Animals and Me: It was never a choice

Written by Becky Monroe

Life is always coming up with unexpected ways that require us to reflect on our surroundings. Recently, some personal things happened within my family that were upsetting and I found myself hugging my rescued Frenchie, Agatha.

Her squishy little rolls are so calming to gently squeeze and her soft coat is so soothing to pet. She laid there looking at me with those bulldog eyes and for a moment I could feel this sense of unconditional love staring back at me.

Animals have been my thing since I can remember. Lost ones, stray ones, hurt ones, they all seemed to fill a void I could never quite put my finger on. They gave me purpose and as I got older they became the essence of my passion for animal welfare.

Today, though, it was just my dog healing my wound.

People often criticize animal advocates for choosing animals over people. I am not here to argue that, though I can’t help but reiterate Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Which to me means, if you are treating animals right, you are treating people right, too.

I don’t think it is a choice one or the other. I just think that for many people like me, who find solace and love in relationships with animals, it is a matter of never being let down by animals and also finding purpose in our own pain to ease the pain and suffering for them.

Of course not all animal advocates have childhoods to heal or painful experiences they bury in rescued animals, but I think there is something about advocating for animals and physically transforming their lives that transforms our own. 

How many times have we heard “man’s best friend?” Or, have heard how humans experience hundreds of relationships in a day, but a dog only has you. Or, the simple moment you return home from a ten minute errand and your dog comes running at you, tail wagging as if you were gone forever and he missed you more than life itself? 

There is just something about loving an animal and feeling the way it loves you back that is unlike any other relationship .

Animals rarely let us down. Sure they have accidents. They might eat the sofa or our favorite shoes, but they don’t hurt us in the way people do.

They get bored somedays and once in a while they just need to really go to the bathroom, but they don’t intentionally choose to make us mad.

We become their world. In the best situations that means comfy beds, yummy food, fun walks, and a safe, loving home. That is what people like me hope for all domestic animals.

And, when that isn’t the case and instead they have suffered in the hands of humans, people, like me are the first to scoop them up and hold them close and do everything we can to erase the past and give them a new future.

I have done that more times than I can count – though I can practically recall each animal, each story and each transformation.

No, not all animal rescuers have shattered pasts or broken hearts, but perhaps those who do find peace in helping animals as a way of giving something that they never had: unconditional love. They know all too well what it feels like to live without it and so they pursue the most neglected, unwanted animal in hopes of making them whole and healing their own hearts along the way.

Animals never judge. They don’t discriminate. They are just as content living on the street as they are living in a mansion – as long as they have their human and are loved.

Since I can recall, I have always looked at animals as if they had souls. I mean long before I even understood that premise. I believed my whole life that animals felt the same things I did. When I was 12 years old, I wrote a letter to the editor of a science magazine that they published asking the question, “If rabbits are so much like humans that we use them to test makeup on, doesn’t that mean they would feel pain, too?”

Advocating for species who cannot be their own voice seems to me the essence of advocacy altogether.

In the opening of my book, I describe this moment, “I am like two or three years old and my mom bought a donkey piñata for my birthday party. It is my turn as the birthday girl to go first and whack the donkey. I start crying hysterically because I don’t want to hurt the donkey.”

The picture in my photo album of that birthday is of me all blotchy faced from crying.

I would argue I never chose animals. I feel like I was born this way with this love and compassion for animals and ultimately, as I got older I realized that having them in my life was essential to my well-being and maybe that was THE plan all along.

When I think about my 50 years on this planet and the ups and downs I have faced, I do believe it was my entourage of animals who helped me get through the tough times. Whether it was my first dog, Spunky or my guinea pigs, Muffet, Muffin and Skunkers; my gerbils, Raggedy Ann and Andy; my ducks, Donald and Daisy; my first dog, Kailey when I got married or the dog who changed everything, Thorp – animals have been the presence in my life that made the difference. I think between the lessons they taught me and their love they made me a stronger person and a better human.

Not only were they there to snuggle or confide in, but later in life they literally led me down the path to make a life out of doing what I love.

I guess the thing about choosing animals or being chosen by them is that it is not a choice. I can’t think of a single animal advocate who would ever say, “I chose to rescue animals.” All of us have these stories about loving stuffed animals more than dolls, or saving stuffed animals at garage sales or playing school using stuffed animals, the list goes on and on.

I don’t think many of us a remember a specific day or moment where we chose animals.

There is just something inherent in our nature and in our hearts. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story, I would love to publish in on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.** 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

Sign up below to receive an emails for puppy mill news and action alerts in your community. 

Meet the Survivors: Casey

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Casey “Casey Girl”

Many times when people think of puppy mills they immediately think of small breeds like Shih Tzu, Poodles, and Yorkshire Terriers. We often see pictures of puppy mill cages that are small and would seem unlikely to house larger breeds.

The sad reality is that any large breed dogs in high demand will also be found in puppy mills.

This week’s survivor is a sweet Golden Retriever named Casey or lovingly called “Casey Girl” by her family. She was rescued at 4 1/2 years old by a Golden Retriever rescue called Golden Retrievers in Need, GRIN.

Casey was adopted by a family who never experienced a mill survivor. They had gotten their other dog as a puppy and Casey taught them so much about everything.

