Friday, April 04, 2008

Sunsalve Secret Liason, part one

If you drive in downtown Chicago, the billboard near Randolph street at the expressway is impossible to miss. Placed near Harpo Studios, the sign implored Oprah to do a show on the topic of puppy mills. Today, Oprah did the show. It tore my heart out to see magnificent pets euthanized because there was not room for them. I was familiar with conditions at puppy mills, because one of my dogs came from a situation very similar. This show took me back to witnessing the conditions that Penny endured, and how I rescued her.
Most of you don't know about my journeys with my pets, or how those experiences changed me. Before I go into detail about Penny and her adoption and rehabilitation, I want to make a few statements regarding my core beliefs:
1. I believe in rescue. For every pet adopted from a shelter, two animals benefit, because room is made for another to potentially find a home.
2. I believe that older and special needs pets deserve loving homes.
3. I believe that a commitment to a pet is made for the pet's life.
4. I believe that adopting another pet honors the memory of your pets that have died before.
In November of 1995, I was mourning the loss of my first dog, Yoda, who had died that September. Her loss left a void like I had never felt. I needed a helpless, furry creature to love. I wanted a Pekingese, like my Yoda. I knew that I couldn't replace her, but there would be enough similarities that would be comforting. I sought out a local breed rescue. The contact put me in touch with a kennel that was giving up a female dog that had been kept for breeding. I assumed that a dog that important to a kennel would have received the best care. It turned out, I was clueless about how a show mill operates.
Her English and American papers had her named Sunsalve Secret Liason. A fancy name for a creature who was treated like livestock, and had the ear tattoo to prove it. Reviewing her lineage, I saw one generation of inbreeding (so that's why you're psycho! I would say to her). She had a perfect, beautiful face, and an abundant red coat. Her beauty condemned her to a life as a breeder. In a show mill, a few dogs are kept in the home for the public to see, and the rest are kept hidden, each contained in a wooden box, taken out to breed, or for two excursions to the dog runs daily. In Penny's case, her appearance was the only attribute that was passed on to however many offspring she produced. During the years she was with me, she had surgeries on one knee and one hip, and maybe one day would have required it for the knee and hip on her other side. What this means is that Penny should have lived her entire life as a pet. Her knee and hip deformities were very likely passed on to future generations. The common practice for a pet adopted through rescue, is that the animal is spayed or neutered. Penny was not when I liberated her from the kennel. All the breeder said, was not to breed Penny. She wasn't really interested in what type of life Penny would have outside the kennel. I was shocked to find the history of this kennel in a book I have about the history of the Pekingese. If this place was well regarded, clearly the practice of breeding pets was horribly corrupt. We took her home, and she made no sounds. She didn't have any kind of reaction when we spoke to her.
Holding Penny close to me, and looking in her eyes, it occurred to me that I did not see my refection in them. I could not see her eyes. What was where eyes would be looked like dried out leather. Penny was blind.
My emotions still raw from the loss of Yoda, living alone, on a limited budget, I realized that I had taken on a pet that had tremendous problems, and had needs that I was not prepared for. I had some hard decisions to make.
To be continued...................


Bonne Marie said...

YES! Pet Adoption!

I saw that Oprah show late last night and just dissolved. I've been on two puppy mill raids myself (as a photographer) and it is unreal that people can justify this in any way as a livestock/farm or *kennel* operation.

The people who do this for a living are fully aware of the cruelty they inflict on the dogs; after all they have to enter and smell the areas these dogs live in.

One place I went with the sheriff on a raid had the cages stacked 6 high in double rows in a little shed. Everything the dogs above did fell on the dogs below. The oldest dogs were on the bottom. When they opened the doors of the shed, everyone almost fainted except for the owner who rushed us and punched me full on in the face.

I hope this show helps educate people to how to get a pet in a way that will save many, many animals.

rita said...

It seems that a good many of the puppy mills in the midwest and even here in Virginia are owned by Amish or Mennonites. These people believe themselves to be so close to God yet they regard their "breeding stock" as nothing more than a cash crop. These poor pups are not animals to them.

I just can't get over that. How can such "good" people (and they are good in so many ways, but then so are OTHER people, too) treat these babies as cold hard cash instead of living, breathing, hurting animals???