It’s National Puppy Mill Awareness Day and to me this is a very bittersweet day. While we should celebrate all the survivors of puppy mills and advocates to end puppy mills on this day, it’s also so important to make others aware of the devastating and horrible existence of puppy mills as a whole.
I first learned about puppy mills in college when I began to volunteer at shelters. I went to college in Iowa that has a notorious reputation for puppy mills. I met some of my first puppy mill rescues then. When I moved back to Chicago after college, I got involved with the Puppy Mill Project, and would even bring Izzy out to protests with me.
Then I met Hudson.
We met while working at the animal shelter I ran (where I was working when I rescued Mylah, too). One of the vets who shared a building with us asked me to come to her office because some of her family members wanted to give him up or euthanize their newly purchased puppy who was being “aggressive.”
I walked over to the vet thinking there is no way I am taking an aggressive dog right now into our shelter program. Right when I walked into the lobby I was greeted by the vet, a crying couple and their black lab mix who wasn’t over 5 months old. The dog walked over to me with a full wagging tail and wiggly butt. I asked him to sit and he did. He looked right up at me with these gorgeous brown eyes, looking for direction.
The couple was crying saying they were at a loss. This dog they purchased from a pet store, and named Hudson, was being aggressive and unpredictable with their kids. He would take a toy, go under the table and if the kids wanted it, he would growl and snap. They wanted to either give him up or were going to euthanize him.
I tried really hard not to roll my eyes at the entire situation. This dog was not aggressive, he was anxious, lacked direction and was resource guarding. I had the owners sign the relinquishment papers, give me his vet records, purchase papers and belongings. The last thing they did was hand me over the leash to Hudson. I will never forget when they handed over his leash: he got up from his seat (literally 2 feet from me) and wiggled and inched his way right next to me, looked in my eyes and sat back down.
I set him up in one of the kennels and the staff started to get to know him and understand his behavior. I went back with Jeff and his parents the next day to show them the facility because they had never been there and I brought Hudson out. When I brought Hudson out to meet them, he couldn’t have been more of a love bug and I sat on the ground and he immediately gave me a big bear hug. I looked at Jeff and said, “I think this guy is something special. He might be our next foster.”
Monday came around and Hudson came home with us as our next foster. He never left.
While I was processing Hudson’s paperwork when he first came to the shelter, I looked over everything the pet store gave me and I recognized the name of the “kennel” he came from. Kruse, Stonehenge Kennels in Iowa. I knew that name and I knew what that was. It was one of the most notorious puppy millers, Steve Kruse’s puppy mill in Iowa. An undercover investigator friend of mine had been there, done an investigation and what he found was horrendous. The saga continues with Kruse and somehow he is still able to provide puppies to pet stores, like Happiness is Pets, where Hudson was purchased from.
Hudson was a mess when he first came home with us. Not because he was aggressive like his previous owners claimed, but because he was anxious and his world had been completely been flipped upside down. This dog was born into one of the most awful puppy mills in Iowa, ripped from his mom and family, put on a truck to Illinois, put on display at a loud, crowded pet store with countless people taking him out to “play”, purchased from the pet store, brought to a home, given up months later, stayed in a kennel for a few nights and was now brought to a high rise apartment in the city of Chicago. Oh, I should also mention he was sold at the pet store as a ‘Bullador’, a new, ‘hip’ dog breed, a bulldog and lab, aka a mutt. My eyes can’t roll enough when I say that.
Hudson was stumbling and falling off furniture, vomiting nervously and was out of sorts. He needed a routine, he needed direction and he needed to know we would never give up on him again. And we never have.
Hudson suffers from anxiety that can range from manageable to debilitating. The thing about Hudson is that he is very predictable, which is why his owners saying he was unpredictable makes me laugh out loud. Hudson is routine-based and predictable based on what his surroundings are.
Hudson’s story of how we manage his anxiety and his amazing life with us is for another time. This post is about how on National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, we need to give these survivors a lot of credit for trusting us like they do. If I were Hudson, I would not trust a soul. But he does and he is resilient because of that. Now as he nears 7 years old, he is more sure of himself than he was for the first four years of his life. We are very proud of how far he has come. We are also sickened to know that all kinds of dogs are still being produced by puppy mills all over and have to endure the life Hudson did at such a young age.
This is why it is BEYOND important for us all to adopt and not shop. It is also so important that we spread stories like Hudson’s for others to know that these dogs are not broken; they are survivors and they just need some extra love, patience and kindness.
A note to Hudson:
To my Hudson, on Puppy Mill Awareness Day: I love you beyond words. You are my big old bear and I am so glad we get your big bear hugs for the rest of your life. I hate the way you were brought into this world and the kinds of people who gave you the anxiety you have. I couldn’t be prouder to be your mom. I am so glad I get to love you every day and get to show you what the good life is. I love you, my tootie bear.
If you have a puppy mill survivor, I want to hear you and your dogs story! Comment below.
Have you met all my kids yet? Check them out here!