Big or not, mill survivors all share the common fears of people and doorways. Casey was no different. It took eight months before her family no longer needed to carry her through the doorway to outside. Casey also found safety in corners, where she would often hide in hopes that no one would see her. 

It has taken time, but luckily Casey’s curious nature helped to push her beyond her fears. Today, she likes to be involved and with her people and is everyone’s shadow. A completely different dog than who they adopted.

Her family has come to so many realizations after having Casey in their lives. Knowing Casey’s background and seeing her make bits of progress along the way, they appreciate the little things like Casey playing with a toy or how happy she is when they come home.

They believe Casey is so thankful to have been rescued and to get this second chance at life. They feel like they have all been given a second chance with Casey in their lives.

Casey’s mom, Denisa, told me, “After being mistreated by humans and losing trust in them, perhaps even feeling pain at the hands of humans, she came into our home ready to start over, to love and to trust again and to live the life she has always deserved.”

Casey’s family said that adopting her really opened their eyes to not feeling like you need a puppy to find joy in owning a dog – or training a perfect one. Older dogs, even ones with a tragic history, can become everything you ever wanted if you can give them a chance. 

“Casey is so calm and easy going and listens so much better than her brother whom we have had since he was a puppy. It is completely mind-blowing to me that coming from living in a puppy mill with no training, she knows so much. I think she is just so thankful to be here and leave her old life behind, ” Denisa explained.

Like most mill survivors, Casey opened her family’s eyes to the truth about puppy mills. They have been inspired to educate others on the breeding dogs stuck in the mills and the horrible lives they live.

Denisa said that they are often stopped and asked about Casey because she is so much smaller than a “normal” Golden Retriever. Denisa describes to them how Casey was forced to live the first 4 years of her life in a cage too small for her breed which caused her legs to be deformed and made her small.

These details help people to understand the true horrors of mass breeding and the types of conditions these dogs are forced to live in for years, sometime forever.

Denisa has been able to use Casey as a way to open up dialogue about the Amish puppy mills in Ohio and to shed light on the importance of rescuing a dog and not buying one from a pet store. She said she loves to see people’s reaction when she tells them, “We rescued a Golden Retriever. Yes, you can rescue a purebred dog. There are rescues for every breed.” 

If Casey could tell us anything, what would she say? 

“Casey would tell people to give second chances. She would teach them about forgiveness and compassion.”

Casey has the hugest heart and is the sweetest dog. Her motherly instinct is still so strong that whenever her brother whimpers, she is right there checking on him. And, whenever anyone is having bad day, she is right there giving them love.

Her family is over the moon to have her. They make sure to celebrate all of her successes and feel so lucky share their lives with her and to be able to offer her a kind of happiness and love she never experienced before.

Congrats to Casey on getting her second chance and for teaching all of us the importance of giving them to others – especially dogs with unfair histories. 

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story, I would love to publish in on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.** 

 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 
Sign up below to receive an emails for puppy mill news and action alerts in your community. 

What you can do to help end puppy mills

“What the Heck is Going on with Puppy Mills and What Can You do to Help?”

Part 2

Written by Becky Monroe
 

In the spirit of Puppy Mill Awareness month, it seems only appropriate to share the many opportunities there are to help the dogs stuck in puppy mils. If you haven’t read the first installment of the series, you can do so here

What can you do to help?

There are so many things individuals can do without even joining a specific group. Just educating others on the truth about pet stores and on-line puppy sales and where these puppies come from and the inhumane conditions their parents endure.

There are so many people who still do not know this truth.

You can educate friends and family on adopting their next dog from a local shelter or rescue. You can let them know about on-line resources like petfinder.com and adoptapet.com where hundred of shelters and rescues post their dogs in need of homes.

You can make sure to only buy your pets’ necessities from stores who practice humane business models and don’t sell animals.  

You can volunteer and foster for a local shelter or rescue and help save the lives of other dogs waiting for homes of their own. Fostering and Adopting are big ways to help end puppy mills. 

If ending puppy mills and educating others on this issue is really important to you, you can join the hundreds of Bailing Out Benji volunteers across the United States! We have teams in so many of the states and are always looking to add more.

Our teams take on all kinds of projects and goals. Whether it is setting up educational tables at festivals, fairs, or conventions (these do not have to be dog related events) or going into schools and libraries to teach children about puppy mills, our teams look for ways to get involved in their communities and raise awareness.

If you want to show your passion for ending puppy mills, our teams across the country put together protests to educate the public about the reality of pet store puppies. The protests can be weekly, monthly or at the organizer’s choosing and can be an hour to all day, whatever works for you. Bailing Out Benji is happy to help put together signage.

Joining in on a parade and handing on information to the crowd is a great way to get the message out! Bailing Out Benji has lots of flyers to share for events like these.

If you are good at organizing events and raising money for a cause you care about, we always love to have volunteers who help us fundraise, so we can keep our educating and awareness going. Events like trivia nights at local bars where the establishments will often donate a portion of the proceeds to us. The Virginia team had a fun event called “Beers for Benji Yappy Hour” and set up an educational table, raffles, and had a local shelter bring adoptable dogs. The ideas are endless and if you love to be creative and get people together in the name of dogs, we would love to have you on the team. 

