Tag Archives: puppy mill awareness day

Rescuing Puppy Mill Girls – Charlotte and Felicity

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's first day
Charlotte, the day she was adopted

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.

Charlotte and mom on bench
Charlotte and her mom

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.”

Charlotte on the beach
Charlotte the Beach Dog

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.

Felicity on the couch
Felicity arrives home and discovers the couch!

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!

Stroller dogs in pumpkin patch
Charlotte and Felicity in the Pumpkin Patch

‘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 😍

Gotcha day and welcome home
Gotcha Day and Welcome Home all in one!
Snuggling with mom
Charlotte taught Felicity all about snuggling with mom on the couch.

The Sting of Judgement

Over the past few days, I have been highlighting several different rescue dogs and rescuers who work to save Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in particular. I do want to say that my specificity is not to negate any of the impressive, overwhelmingly hard work those who rescue other breeds or any dog at all, but merely because my blog focuses on Cavaliers.

I started doing writing these highlights this week in honor of the UK’s Puppy Awareness Week and yesterday’s Puppy Mill Awareness Day, but I am going to continue because, over time, I have felt the sting of judgment. Judgement about rescue dogs, rehabbing puppy mill dogs, and against particular dogs that have been highlighted.

The comments have ranged from “not a normal Cavalier,” to “messed up rescues give all Cavs a bad name.” to (paraphrasing for grammar) ‘Dogs are supposed to get along with most all other dogs. I guess some are still not so affected by their bad situations they are still little loves. My experience has been different. That’s all. My neighbor’s rescues are all shitty snarling dogs. I recognize [rescue dogs] from a block away. Because they are barking banshees. What happened to mans best friend?’

Apparently, they aren’t “normal” Cavaliers if they aren’t big cuddlers. Or if they continue to have fears about certain body parts being touched first. Hey, I don’t know many dogs that like people to reach their hand over the top of the dogs head to pet it. Just because Callie wants you to put your hand to her side doesn’t make her “not normal.” Just because a Cavalier doesn’t love other dogs doesn’t make it “not normal.” Oh wait, do people love everyone else?

What about Charlie? No matter how much I socialize him, both with and without Callie, his instincts are always going to be a little fearful, and he is always going to look to me, his other mom, or Callie for assurance. Some of that is because he is a puppy mill dog and we don’t know his genetic background, some is because he spent ages 7 – 11 weeks on trucks, back and forth with brokers, and finally to the rescue. And some of that is because when we got him at 3 months he was riddled with parasites and then broke his rib and we couldn’t bring him out and about in that 3-4 month period like we wanted to. Is he “not normal”? Or is he a kind of normal and also a product of his circumstances?

STOP. Just STOP calling rescue dogs of any kind “not normal,” “messed up,” or somehow otherwise wrong in some way. As though the dog had any choice in the matter. 

A response from Judith, the owner of Nellie who we met earlier in the week, was perfect, “One thing I learned, while re-socializing Nellie, is that a dog’s social “wiring” is learned between the ages of 8 – 12 weeks. So for a dog rescued out of a scary or intimidating situation, it can take a long time to overcome that early conditioning. I’ve tried to de-sensitize Nellie to other dogs and let her learn that she can still be safe, but I recognize that she will never be comfortable interacting with them.I try to alert other humans that I have a very dog-reactive dog. This may be why people are telling you, “my dog is a rescue” — it’s to let you know why the behavior is happening.”

I try to alert other humans that I have a very dog-reactive dog. This may be why people are telling you, “my dog is a rescue” — it’s to let you know why the behavior is happening.”

And another, as Brittney Wilk said, “What happened to man’s best friend? I’ll tell you what happened to man’s best friend. The greedy man who only cares about money in his pocket has neglected and abused and broke dogs- he fights them, he reproductively abuses them, he tests chemicals on them, he breeds them for murder, for slaughter, for sick entertainment…. he breaks them. And there are a few lucky ones who somehow stay strong enough and have an angel on the other side to help them… they are broken, they are damaged, they need help but not ONE BIT of it is their fault. So don’t even go there about ‘messed up rescues.’ They are not messed up, but they are damaged at the hands of HUMANS.”

Not normal… The ones who aren’t normal are the people who can’t even take the time to understand that not all dogs are going to be their image of a perfect dog. These are the people that allow bad breeding to continue, that allow puppy mills to continue.

The more judgment I hear, the more I will write. Those of us who know these dogs know how badly they need all of us to fight for them.

Sting