Written by Becky Monroe
This week’s “Survivor Blog” is EXTRA special for a few reasons.
We are sharing the story of not one or two, but THREE mill survivors adopted by one family. And, even better — because of these three special dogs, their family has pledged to match the donations made to Bailing Out Benji for the month of December! So, after you read about these cuties, remember that your donation will go twice as far if you make it by the end of this year.
Judith’s children were all grown up and out of the house when she decided that maybe it was time to take on a more challenging dog — one that otherwise might have a hard time being adopted and need extra care. She knew about puppy mills, but never had adopted a survivor before.
She went to New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue and was drawn to a dog named, Pippa. However, when they went to visit Pippa in her foster home, it was very obvious that Pippa was bonded with another survivor named Juno. Pippa was always next to Juno or hiding behind her.
The foster home felt Pippa would be okay as an only dog and would eventually come into her own. It was never their intention to adopt two challenging dogs, but as a licensed mental health therapist, Judith just knew that separating the two could be devastating for Pippa.
Juno was bred as an “Imperial Shih Tzu” which doesn’t actually exist, but is a way for breeders to use a fancy term to attract unknowing consumers. Juno was smaller in size and not nearly as anxious as Pippa.
While not part of her plan, they left that day with both dogs because they felt it was the right thing to do for both of them.
Judith took Juno, the less nervous of the two, to a shy dog class. After all Juno could do was shake and vomit, Judith realized quickly these dogs would definitely be challenging.
Juno and Pippa struggled with most things outside. Pippa was terrified of the garden hose which they determined suggested that the dogs had been hosed down while in the puppy mill.
With her professional expertise, Judith knew not to push the dogs or to expect them to be “normal.” They just patiently loved them and let them grow at their pace.
“We met them where they were at. I think this is the most important thing of all,” said Judith.
Judith believes that Pippa suffered from canine PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and put her expertise to practice when working with her.
Sadly, Juno only lived for 18 months after her adoption.
Pippa went into a deep depression and they knew immediately that Pippa would need a companion. They adopted Cheetah.
Cheetah was also a puppy mill survivor but probably not a purebred Shih Tzu.
At her first dental appointment, Cheetah’s top jaw broke due to malnourishment in the mill. She had very few teeth and her tongue stuck out all of the time. Despite her physical scars, Cheetah was a happy-go-lucky dog and likely a bit brain damaged. Her vocal cords had also been cut in the mill.
All of the dogs they adopted had varying scars from years of neglect and malnourishment. One eye, few teeth, no vocal cords — making it hard to determine their actual ages.
Yet, the physical characteristics made them little billboards every time they were out in public. Judith always educated people on where the dogs came from and what puppy mills are.
Judith had explained to me that she used her expertise to help transition the dogs to normal life. While not every dog is the same, a few things helped Pippa, Juno and Cheetah feel comfortable in their new lives. A few of these were:
They found a groomer who would come to their home. The dogs really had a lot of issues being groomed. Judith had hoped she could do it all herself, but quickly realized she was not skilled enough to make that work. Luckily, the groomer they found was patient and compassionate and by doing it at home brought the dogs some comfort.
Their vet eventually went into mobile practice and this helped their dogs, too.
They realized that kenneling the dogs, if they went out of town, was not going to be an option for them. They relied solely on pet sitters in their home to make the dogs feel more comfortable.
They were told the dogs were potty trained, but they realized this was not the case. And, in the years they had the dogs, potty training was never completely effective, so the dogs wore diapers and they used potty pads throughout the house.
As with the majority of mill survivors, neither Pippa, Juno or Cheetah exhibited many normal dog behaviors.
Toys weren’t something any of them found pleasure in, but Pippa, the most traumatized of all, did love to play catch. They could throw soft toys for hours. “It was the one time when it seemed like the effects of the trauma dropped away and she showed pure joy. Joy that was felt by us, too,” Judith explained.
Pippa always wanted to be in the smallest bed and always snuggled up with Juno or Cheetah. Neither of them ever seemed to mind. They would always move over and make room for her.
One of the most rewarding days was when Pippa was with Cheetah and she actually went to the door to see who was there.
Judith proudly shared, “They all made such progress showing immense courage and resilience and eventually trusting us.”
Cheetah was the last one to pass away. In total, they only had the three dogs less than 5 1/2 years. “But, what joy they gave us!”
“I promised each of my dear, sweet dogs that their experiences in puppy mills would not be in vain. That I would be their voice. Bailing Out Benji has given me the chance to make good on that promise.” — Judith
Judith will be matching all donations up to $5000 through December. Please consider making a donation to help Bailing Out Benji continue their mission to fight the cruel puppy mill industry so that dogs like Pippa, Juno and Cheetah never have to suffer again.