Our teams get involved in introducing humane ordinances to cities and towns as well as getting involved at the state level with lobbying for legislation. And, don’t feel like you need to be an expert at puppy mill statistics or information. Bailing Out Benji is a plethora of facts and figures on this cruel industry. We are always willing to share our information, so that our volunteers are well-informed and well-prepared for any meetings they need to attend or initiate.

You don’t even have to leave your home – Letters to the Editor that help educate your community on puppy mills and what local residents can do to get involved. Perhaps, a letter inviting people to join in on Puppy Mill Awareness Month?

We have a podcast that addresses all types of truths and lies about the puppy mill industry by speaking with varying people with all kinds of animal backgrounds and having open and honest discussions about the issues.

Our teams work on endless research so that when someone wants to either expose a pet store for selling a sick puppy or wants to introduce a humane ordinance in a city, they have all the information they need to make their case effectively.

If I am just talking from my own experience, what I love about Bailing Out Benji is its inclusiveness. They are so welcoming and so eager to help volunteers find what they are good at and use that to help further their cause.

They don’t believe everyone fits in a certain round peg. They appreciate our differences and our different opinions and understand it is those differences that ultimately make us a leading animal advocacy organization.

If you have been wondering what you can do to make a difference in this fight against puppy mills, let this be your sign. Join Bailing Out Benji as we make the next giant strides to a puppy mill free America.

As someone who has been engaged in this fight for nearly 15 years now, we are on the brink of real change. Your support and involvement WILL make a difference not just for the millions of animals prisoners in mills right now, but it will make a difference in your own life – allowing you that chance to pursue what you are passionate about and giving you the resources and support to make things better for the animals we all love so dearly.

Lastly, one thing you can do today, September 30, is post your puppy mill survivor on social media with the any of these #BailingOutBenji #EndPuppyMills #NationalPuppyMillSurvivorDay Let’s put faces to all the thousands of dogs still hoping to one day get a chance at freedom. Let’s educate and let’s end puppy mills for good.

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 

Sign up below to receive an email when there is puppy mill news or action alerts in your community.

Meet the Survivors: Evan

Written by Becky Monroe

Evan, one of the luckier mill survivors, was rescued at just 3 months old! His foster mom was looking for a dog for her own mom. She wanted to help a puppy mill survivor because she had worked with so many before and wanted to give that second chance to another one.

Missy began scouring rescues in southern IL who took in dogs from puppy mills. She saw a picture on-line of Evan, a Schnauzer/Poodle mix, and his description read, “Very shy.”

His story was that he and his sister came from a puppy mill bust in Missouri.

Missy had worked with numerous puppy mill survivors, so she felt confident she could help Evan. There was something about his face and the way he was hiding it as well as his sullen body language. She couldn’t get him out of her head.

She felt called to help him and knew her pack of 6 well-adjusted pups would help welcome Evan to the family and teach him all the dog things he likely did not know.

Missy made the 12 hour round trip to meet Evan. He was a pot-bellied little guy. The rescuer told Missy that Evan had a rough night because his sister was adopted the night before and he missed having her nearby.

On the long ride home, Evan sat on a blanket in the front seat hiding his head from Missy most of the time. It was sadly apparent that Evan was very afraid of people and didn’t have much faith in the human race.

They stopped on the way home to get gas and Missy put a collar and leash on Evan and brought him to the grass to go potty. Everything was so unfamiliar to him — even the grass made him uncomfortable. He army crawled all over the place trying to get away.

When Missy picked him up, he pooped all over. Missy said she felt absolutely terrible for him and knew his road to recovery would be long.

How horribly tragic that at just 3 months old, he was already so terrified of everything.

When Evan arrived at his new home with Missy and was let out with the other dogs in the securely fenced yard, Evan army crawled to the far back corner to hide. Poor Evan just had no clue how to be a puppy. 

Gabe, a Maltese, who was one of Missy’s sweetest, most angelic dogs, became Evan’s mentor and helped Evan conquer so many of his fears. The two became so inseparable that whenever Gabe was called to come, Evan came, too. And whenever Evan would come on command, Missy would say, “Yay!” At one point, Evan started to think his name was ‘Yay’!

Gabe slowly taught Evan that humans were actually okay and that he could trust them.

Missy explained, “We had to be extremely patient, structured and positive with him. We did not want to foster his insecurity, but also had to have compassion for him. It was a fine line.”

Today, at 11 years old, Evan continues to happily live with Missy’s mom. He is still nervous around new people — especially men. Whenever someone new comes to the house, Evan will hide. After they are there for a while, he will warm up and want attention, jumping on laps and needing to be pet. They just tell people to ignore him the first few minutes and wait for him to come to them. Sure seems like Evan has earned his right to have life on his terms these days.

Missy said that her time fostering Evan really taught her the importance of extreme patience. It also made her aware of not feeling sorry for him or leaning in to his insecurities.

What would Evan tell others? “QUIT purchasing dogs from puppy mills! You have no idea the trauma the breeding dogs through.”

Missy said that Evan taught her how quickly these dogs can be mentally affected by their environment. He was just a baby and yet was already so afraid.

