she knew I was responsible enough to handle it. Special needs pups are right up my alley.
‘When I applied to Gateway 4 Paws, it was actually because they had posted some cavalier puppies for adoption. When the foster called, she told me about Felicity. I knew that this mill mama needed me and deserved to have a happy, spoiled life. I also knew the puppies would have no trouble finding homes, while not too many people want older rescue dogs, especially when she wasn’t exactly a beautiful cavalier in her current state, but I saw it and knew she was gorgeous under years of neglect.”
And she’s right. It can be hard to see the love and beauty under the horrible condition the mills have left the mamas in. But, if you look closely, there is a glimmer in these mamas, a force of light, because they have already spent so much of their lives fighting to live, they are going to fight to love.
I asked Felicity and Charlotte’s mom how much Felicity has changed already, and her emotional response belies the feelings that most of us have, especially when rescuing puppy mill dogs.
“I have never cried so much in my entire life! Every time she learns something new, that it seems all dogs should know all along, like what a treat is, or a warm bed, you can see the utter joy in her eyes. The fact that she is so willing to trust me and wants to make me happy (that cavalier need to please), even after all the crap she has been through just amazes and inspires me. It was slow going at first. She was just terrified and confused. I patiently taught her all I could. I made a point to hold her and cuddle her, even though it made her uncomfortable at first, so she could see that I wasn’t anything to be afraid of. I had to hand feed her the first night, but now she eats like a champ.
‘My friend who has two mill rescues told me to take her everywhere, make people pet her and hold her, so that’s what I’ve done. She’s been to the pet store a couple times, my parents came over, I introduced her to the neighbors (who work in rescue and have three rescue beagles), and then I mustered the courage to take her to the Canine Carnival this weekend, which I was afraid would scare her, but instead she was so happy. She was totally loving it, letting strangers pet her without flinching, sniffing other dogs, she was all about it!
‘She still panics and runs from me sometimes, hasn’t slept through the night a few times, and gets a little freaked out in the back yard if the air conditioner kicks on or a noisy car goes by. She’ll learn. I don’t believe she sees well, which probably contributes to her anxiety. My vet said there is significant damage to her eyes from years of neglect, which may or may not reverse. She greets me at the door now when I get home from work, Cavalier tail wag in full effect, so we’re getting there.”
It sounds like it! And what amazing rescue stories 😍
Today is the day dedicated to educating the public about the horrific conditions in which many dogs are being bred.
Today is a day devoted to dogs like Callie and Charlie. Callie who spent six years in a mill, being bred over and over and over again. Charlie, who was lucky to escape the cycle at 3 months and end up with people who understand and are willing to deal with his luxating patellas.
To dogs like Dewey, who was rescued by Cavalier Rescue of Alabama at a mill dog auction and is learning love with his foster mom, waiting for his forever home.
I had the chance to interview Brittney Wilk, Co-Founder & Rescue Coordinator at Cavalier Rescue of Alabama and foster mom of Dewey, among several other dogs at the house.
Me: How long have you been rescuing?
B: I have been rescuing for about nine years. I started doing it privately and then found Cavalier Rescue USA. There I was the coordinator for Alabama and Georgia for several years before my rescue partner, and I co-founded Cavalier Rescue of Alabama together in January 2015.
Me: What got you into it?
B: I got into Cavalier rescue after I purchased my first two Cavaliers – Like so many people, I felt I had done my research but at that point didn’t have a trained ‘eye’ to pick up on ‘red flags’ and ending up discovering that I had purchased from a substandard breeder.
My two puppies were very, very ill with pneumonia for months. Throughout their journey of getting them well and afterward, I heard of so many people with similar stories as mine and felt it was so important to help educate and advocate for the breed. Learning more and more about substandard breeding and Cavaliers being so prolific in that industry, I found rescue and felt that is where I could make a difference.
At that time I got involved in Cavalier Rescue USA, there was not an in-state coordinator there, and the role sort of fell into my lap. I had no idea what I was necessarily getting in for and certainly had no idea that it would be so life changing and lead me to where I am today.
Me: Do you work outside of rescue or has it become your full-time job?
B: We are an all-volunteer organization, so none of us collect any salaries or stipends for the rescue work we do. Therefore we do have to manage full-time jobs in addition to our rescue work which at times can be challenging and overwhelming as our rescue work is definitely a full-time job.
Me: How many hours a week do you think you put into rescue?
B: I have never kept track of my rescue work hours, but it is certainly around the clock from the moment I open my eyes until I fall asleep. If I had to make a best guess, I would say on average about 60 hours a week with there being times of heavy intake when we put forth much more than that.
