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.
Dear readers and friends – I am sorry for the long silence, my fibromyalgia got to me, then germs did, and I failed to write.
Thus far I have stuck to blogging about Callie and Charlie, but I would like to be talking more about the Cavalier rescue community in general. Such as the rescuers who go in and save the dogs, the owners who work so hard with their rescues, the health of our Cavalier’s, and, of course, the continued adventures of C & C.
Puppy Awareness Week in the UK just ended Saturday. Puppy Awareness Week, or PAW, is a campaign by the UK Kennel Club to ensure that puppies have long, healthy, happy lives with their owners. It is intended to raise awareness of puppy farms/mills and educate prospective owners as to how they might find a reputable breeder.
This coming Saturday, Sept. 16th, is Puppy Mill Awareness Day – #PuppyMillAwarenessDay. This is an initiative started by the National Mill Puppy Project to vigorously promote awareness of puppy mills and encourage the public to rescue rather than buy, or ensure they are buying from a reputable breeder.
I always emphasize rescuing because, well, until there aren’t any Cavaliers left to rescue I would rather spend the money a puppy costs on giving one a chance at a new healthy, happy life. And, although I hope it doesn’t, if that statement comes out judgmental, it isn’t meant to be. I have lots of friends with breeder-purchased puppies, and I would adore their dogs regardless.
In honor of all the puppy awareness and rescue awareness going on right now, this week I’m going to be highlighting a few dogs (erm, I mean people) who have rescued and, whether or not they intended to in the first place, wouldn’t change the experience for the world!
So today I want to highlight one impressive Cavalier rescue, Lucia and her mom Paula Stacey. In two years Lucia has gone from a puppy locked in a closet to a fully certified therapy dog.
Lucia, or Lucy for short, was almost six months old before she found her forever home. Before that, she lived somewhere locked in a closet because she was “too much trouble.”
In August of 2015, Paula Stacey found out about Lucia and went to meet her. It was fate, as both fell in love with each other instantly.
Here’s what Paula Stacey had to say about the decision to train and the process of training Lucy to be a therapy dog.
“I had Lucy for about one month before I started training her. I originally started training her because I never had such a young puppy before and I wanted to be sure that I was raising her properly.
My previous dog Molly was over three years old when I got her, and she had a lot of issues such as freaking out when she had to be put in a Kennel at the vet or Groomers. She would actually make her paws bleed.
When I got Lucy, she still hadn’t been potty trained or didn’t know any commands. Most likely because she was barred up in a room all the time with nothing. That room was where she ate, drank & relieved herself.
So I signed Lucy up for beginners classes than we went on to intermediate classes than advanced. Lucy did so well, and I enjoyed taking classes with her. Many people had said she would be a good Therapy dog because she loved attention & people. So I thought to myself why not, let’s see what we need to do to become a Therapy dog.
We had to do more courses & pass the CGN Canadian Good Neighbour test before we could move on to more training. Lucy passed her CGN test & I was in tears when she did.
It took about 18 months of training before Lucia finally received her Therapy dog certificate.”
After many months of study, training and hard work they successfully achieved a Therapy Dog Certification, the certification for which requires: 1. CKC Canine Good Neighbour test 2. Full Medical Exam (complete health check, vaccinations, fecal test, parasite control) 3. Municipal Licensing 4. Handler Course (safety procedures, infection control, ethics, rules and regulations) 5. Dog Training Program (4-6 months) 6. Therapy Dog Testing 7. Exam Therapy Dog Manual – Vancouver ecoVillage Therapy Dog Certification.
“Lucia turned two years old March 6/17, so I think we have accomplished quite a bit in the two years.
She is so good with other people & does so well with children with autism and special needs. Lucy has been to 6 schools so far, to help relieve stress for students before exams. We also visit senior citizens who totally adore Lucy.
It makes me feel good to be able to bring comfort and joy to the people who need it… Training Lucy to be a therapy dog helps me to get out and volunteer.”
I can’t remember if I have said anything about it on here but, I have fibromyalgia (along with chronic pain and chronic fatigue – aren’t those part of fibro?) I was diagnosed when I was 29, 3 years ago, but I likely had it for a couple of years before.
What does this have to do with Callie or Charlie, you might be asking yourself. Nothing and everything.
Fibromyalgia is not really understood yet by doctors or the public, heck, it’s not really understood by the patient who is experiencing it; it’s what’s often called an “invisible illness.” See the great spoon (energy) theory. Technically that was developed by a woman with Lupus, but she has spread it intending to be for all invisible illnesses.
Fibro affects those who suffer from it differently. It’s a nerve disorder of sorts. Some people get numb or tingling or sharp sensations in their faces, some get brutal muscle pain that spreads to their joints. I often suffer from “fibro fog” in which I struggle to think super clearly or say what I am thinking. The words are there, the images are there, but I can’t say them.
And then there is the worst, the flares. Sometimes when it flares up it’s just a bad neck/back/arms for me, but between the moving and all the activity this past month, my body shut down. I have spent the last three days in bed, getting up for food or to let the dogs out to go to the bathroom. I’m recovering, but that’s one of the things fibro does, it will slam you to the ground like a big wave if you don’t plan for rest times.
The dogs have been great, mostly happy to lie in the bedroom with me, especially now that they like to wrestle, but Charlie, as a 5-month-old puppy will do, is starting to go a little crazy. Yesterday, he purposefully antagonized our next door neighbor’s grumpy little Chihuahua TWICE, just so he could outrun her and fly back (I don’t even know how he got away from me the second time.) Thank goodness she’s a friend of ours!
I rescued this breed purposefully, not only out of my love for Cavaliers but because they can also either go or be mellow. I also knew that taking Charlie on meant a few years of craziness before the easy, mellow part – although he’s surprisingly good about that!
I feel like a failure when I hit this cycle again where my flares are so bad they prevent me from doing stuff with my dogs.
Charlie needs a regular training schedule. I can’t promise that. Callie needs to go on daily walks to stay a healthy weight and Charlie too, for weight as he grows, for exercise, and for energy. I can’t promise that either. I was able to when we got them, I was so good with Callie all winter and with Charlie this spring and early summer. And now… guilt
But then, right before we had to move, so many other things suddenly happened – mostly good, but energy-sucking none the less, and I’m back on the old carousel ride.
Fibro, how I hate you.
And how grateful I am to have such a wonderful family who loves and supports me, and my fabulous dogs who may get cheated out of some things but are certainly spoiled in other respects! I just hope it’s good enough.
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.