(There has been some research done suggesting that the puppies of dogs in mass breeding facilities can inherit their mamas’ learned fears and other emotions from being exposed to such horrendous conditions. This translates to puppies sold in pet stores and on-line who at such young ages already have such strong emotional and behavioral issues.)

Evan has some special accomplishments. He can howl along to the Happy Birthday song when people sing it. She says it is super cute to watch. Evan is so sweet and tolerant that Missy used him to practice all her veterinary technician holds while she was going through school. Evan loves little kids and can fly on an airplane without making a sound. 

Missy is so proud of the dog Evan became. “He is THE sweetest, a total angel,” she says and even though he is officially her mom’s dog now, he will forever be Missy’s soulmate dog.

 

Just a reminder that September 30th is National Puppy Mill Survivor Day and Bailing Out Benji would like everyone to post photos of their survivors on social media and share their stories using these hashtags:

#NationalPuppyMillSurvivorDay

#EndPuppyMills

#BailingOutBenji 

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 

Sign up below to receive an email when there is puppy mill news or action alerts in your community.

What is going on with puppy mills?

Written by Becky Monroe 

 

“What the Heck is Going on with Puppy Mills and What Can You do to Help?”

This blog will be done in two parts

Part 1 

A couple weeks ago, a rescue I volunteer for posted one of my blogs about puppy mills and a woman genuinely asked, “Is there anyone trying to stop puppy mills?”

To many of us who follow and support Bailing Out Benji this question might seem preposterous, but I knew the woman was sincere and really didn’t know.

In light of September being Puppy Mill Awareness Month, I thought this would be a great time to talk about a few things: who is trying to stop puppy mills and how, what can individuals do to help and what opportunities are there right here at Bailing Out Benji that people can get involved in to help make a difference. The latter of them will be featured in my next blog.

Who is trying to end puppy mills is probably the easier of the first two questions to answer. There are thousands of people working every day to change the lives of dogs in puppy mills. They could be individuals just doing their part to educate strangers or foster mill survivors whenever they can.

They tend to be groups of animal advocates under the names like Bailing Out Benji, HSUS, ASPCA, National Mill Dog Rescue, Best Friends, Justice for Libre, and so very many more.

Advocacy groups that educate citizens and lobby politicians to create both awareness and change for the puppy mill industry. Many of these groups have been advocating for decades. Sadly, puppy mills are not something new to our country or the world. In fact, puppy mills were introduced around World War II as a way for farmers to earn money. What they have morphed into is a multi-billion dollar industry filled with greed and cruelty. 

To a person who hasn’t been along for the decades of advocating, one might find it hard to understand why the fight to end puppy mills has dragged on for so long without a true end in sight. I mean it would seem obvious to most dog loving Americans that puppy mills are cruel and should be absolved.

I don’t know if there has ever been an actual poll done, now I am thinking we should do one… But, I do believe the majority of the population when presented with the actual facts of puppy mills would agree that they should not exist or, at the very least, exist much differently with far better conditions for the dogs and a much more effective regulatory system governing them

 

So, where do things go wrong?

There are many facets to the puppy mill issue. Dogs in mass breeding facilities are considered agricultural animals. They do not get the same protections afforded pets. Because of this, what we call Big Ag, the major corporations who produce meats like Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill, have a large stake in animal production. If the dogs in mass breeding facilities are regulated to have larger cages, better conditions, more humane treatment, Big Ag fears that would imply pigs, chickens and cows would soon be required to have the same thing. To these businesses that means more money would be required to raise and produce their products and ultimately, could lead to less profit. 

In a multi-trillion dollar industry, that can mean billions of dollars lost.

Big Ag is one of the most predominant fighters when it comes to legislation to improve the conditions for puppy mills. They spend millions of dollars fighting animal advocacy groups (who do not have millions to spend) and lobby their politicians tirelessly to overturn any legislation passed in favor of the dogs.

They are a tough enemy to beat.

The American Kennel Club who claims to be the “Dogs’ Champion” is also one of the predominant groups we see sitting on the other side of the issue fighting against us. 

The AKC does what?

They register every puppy born. (There are other registries such as APRI and ACA, ACR, etc..) For every puppy registered, the AKC, as well as the others, charge a fee. You can imagine the amount of money brought into these organizations by the breeding of dogs, just the AKC, alone, registers a million puppies a year.

If puppy mills ceased to exist, so would a large share of their registration money.

Now, many of us have spent our lives believing that an AKC registered dog meant something, as if the AKC papers proved in some way that the dog was raised in a good home and its parents were happy and healthy.

The sad truth is that they do not mean any of those things. Years ago, after I bought my first dog at an auction for $65 and he came with AKC papers, I learned the hard truth. My dog was sick, matted, afraid for his own life most of the time. He didn’t know what grass was or how to play with a toy or go upstairs. He had had minimal vet care at best and was over 4 years old when I got him and his AKC papers.

I reached out to the AKC numerous times and each time they explained to me that they do not have the resources to inspect every breeder and ultimately, rely only on the paperwork any breeder or backyard breeder or puppy miller sends in. The AKC has no idea where all these puppies come from or the conditions they endure or worse, the condition their parents are in. And if I am being downright frank, they don’t care. 