Me: How many rescues do you personally have?
B: I have four rescues, and am currently fostering two. I have two rescue alums from Cavalier Rescue USA and two rescue alums from Cavalier Rescue of Alabama, and then two current Cavalier Rescue of Alabama fosters.
They are all puppy mill survivors as my expertise is in rehabbing abused, neglected, emotionally damaged and under-socialized dogs.
Me: Why did you rescue?
B: I rescue because I know I can provide a home, family, endless love, and wonderful care to Cavaliers in need. My favorite thing is seeing [my rescue dogs] relaxed and peaceful after enduring such suffering and stress.
Here’s the most important thing though – today may be Puppy Mill Awareness Day – but every day these dogs are stuck in mills, every day these dogs need you to fight to end puppy mills, to stop the breeders that are cruel, that breed without care, that shove their dogs into tiny cages. FIGHT BACK FOR THE DOGS.
Fight for the love that these dogs still have, somehow, inside them.
Although this research is about UK breeders, the same problem exists in the US. Between poor breeding practices by “good” breeders and puppy mills, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are going to be, if they aren’t already, a dying breed.
Losing our Cavaliers would be devastating, but it would also be stupid when there are ways to mitigate the potential health issues. This research makes me so sad.
Crufts, the dog world’s annual extravaganza, took place in March. On the Friday of the show health campaigners Margaret Carter and Charlotte Mackaness, along with television vet and author Emma Milne, presented the comments from the then 30,000 signature-strong Cavalier health petition to the Kennel Club asking for compulsory testing for Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia (SM). The KC repeated its refusal to make testing mandatory.
The Cavaliers Are Special team handing the petition to the KC’s Bill Lambert at Crufts
Under the bright lights a few hours later the Cavalier best of breed was crowned. For the dog’s owners it was a time of great celebration. For health campaigners, it was a sober reminder of just how badly enforcement of breeding guidelines and is needed.
The winning dog turned 2.5 years old just before Crufts. To help reduce the incidence and age of onset of heart disease, cardiologists…
I wish I had saved a copy of her Petfinder photo. Her eyes were bugging out of her head (not that Cavaliers’ are known for having buggy eyes or anything), but you could see the whites the whole way around. She looked terrified.
She still gets that look sometimes; I call it her “WOAH eyes,” when something is overwhelming or momentarily frightening her.
The amazing thing about Callie is that while she seems scared, most of the time she is just hesitant until she has taken in the new situation. After that, she’s pretty mellow about whatever is new. I can usually tell when she’s scared and remove her from those settings.
Oh my, the cats, though.
When poor, un-cat tested Callie came home to find three cats who, while mostly having pleasant experiences with dogs in recent months, were oh so not amused. All three took turns puffing up sideways and hissing at her. It turns out, our cats are bigger than Callie, at least height wise. Scared the, shall we say, poop right out of her.
For days she tried to sniff them only when they weren’t paying attention, and all three realized she was scared of them. While the female cat couldn’t give a damn, the two males decided to mess with her. Our biggest scaredy-cat and the largest cat would come by when I was petting her and drape his tail back and forth across her face.
And the fact that I brought her to bed during my nap time was the biggest offense of all. There was a fair amount of staring from the cats before they slowly decided to take over the bed again, much to Callie’s anguish.
I’m rather certain it was 90% WOAH eyes and 10% calm eyes that first week, the gentle eyes came when my daughter arrived and Callie cuddled with her. Aren’t you supposed to be MY therapy dog?
Ok, several weeks into having Callie, is it acceptable for me to admit that neither of us can keep from laughing when she has a spectacular reaction to something tiny brushing her backside? As in breakfast this morning. Oh, Callie. Jess brought her bowl of food into the living room. Callie prefers her breakfast together while we drink our coffee. I entered the room and went to get something from behind her; my pant leg must have touched her slightly. Suddenly, all four legs went in different directions, and half her breakfast spilled. I was given a very insulted look until Jess and I, on hands and knees, picked up the spilled kibble and put it back in her bowl while she continued to eat.
Wait, did I just say we paused drinking morning coffee to pick up spilled kibble for our dog? Not enough coffee in us to make smart decisions that early. That and Callie still fails to understand the concept of finding food on the floor. What dog forgets to check the floor after the first time they discover it?
Stories from the life of a rescued puppy mill mama and the second rescue, a puppy Charlie, who arrived seven months later. Dedicated to other stories about rescues as well, particularly those from puppy mills.