Written by Becky Monroe
Lacy’s mom, Sarah, wrote in the interview that she read a quote somewhere that said, “Everyone thinks they have the best dog and none of them are wrong.” The quote is by W.R. Purche and sure is fitting for these mill survivor blogs.
Each time I sit down to start a new story about a mill survivor, I find myself in tears. Tears for what they have endured, but also tears of joy. The love these once unwanted dogs experience with their forever families is so heartwarming and so inspiring and Lacy’s story is no exception.
I wiped tears numerous times as I felt the love and compassion Lacy’s short life was filled with in the end.
Lacy, a yellow Labrador Retriever was rescued by the Greater Dayton Lab Rescue (https:// www.gdlrr.org) in Ohio around the age of 5 from an Amish puppy mill. She had been living in a foster home for about six months when Sarah and Eric adopted her.
Six months seems like a long time to be in foster care, but Sarah attributed it to Lacy’s age, her extremely shy temperament and her breathing issues.
At the time Sarah and Eric were trying to find a gentle companion for their then 13 year old white German Shepherd after their chocolate Lab passed away.
Lacy was a great match.
In rescue, Lacy was named Gracie, but her adoptive family had started a tradition of naming their dogs after plants. It started with Lily then Dahlia and so on. Lacy would be short for Queen Anne’s Lace. She was called all sorts of versions of it: Lacy Mae, Lacy Mayday parade, Lacy’s Thanksgiving parade, Party Lacy… etc…
I, personally, love that this family plants the plant the dog is named after when they pass as a memorial to cherish for years to come. How perfect.
According to her foster family, out of the 42 dogs who had come through their care (bless them for fostering so many) Lacy was the most shy and nervous they had ever seen.
“In the beginning, everything was fear-inducing for Lacy. She was absolutely terrified of hats and doorways which I later read is common for dogs from Amish puppy mills, apparently, Amish mills can be particularly cruel,” Sarah explained to me.
Lacy also was afraid of being on a leash, going new places, noises and car rides. And while she had mental obstacles, she also had physical limitations due to bad genetics, lack of vet care and the harsh environment she spent her first five years of life in.
Over time, as Lacy was seen by varying vets, they all agreed that her genetic ailments and the complications that came with them, could have been prevented if she could have had basic care from the start.
Sarah explained that Lacy was their first mill survivor. However, both Lily and Dahlia were given to them by people who had purchased the dogs at a local pet store which was later busted for using puppy mills to supply their store with puppies.
It was fortunate for Lacy to have Lily to help Lacy begin to overcome all that was scary to her. Sadly, Lily passed away only three months after Lacy joined the family. Lily was over 13 years old.
But before Lily passed, Lacy knew to always be gentle with her. Lily’s hip dysplasia kept her from doing a lot in her older years. Lacy would stay with Lily wherever she was in the house and lay and cuddle with her. That was comforting to everyone.
Knowing Lacy would do better in a home with another dog, they adopted Willow, a five month old Husky.
Willow helped Lacy to learn to play and to be confident.
To foster Lacy’s confidence, she went to the dog park almost every day to help her be more social. The other dog owners got to know Lacy really well and soon everyone not only knew her triggers and how best to make her comfortable, but Lacy melted their hearts and had them all wrapped around her paw!
Willow was great at looking out for Lacy in the dog park and whenever they went for walks. Willow would turn around and always make sure Lacy and Sarah were keeping up.
Lacy did have breathing issues, so they always had to be aware of her limitations. They kept things to short walks and always just let her do as much as she was comfortable with. When things got more difficult, they got a dog stroller for her and that opened up a lot more opportunities for her to get out and explore at her pace without causing too much strain on her.
She also happened to love wearing clothes, so that helped protect her skin from all the pollen that caused her issues.
In time, Lacy’s shyness became sassiness and she exuded this sweet, happy personality. One of her nicknames was “happy cow” because when she would run, she looked a lot like a bouncy calf with legs flying everywhere!
“She would even do this flying leap with all four paws off the ground to try and catch tennis balls,” Sarah described.
She also happened to be a full-on bed hog. Sarah said that when they went camping they shared a tiny air mattress. Not only is Eric 6’10” but now they had Lacy snuggled in between them.
“She would let out a deep sigh every time she snuggled up between us as if she couldn’t believe we were in her way and taking up all the room on HER bed.”
The few times they ever had to get stern with her in an effort to keep her from eating stuff she shouldn’t, she would make this face like there is no way you can actually be mad at me and start wagging her tail and prancing around. Confirming she could get away with almost anything!
While she started off as really shy and nervous, her personality blossomed in time. Sarah described some of Lacy’s funny habits such as how she would make these goofy deep breathing noises when she got excited or when she wanted food. She said the noises Lacy would make actually sounded like, “Oooh – what you got there?”
She brought large plastic dog dishes into the living room and played with them. She took on the robotic vacuum as a playmate in typical Lab fashion. She had the goofiness of a Lab and made everyone smile.
Sadly, Lacy’s days of being a joyful, playful Lab were cut short and she passed on Christmas Eve of 2021. Her life had finally just begun and it was time to say goodbye.
When I asked what had Lacy taught them, Sarah said, “First and foremost she taught us just how horrible puppy mills are. Almost everyone knows that puppy mills are bad, but loving a puppy mill breeder dog shows you the depth of the mill’s cruelty. Lacy taught everyone she met how to find happiness and pure joy after being through hell. Her resilience was inspiring and many people who knew her were just as proud as a we were to see her fight her way out of the darkness over the three years we had her.”
What would Lacy want to tell other humans?
“End puppy mills now. Don’t support pet stores – they probably use mills. Know that if you buy a dog from Amish country that they are most likely a mill dog and there is a breeder dog suffering deeply behind the scenes. Give puppy mill survivors a chance at a new life through adoption and be patient there is a personality under all that trauma. They just need time to know they’re safe and loved to show it.”
Lacy spent most of her days just being spoiled. But, she did go to a lot of places in the unfairly short time they had her and told everyone they met about her being an Amish puppy mill breeder dog. “Our goal was never to shame anyone but to just let them know to spread the word around to anyone they knew that Amish puppy mills are all around Ohio and to do research into how to spot mills. And, hopefully, in the future adopt or rescue their next pet,” expressed Sarah as to what accomplishments Lacy achieved.
Sarah also commented on the question,”What is special about this dog?” with the following, “Dogs have this amazing quality where their existence makes our lives better and they instinctively want to bond with humans which makes puppy mills even more sickening. To treat animals as machines for profit and deny them of at least a humane life when they are totally dependent on us for their physical and emotional care should have never been legal in the first place, let alone that puppy mills are still a booming business today.”
Despite the sadness that surrounds both puppy mills and the survivors who find freedom, they do go on to teach us important life lessons as Sarah summed up here,” I have learned that you can pull yourself out of a dark spot when shown love and given a safe place to recover. Even if the bad things that have happened to have caused layers of damage you can still find a way to be happy in spite of it all.”
Lacy was certainly a beautiful testament to the healing power of love and compassion, dancing and prancing her way into the hearts of all who met her. Her life started awful but ended surrounded by people who loved and adored her. Thank you to Sarah and Eric for helping Lacy to overcome her fears and for allowing Lacy to experience so much in her short time of freedom. Run free Lacy – Run free!
This very special collage above shows just how sassy and confident Lacy became. Lacy decided to sneak into the tub to get the peanut butter her sister didn’t eat during bath time.