So, when advocacy groups lobby for legislation to end puppy mills or even city ordinances to shut down stores that sell mass bred puppies, registry organizations like the AKC, APRI and the others fight back hard because they rely on the dollars of all the registrations of these terribly bred puppies. It comes down to money.

Of course there are others who fight against us. The obvious is the pet store industry who needs the puppies to sell and profit from. There are also what I call “ownership groups.” These organizations fight because they don’t want anyone telling them how to own a dog. Setting up regulations for puppy mills implies regulating conditions all dogs should live in and these groups of people have zero tolerance for being told what to do — even though they argue that their dogs mean everything to them.

The answer to that woman’s heartfelt question is, “Yes, lots of people are doing lots of things and have been doing them for lots of years, but we are up against a relatively strong army fighting hard against us at every step.” 

In the last few years, there has been a change of direction. Instead of fighting to improve the conditions of the puppy mills and constantly being stonewalled by Big Ag and the others, animal advocates chose a new path: the pet store and the point of sale.

If the actual purchase of a puppy can be stopped then in turn the demand will lessen and puppy mills will cease to exist. There are two main issues addressed at the point of the purchase. One was to eliminate the selling of mass bred dogs and to only allow pet stores to “sell” puppies or dogs obtained from shelters and rescues.

This type of law has been passed in five states as of today with numerous cities across the United States passing their own similar ordinances. 

Animal welfare advocates wanted to also address the point of sale and to expose the deceptive ways in which pet stores finance the sale of a puppy. Because pet stores charge exorbitant prices for basically mutts (AKA “Designer Dogs”), sometimes in the upper numbers of $5000.00, most consumers are forced to finance their new, fuzzy family member.

The interest rates were unimaginable and the sales techniques were nothing short of consumer fraud, so as a consumer protection issue, pet stores were forced to change their business practices and were exposed for the manipulation and deception they were engaging in.

Both of these issues have mounted to over 400 humane ordinances across the country with 5 states enacting humane laws to make it illegal for pet stores to continue selling mass bred puppies and/or to continue such unlawful business practices that were ultimately ruining the consumer’s personal financial situation.

Everyone who has fought to end puppy mills still wants to see puppy mills go away. They want to see pet stores enact humane business models and only sell rescued puppies and dogs. They will continue to pass these laws and ordinances until we have achieved 100% compliance across the country.

I have always said and will continue to say that while the fight is hard we have one huge thing going for us. We fight out of love and passion. We believe with our hearts that these dogs deserve so much better. None of this is about money for us and that is why I know we will win.

If you are passionate about helping change the lives of dogs in puppy mills, there are so many ways you can get involved. In my next blog in this series, I will talk about all the opportunities available. 

These dogs need us to be their champions. I hope you will join us in our mission. 

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

Sign up below to receive an email when there is puppy mill news or action alerts in your community.

Meet the Survivors: Leine

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Leinekugel (AKA Leine)

It seems so appropriate that the first mill survivor I introduce during September, the month of Puppy Mill Awareness, is Leine because his owner, Carol, was the very first puppy mill rescuer I ever met.

Carol went on to teach me so much about not just the cruel business of puppy mills and puppy mill auctions, but also the delicate way in which you earn a mill survivor’s trust and build their confidence to be a well-adjusted, happy dog.

Almost 14 years ago, at a puppy mill auction, Carol and her group bought 12-15 dogs and one of them was Leine for $45. She offered to foster any of them but Leine because he was a Miniature Pinscher and “she wasn’t a fan of that breed.”

Leine spent two weeks in the shelter as she hoped he would find his own foster home. As it turned out, Leine was in the absolute worst emotional state and as fate would have it, Leine would find his way to Carol’s home (and never leave).

At just over a year of age, Leine’s underside was heavily scarred and emotionally he carried scars that included tremendous fear, anxiety and obsessive pacing. As a dog trainer, Carol had had so much experience working with all kinds of dogs, but Leine was a true challenge. He was one of THE most fearful dogs she ever worked with. He would lose his bowel and bladder around people for months. She often questioned his actual quality of life and wondered if she had done the right thing saving him. 

Patience, time, love and confidence building with NO pressure helped develop Leine into the most well-rounded dog. Carol emphasized that she worked at his speed and never put any expectations on Leine.

Eventually, Leine’s true colors started to show. He was really a silly and feisty dog with so much love to give. He made his way to becoming a certified therapy dog! Leine loves kids and other dogs and is constantly stealing hearts.

Carol explained that you can never underestimate the power of time to heal a dog who has suffered trauma. Using techniques that teach confidence building, counter conditioning and putting in the work can help a dog achieve real success.

Leine is now 15 years old and still doing well. He has worked with so many kids and along the way always educates on puppy mills. If Leine could tell us anything he would say, “Give us a chance. Put in the work. Trauma is real and we experienced it and have the symptoms and challenges from surviving it just like humans.” 

Carol summed up her experience with Leine, “When we rescue mill dogs, they can learn there is more to life. They don’t have to live in fear forever or be haunted by or defined by their past. Please get help from a professional trainer, if you need it. Be patient and teach the dog life is great and they can move beyond their early trauma.”

