Written by Becky Monroe
Sweet Eleanor just celebrated her 6th birthday and for the first time in her life, she was able to celebrate it in a comfy home surrounded by people who love her. To a dog who suffered terribly in one of the worst puppy mills, nothing could be a better gift than a forever family to spoil her. Eleanor spent the first five and a half years of her life in a puppy mill owned by Daniel Gingerich. Gingerich’s mill located in Iowa incurred over 200 USDA violations in only a ten month period.
Before suspending his license, the USDA allowed Gingerich to auction off 350 of his dogs at a puppy mill auction in Missouri. By this time he had already received more than 100 violations.
By a stroke of fate or luck, Havaheart Rescue was in attendance of the auction and saw Eleanor on the auction block. She was listed as a female Golden Retriever and pregnant. Havaheart noticed that Eleanor had whelped puppies in July and it was only August, so they asked Gingerich how the dog could be pregnant so soon.
What came next will break your heart.
“My male dog is choosy, so what we did was we opened her up, took her uterus out, artificially inseminated her and sewed her back up, “ Gingerich explained to the Havaheart representative.
Without hesitation, Havaheart purchased her. Immediately, they realized Eleanor was very sick and rushed her to the veterinarian where she underwent emergency surgery. During the surgery they found out she had been sewn up with fishing line which had caused multiple infections in her uterus including pyometra which is extremely serious and often life threatening.
If Eleanor had been sold to another breeder, she would have died.
Bailing Out Benji had covered the Gingerich case extensively and was working tirelessly to shut them down. Mindi was very involved with the case and, after learning about the auction and Eleanor’s story, kept in touch with Eleanor’s foster mom so she could follow Eleanor’s progress.
Mindi really thought the foster family would adopt Eleanor themselves because they loved her so much, but when she was posted for adoption, Mindi and her husband, Jason, applied immediately. They were just drawn to this sweet soul and her story.
Eleanor’s life changed forever when she became a part of Mindi and Jason’s family. On top of that, she became a special addition to Bailing Out Benji team where Eleanor has been known to help educate for better animal welfare laws.
Eleanor is only the second puppy mill survivor to actually join the Callison family, but they have rescued and fostered countless others. Eleanor is, however, the first non black lab mix to join the pack.
Mindi explained, “My husband and I have always saved black dogs because they are often overlooked in shelters and rescues. But adopting her reminded me (and reminds me every day) that I am fighting to end puppy mills so no dog ever has to suffer like she did.”
Mindi believes that every dog is unique no matter the breed or background and Eleanor is no different. “She is a goofy, smiley girl that has some fears she is working through, but her zest for life is so clear, “ described Mindi.
After what Eleanor survived, it is obvious she will carry physical and emotional baggage for some time. Eleanor happens to be afraid of open spaces.
To help ease Eleanor’s fears, they take short walks in town where things are busier and louder to help her learn city life. And then they take long walks in the woods where it is quiet and she appears to be more at peace.
In the beginning, Eleanor was afraid to eat anywhere except their couch! In time, they slowly started moving her bowl to different spots like dog beds and now she is eating next to her buddy, Mose, on an elevated feeding station.
“We learned early on that Eleanor always looks for a “safe spot” before doing something scary. So, we strategically placed dogs beds around our home (in the kitchen, on our deck, etc), so Eleanor has a spot to sit that she feels safe and comfortable in while exploring. This helped her overcome a lot of fears very quickly and we are so proud of her,” said Mindi.
What would Eleanor tell humans?
“Do not buy a puppy without meeting the mom!”
Eleanor’s story has been viewed on Tik Tok and videos all over social media hundreds of millions of times. People cannot believe that anyone can be so cruel to a dog, but some of those people still don’t make the connection between pet stores and puppy mills. It was purchases from the public that kept her puppy mill owner in business.
In only six months, Eleanor has come such a long way. Her presence on social media is educating so many people on the cruel realities of puppy mills. She helps Mindi educate policy makers to end puppy mills.
Eleanor is truly a hero – who overcame so much and now goes on to teach others. “She overcame something that was so incredibly cruel and inhumane, but she still trusts humans. I think Eleanor has taught the world about resilience. This brave girl takes steps every single day to overcome her past trauma and is learning how to be a real dog,” Mindi expressed.
And while Eleanor is learning, Mindi learns from Eleanor. She has learned to wake up every morning and shake off the bad vibes from the past. Every day is a gift.
And this new life full of unconditional love, extra treats, soft beds and baskets of toys is surely the best gift Eleanor could have ever received for her birthday!
If you would like to donate in honor of Eleanor’s 6th Birthday and help Bailing Out Benji keep fighting to end puppy mills, you can do that here.
”Eleanor is proof that truly amazing dogs can come out of traumatic experiences. If you are looking to adopt a dog, please consider looking at the quiet dogs and the shy dogs. Their transformations that come after they feel love and safety is nothing short of a miracle to be a part of,” Mindi added.
Sweet Eleanor I am so happy you were rescued and found your way to the amazing life and family you have always deserved.