Written by Becky Monroe
This week’s special pup is Nutmeg. While her name makes me smile, Nutmeg’s journey reminds us all again just how devastating puppy mill life can be.
Nutmeg’s mom, Liz, saw her on-line through National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado. As Liz explained to me there was just something about her that spoke to her and she knew she had to help this little dog.
Nutmeg looked terrified and sad and having grown up with Pekingese, Liz felt a connection. She drove three hours to meet her. Nutmeg had arrived at NMDR only two weeks prior and was rescued with other Pekingese. When Liz got to their kennel, all the Pekingese were visibly scared, but still eager to come to the front of the kennel and see her, everyone, but Nutmeg.
Nutmeg had ran to the back as fast as she could, so scared she defecated on her way. She cowered in the back hoping no one would see her. Luckily, Liz only had eyes her for her and regardless of Nutmeg’s reaction, Liz knew all along she would be taking her home.
Never having a puppy mill survivor, Liz wasn’t as prepared for all that would transpire with Nutmeg. Poor Nutmeg was ravished with medical conditions. She suffered from pyometra (a severely infected uterus – common in mass bred dogs), multiple tumors, ear infections, eye issues, rotted teeth, open sores, puncture wounds and lacerations. This sweet little girl had endured NINE years of pain and suffering in a Missouri puppy mill.
If all of that wasn’t enough, at her first vet visit with Liz, she became so frightened, she tweaked her back and became unable to bear any weight on her hind legs.
Liz was already smitten with Nutmeg and while overwhelmed with all Nutmeg’s care entailed, Liz stood next to her through the night working with the best orthopedic surgeon creating a treatment plan that would be the least invasive to Nutmeg, but would provide her with the best opportunity for success.
While going through the scans with the specialist, Liz fully realized the damage done to Nutmeg after so many years in a puppy mill. There was evidence of degenerative disc disease, severe arthritis, luxating patellas, abnormally small organs, and structural abnormalities of her knees, legs and hips.
All of these issues are common with puppy mill survivors. Between the inadequate cage size they are stuck in all of their lives, lack of exercise, poor diet and minimal to no veterinary care, puppy mill survivors do not thrive like normal dogs.
With Liz’s love for Nutmeg and Nutmeg’s desire to live, she began intensive therapies that included everything under the sun! Laser, water, physical and massage therapies all helped Nutmeg regain the use of her back legs! She could walk, run and roll on her back again!
Nutmeg’s physical issues, unfortunately, didn’t all come to an end there. She battled multiple cancer scares and two serious bouts of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. This is a life-threatening condition with sudden unexplained hemorrhaging. The vet believed Nutmeg acquired it from the amount of stress and anxiety she endured at the mill. Nutmeg spent nights in the ICU and suffered the attacks twice. She was placed on a prescription diet to prevent the illness.
Even with ALL OF THOSE medical issues, Liz told me that Nutmeg’s emotional baggage was even worse. She was absolutely terrified of all people and especially men – even other animals. Like most survivors, her coping mechanism was to shake and cower. Nutmeg’s was so severe she often defecated.
Of course, all of the normal things for dogs like toys, blankets, beds, grass and stairs were not normal to a dog who had spent nearly a decade in a cage at the hands of cruel people. Nutmeg was afraid of them all. Her fears were so severe even a trainer told Liz she couldn’t help her.
Liz admitted that there were times she just wasn’t sure she could do it anymore. She questioned if she was the right person to help Nutmeg. However, she also realized that it wasn’t necessarily having the right skills or training that would improve Nutmeg’s life. It was the ability to offer unconditional love and patience that would ultimately change Nutmeg’s life. That was something Liz could definitely offer the little dog she fell for instantly on-line.
Over the years, Nutmeg blossomed into a spunky little girl full of personality. After all she had been through, there she was dancing in the kitchen and playfully burying herself in soft, comfy blankets. She loved to lay in the sun. (I have found this to be a trait of mill survivors. I feel like for years they lived in dark barns and feeling the sun on their bodies is comforting to them.)
Nutmeg loved her dad and her dog sitter.
She never learned to drink from a water bowl. (Many mills offer dogs water through a rabbit bottle because it is easier for the breeder. However, this is not a healthy way for dogs to drink.)
It took years for her to be potty trained, she was hand fed twice a day and walking on a leash just wasn’t her thing.
Liz said, “But that was all okay with us. She was finally happy and healthy and that’s all that ever mattered.”
Because of Liz and her husband, Nutmeg overcame so much.
Sadly, between the time Liz submitted Nutmeg’s initial story and the time I was getting ready to write it, Nutmeg crossed Rainbow Bridge right before her 15th birthday. Like many of us whose lives have been blessed with a special mill survivor, Liz was devastated.
In the six short years Liz had her, Nutmeg was able to feel all the love she had missed out on for so long. Her suffering and her fears were replaced by cuddles and compassion. No matter what happened, in the end, Nutmeg knew what it was like to be part of a wonderful family.
What would Nutmeg want to tell us humans?
“She would want people to know the horrors of puppy mills and how, in the US, they are very much legal, despite most of us agreeing they are inhumane. She would have also wanted people to know that even if some puppy mill rescues aren’t ‘normal’ in the same sense of a traditionally well-adjusted dog, that mill rescues can still live happy lives and create their new ‘normal’ if you can be patient with them and accept that as being enough.”
In her nearly 6 years of freedom, Nutmeg taught Liz so much about the puppy mill industry and all the laws that need to be changed.
And for Nutmeg, beyond her success of overcoming so many challenges, she was featured on calendars, leggings, blogs and social media posts educating others on the horrors she endured and so many others still do today in puppy mills.
Run free Nutmeg!! I hope you find my Thorp and the two of you share stories about how much you were loved.
**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 firstname.lastname@example.org.**
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