Leine is still a warrior. Diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago, he is still running and going strong.

A true testament to the saying, ”We don’t always get the dogs we want, we get the dogs we need.” Leine has taught Carol so much about enjoying life to the fullest and never taking a single day for granted. 

 

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 
Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 
 

Meet the Survivors: Stella Marie

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet: Stella Marie Rose This week we get to meet an adorable Frenchie named Stella. Her family chose to foster to adopt through an organization called HavaHeart Rescue located in Missouri.

Stella was originally found as a stray dog, but based on her condition she was believed to be a breeding dog who was dumped after she was no longer useful. She was thought to be about 5 – which also tends to be an average age for breeding dogs to be disregarded.

Stella faced numerous medical conditions when she was rescued. She had many skin infections that had gone a long time without any treatment and caused fur loss. She was very malnourished. Her stomach was a mess after numerous C-sections. (Only about 80% of French Bulldogs can successfully give birth naturally. Most undergo C-sections and sadly, in mass breeding facilities C-sections are often done carelessly and with minimal anesthesia or in non-sterile environments)

Luckily, her new foster family was willing to put in whatever it took to make her well again and everything she suffered from was curable with the right treatment. Stella also had some allergy challenges, but they were quickly figured out and she became a healthy, vibrant Frenchie again. Like most mill survivors, Stella had behavior issues. While she didn’t know how to do most doggie things, her biggest issue was resource guarding. Whether it be her people, her toys or her food, Stella needed to understand that none of these things were going to be taken from her again. Her mom explained that the saddest part was seeing Stella not play with her toys but treat them like her puppies – the one and only behavior she had been forced to learn time and time again in the mill.

Stella’s behavior issues faded as her family provided her with all the love, patience and kindness they could give. Today, Stella is “the sweetest dog you could ever meet,” says her family and, ”everyone who meets her loves her.”

Stella’s foster family who became her adoptive family had never adopted a mill survivor before. They had only rescued puppies in the past.

Almost immediately, Stella taught them the beauty and reward of adopting an older dog – something they just had never considered before. She showed them that older dogs have just as much love to give and are so deserving of second chances and adoption.

Of course, Stella, like all mill survivors, taught them about the puppy mill industry, too. Their eyes were opened to the realities behind the pet store window and soon they were doing all they could to educate others. Today, they help others learn of the importance of adoption and of researching good breeders, if necessary.

Once Stella became a part of their lives they felt a true calling to make a difference to end puppy mills.

If Stella could tell humans something she would say, “Let’s work together to end puppy mills, so that other dogs do not have to go through what I went through.”

Stella, through her amazing transformation, taught her family what love and patience and time can do for a dog in need. Stella was also fortunate to have a big fur sister, named Serenity. Serenity is a lab mix rescued from a shelter. She taught Stella all the fun dogs things she should know and was amazingly tolerant of Stella’s initial resource guarding issues. Mill survivors often blossom better when able to live with another dog who can teach them dog things.

Stella is now 6 years old and takes her job as a puppy mill educator very seriously. Anytime Stella meets new people, her and her family share what they know about her past and what people can do to help. Stella also has her own instagram account @StellaMyRescueFrenchie where she loves to share her adorable selfies but also educates about puppy mills.

When Stella isn’t busy educating others on puppy mills, she enjoys taking long naps, making pig noises, cuddling and slopping up juicy watermelon treats – all as she should.

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

 

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From Numbers to Names

Written by Becky Monroe

From Numbers to Names

The other day I was cradling Alice as I was putting in her daily eye drops. Alice is a small Shih Tzu about 9 years old. She only weighs 8 pounds and her tongue hangs out all of the time. It was about 3 years ago, she had to have one of her eyes removed. She’s a bit of a hot mess who is also scared of most everything.

Alice was rescued at an auction. No one, not even the rescue, intended on taking her in, but once they saw this small, frail dog whose tongue hung, they knew she needed out of the breeding world.

She was 89. A number.

Yet, as I held her gently putting in her eye drops and telling her how she is the prettiest Shih Tzu in the world, she was Alice, my Alice – a dog who has come to mean the world to me.

Alice isn’t my first mill dog. I have had 3 of my own and fostered others. No matter how many come through my door, I will never understand how a dog is just a number. Whether I am a temporary foster or a long term foster or ultimately, the adopter, within a day that dog becomes a soul to me. I learn their needs, what makes their tails wag, what they are afraid of and what makes them feel safe. I snuggle them and love them almost instantly. It is hard to imagine someone throwing a dog away simply because it can no longer produce a profit. 

It has been so inspiring these last few weeks not only seeing the interest in people wanting to share their mill dog’s story, but hearing about the dogs’ and their families’ transformations. Reading about dogs who were merely stock in a breeding facility becoming the most important part of another person’s life.

It has made me re-visit why puppy mills still exist. If a single dog can literally change someone’s life so positively, what is the disconnect between puppy mills and dogs?

Perhaps, while we try to educate others on the mass numbers of dogs in breeding facilities — the thousands of them across the country, we are, instead, normalizing a very cruel business by demonstrating how very many of them exist.

