Reba was rescued from a puppy mill in 2012. The laws changed in Ohio and the mill needed to dump 120 dogs (many of them older female dogs used exclusively for breeding). Some were euthanized and others, like Reba, were admitted to shelters. Prior to her rescue, Reba lived in a filthy, cramped cage, producing hundreds of puppies that were sold on the internet and to pet stores around the midwest. She received little human contact or socialization, no veterinary care, and had lived her entire her life in a cage with wire flooring of which her feet and toes still bare scars.
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Rescuing and Adopting A Puppy Mill Dog
Reba was rescued by P.A.W.S of Tinley Park along with 20 other dogs from the same puppy mill. Shelter staff report that she spent months walking anxiously in tiny circles. Because she had never experienced human touch, she cowered when anyone approached her. They assumed Reba would be a lifer.
When my friend Dianne saw Reba online, she was reminded instantly of her dog Becky who had passed away the month before. Although the shelter staff explained Reba’s special needs, Dianne admits that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she adopted Reba. She assumed that love would conquer all and do so, quickly.
Reba spent the next year and a half living in Dianne’s closet. Progress was slow: there were tiny steps forward followed by giant steps backwards. Reba was afraid of everything, especially open spaces and human touch. She had no idea how to play or walk or even really be a dog.
After about 18 months, Dianne called the shelter and asked about adopting a second dog as a friend for Reba. The staff thought another dog might help and so Dianne packed up Reba and headed back to the shelter. When they arrived, Reba was placed in a small room with Lizzie, a lively two year old, Chihuahua-Spaniel mix and that’s when everything changed.
Rehabilitating A Rescued Puppy Mill Dog
Reba and Lizzie formed an instant bond. Reba followed Lizzie around the room, her tail wagging for the first time possibly ever. Five months later, Lizzie has taught Reba how to play, go for walks, and even enjoy the some light petting. They now explore the neighborhood and even chase each other a bit around the apartment. Sometimes Reba’s inner demons return and she retreats to her closet, but she also greets Dianne in the morning and is starting to be more comfortable giving and receiving affection.
“Sometimes I see in her eyes that she really wants to trust me,” Dianne says, “but then the fear returns and she runs away. I probably don’t want to know much about her life in the mill. It must have been horrific and it haunts her to this day.”
Progress doesn’t always happen in a straight line. There are detours: life is messy and unpredictable and sometimes the detours become the new path. Wishing Reba, Lizzie and Dianne much peace and joy as they continue to heal and make their way through this complicated yet beautiful maze of life together.
8 Ways To Help Stop Puppy Mills
- Adopt your next pet.
- Don’t buy a puppy online or from a pet shop.
- Know the laws in your state and support legislation that regulates dog breeding.
- Write letters, make phones, and send emails asking government officials to pass stricter laws for pet stores as well as dog breeders.
- Elect animal friendly candidates.
- Report neglectful puppy stores and backyard breeders.
- Donate to organizations like Best Friends and National Mill Dog Rescue who are working to end the cruelty of puppy mills.
- Become an advocate and educate your friends, family, neighbors, and community about the cruelty of puppy mills and the importance of pet adoption.
You can find information and resources on rescuing and rehabilitating puppy mill dogs here.
Reba is part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here.