We have always wanted others to know that there isn’t just this one dog in front of you who survived years in a mill, but hundreds of others every day facing the same grim reality. Maybe that is too overwhelming for people to fathom? 

I guess I am just trying to understand (I have been for over a decade) why something so awful, so inhumane still exists in the United States.

Yes, we have made progress and the progress we are making today is leaps and bounds ahead of ten years ago, but I still feel like more dog families should feel the need to speak out and take action than do.

I am hoping that as people read the individual stories of the dogs who have survived the mills, they will begin to see the individual faces within puppy mills instead of an overwhelming group of dogs who need rescue.

I want readers to see the transformations of both the dog and the person or family who adopts them. The amazing impact these dogs, who meant nothing to the miller, can have on the people who choose to make them important and to give them unconditional love.

I want readers to start to look at not the thousands of dogs in cages as a whole, but when they see the pictures of mills, to look, individually, at each face and think about how that dog could be free and changing the life of someone they know.

Maybe seeing mass groupings of mill dogs makes a person believe that those dogs are different from dogs not living in cages. As though “those dogs” were born to do that and that is the life they were meant to lead.

However, as we break down the stories of individual mill dogs, we teach people that these dogs are exactly the same as their “non-mill” dog counterparts. Yes, their history has often scarred them and prevented them from freely doing normal dog things, but when given time to decompress and unconditional love to learn to trust, mill dogs begin to thrive and quickly show off normal dog traits like playing with toys, romping in the grass, snuggling with their family.

Perhaps, the term “mill dog” has created a stigma. One that not only defines them but has created a bias that mill dogs are mill dogs and all other dogs are better or at least deserve more. For example, mill dogs are meant to be mass breeding dogs and don’t have a purpose outside of that, while all other dogs deserve to be free and loved.

I know with all my heart that isn’t true. It is why I write these blogs and try every single day to educate people. But, again, I am just searching for the disconnect as to why more people aren’t demanding mass breeding be illegal.

I think the term “mill survivor” better demonstrates that living in a mill is not normal. It is a battle every day to survive. It shows that dogs do not belong in these places. “Mill survivor” is a badge they wear for all they endured and all they will overcome. 

As avid Bailing Out Benji supporters, I hope you will share our Mill Survivor stories with your friends and family who aren’t as dedicated to ending puppy mills. I hope you will flood your social media platforms with them as we hope to put faces and names to the numbers as a way to breakdown these possible barriers and demonstrate the direct connection these mill survivors have to all the other dogs living in people’s homes and sharing their beds and playing in dog parks.

I know I have said it like a million times as a way of educating others, “This is Alice. She is mill dog.” But, perhaps what I need to say is, “This is Alice and she was rescued from a puppy mill because she did not deserve to live like that. She is a dog just like the one you adopted from a shelter. She loves to go on walks and to play with toys.”

They are not “mill dogs,” but instead dogs who survived living in puppy mills. They were meant to have names all along. They were just born in the wrong place by no fault of their own. Their beginning should not define them nor should it be an excuse to ignore the reality of mass breeding facilities.

It is my genuine hope that the faces and the stories of these beautiful souls will help awaken the hearts of those who have not yet had the honor or the pleasure to meet and love a dog who survived the mill and will create a desire within them to speak out against mass breeding. 

“Tails and Truths” is Bailing Out Benji’s new blog authored by Becky Monroe with the intention to cover the latest puppy mill news and puppy mill survivor stories. 

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured, you can email Becky at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com 

Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 
 

 

 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Meet the Survivors: Midge

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Midge also known as “Sissy” Midge, a beautiful Pekingese, was originally rescued from National Mill Dog Rescue when she was about 7 years old. Not long after arriving at NMDR, Midge was spayed and had a successful nasal surgery to improve her breathing.

It was then Bridget adopted her. Bridget wasn’t new to puppy mill adoptions. Midge would be her 4th one, but Midge was different. It was obvious Midge wanted to be a dog, but she just didn’t know how. Bridget said, “You could look at her and see so much hope.”

In the beginning, Midge acted almost feral. She was extremely fearful of human interaction and tried to keep herself secluded as much as she could. She was anxious and scared of most everything.

Like so many mill dogs, she had this faint desire to want to interact and to play with the other dogs and toys, but she had never learned how to do any of that in her 7 years in a cage. Her fear outweighed her yearning to want to get involved. She would poke her head around the sofa and just observe the other dogs so very unsure what her next move should be.

Doorways and thresholds, often a difficult situation for mill dogs, were also very hard for Midge.

Bridget explained that they knew the only thing they could do was to give her time to adjust and to learn from her doggy siblings what real dog life could be like. Bridget said,”We knew not to ask anything of her.”

With constant, positive reinforcement and lots of treats over 2 years, Midge, also called Sissy, finally was comfortable going through doorways and going outside. She flies through doorways now without a care in the world!

Eventually, Bridget had to move across the country and was so very concerned that it would be a tough move for Sissy and might even cause setbacks in all of her progress. Luckily, the move proved to be the exact opposite. Sissy loved the road trip and enjoyed the adventure. All of the new smells and sights seemed to bring Sissy right out of her shell!

Now Sissy was holding her head high! With new found confidence, she even found her voice!

Bridget explained that they never called Midge “Sissy” because she was afraid or wimpy, but because she became such a wonderful sister to all her siblings.

Sissy has taught them that you can overcome most things with hard work. That we should all live the good life and to keep in mind there is always a better picture ahead.

She believes Sissy would tell others, “There is always hope and to never give up. Always face the new challenge. And, even as a mill survivor, you can find the true dog within.”

Sissy educates the neighborhood on puppy mills these days. Her confidence soars as she flips her head about and her beautiful coat shines for all to see.

Today, at 12 years old, that fearful, shy dog is now a very animated, funny girl who enjoys socializing.

Bridget summed it up best, “She is now a bit bossy, opinionated, and chooses which way we walk, and the pace we keep. I’m really at her service now. It’s ok, she deserves it.”

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities.

If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

 

Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 

 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 

 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Meet the Survivors: Sofie Bug

Written by Becky Monroe

Sofie and Jodi

This week I am proud to share the story of Sofie also known as Sofie Bug. Her mom became a good friend of mine as we joined the fight in Wisconsin to stop puppy mill auctions.

Jodi adopted Sophie from what was thought to be a rescue at the time. She was a 6 year old Beagle Jodi found on Petfinder. Her name at the rescue was Princess, but she was far more like a Cinderella before she met the prince. The description on her Petfinder page was, “Mama needs a home.”

Jodi and her husband went to the rescue and were expecting to see this adorable, perhaps feisty dog ready to play and get into trouble. Instead, this frozen statue of a dog came out with her teets hanging to the grass.

As Jodi re-told the story to me she added, “I was so naive. I asked why her teets were like that. The rescuer told me that Princess had just given birth and all her puppies died in an Amish mill in La Farge, WI.”

Jodi went on to describe, “I replied with what I hear so often today, ’How can they get away with that?’”

The rescuer told Jodi what so many of us have come to learn that until the laws are changed, there will always be puppy mills.

Jodi scooped up Princess and brought her home and the next day started googling puppy mills. She found the No Wisconsin Puppy Mills group and immediately got involved all in Sofie’s honor. She attended Humane Lobby day and from that point on her life changed forever simply because she adopted a puppy mill survivor and knew things had to be better for all the other dogs still stuck in breeding cages. 

Sofie at rescue

Like most mill dogs, Sofie was afraid of normal life. Since she had never drank out of a regular dog bowl, only from a water bottle, drinking was scary for her. Jodi found that putting something like a silver spoon in the bowl helped bridge the gap for Sofie.

Sofie found solace under the pillows on the futon. Eventually, they adopted another Beagle named Summer from Midwest Beagle Rescue, who was not a mill dog and she helped teach Sofie all the things a normal dog should know and enjoy.

Sofie’s struggles gave Jodi strength she never had before. Because of everything Sofie went through, she gave Jodi purpose.

She has taught Jodi forgiveness, love and trust. She literally has changed Jodi’s and the life of countless others. Jodi believes that it is through Sofie she was driven to help other dogs.

Jodi explained that, if Sofie could teach humans one thing, she would want humans to look into the eyes of dogs, cats, all other animals and see themselves. “Don’t think of them as objects or a novelty. See them as another living, feeling, Being.”

It never ceases to amaze me what these broken souls can teach us. Sofie was no exception. Jodi believes that Sofie taught her to follow her passion. Sofie led Jodi to joining an animal advocacy group and she got to be a part of the group that helped pass legislation with a bill called Act 90 which led to increased regulation and inspection of breeders beyond USDA guidelines in Wisconsin in 2009. It also eliminated dog auctions in the state of Wisconsin and initiated the egulation of shelters and rescues.

Because of Sofie, Jodi found herself in the Governor’s office witnessing the signing of the bill which will forever be etched in Jodi’s memory.

As she said, “I never knew what my passion was until I met her — that little Beagle. I mean, I always loved dogs. I had dog wallpaper on my 5th grade bedroom wall, but to fight for animals and advocate and rescue them all because I met that one little beagle scared lifeless in the grass…. I’ve done that for her and will continue to until I am no longer able.”

Sofie on a boat

After being rescued, Sofie went on to live a full life until the age of 18. She traveled to the Grand Canyon and everyone who met her, heard her story and was a better person because of her. Everyone she came in contact with quickly learned about puppy mills and left hearing the slogan, “Adopt don’t shop.”

Sofie grew up with Jodi’s grand babies — always being sweet and kind to them. She also went on to accept so many countless rescued mill dogs in their home and helped them on their journeys into normal life.

Jodi summed up Sofie by saying, “She’s an angel without wings and I believe she is still helping me as I continue to take retired breeding dogs out of the mill and place them with rescues. Because of Sofie, I am still meeting new people and groups like Bailing Out Benji dedicated to ending puppy mills and I am so very thankful to her for all of that.”

“Tails and Truths” is Bailing Out Benji’s new blog authored by Becky Monroe with the intention to cover the latest puppy mill news and puppy mill survivor stories. 

If you are interested in having your mill survivor featured, you can email Becky at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com 

Sign up below to receive an email whenever a new blog is posted. 
 

 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills.