Written by Becky Monroe
Last week I flew to Nashville to comfort my 22 year old daughter, Abby, who had to put her very own first dog, Wrigley, down.
Wrigley was a 9 year old Shih Tzu whom she just adopted this March. She only had him 7 months. Wrigley was rescued from a mass breeding situation. He had lived in it almost 9 years — nearly his whole life.
As one can imagine being my daughter, Abby was raised with dogs and more specifically the latter part of her life she was raised with puppy mill survivors. So, when Krissy, A Bars to Beds rescuer, posted pics of Wrigley needing a home and I suggested my college senior might be interested, Krissy put her at the top of the list. Even though not every rescue would consider a college senior an ideal candidate for puppy mill survivor, Krissy knew that Abby came with a lot of experience.
I wasn’t there the day Abby picked up Wrigley (formerly known as Stuffing), so when Abby called and told me Wrigley was so sweet and was running around her dad’s yard, I panicked! “Running free?!!!” Immediately, I was mom-yelling at her, “Abby, get that dog on a leash, get him a harness. He is a HUGE flight risk! You should know that!”
Abby calmly replied, “Mom, I KNOW, but Wrigley is nothing like Thorp or Penelope or Alice… Honest. He is pretty calm and doesn’t leave my side. It is fine, I promise.”
And for quite a few months that was Wrigley. He was this adorable, super-chill guy who went absolutely everywhere with Abby. He flew down to Florida for Easter. He went to parties at WKU. Hung at bonfires. He boated all summer. Enjoyed Farmer’s Markets. Even made the big move to Abby’s first adult apartment north of Nashville this summer. He took on college road trips to Alabama and Ole Miss this fall and he was happy to sit in his stroller and take in all the trendy sites in Nashville. Heck, he even went to Abby’s school as she began her first teaching job.
Wrigley was everything to Abby and for the first time in his life, Wrigley had his own family. I am certain Abby was everything to Wrigley.
As a parent, you never really know what you are actually teaching your children. Abby’s love for Wrigley showed me that I did teach her how to be compassionate towards animals.
Wrigley came with a few medical issues. As a Shih Tzu raised in a puppy mill, his eyes were in poor shape. He needed prescription meds numerous times a day. He had some arthritis, but overall, he was in fair shape.
Sadly, as their short months together transpired, Wrigley’s arthritis grew intensely worse. There were days he couldn’t even stand up. He began doing less and less. Abby carried him outside to potty and took him to three different vets for opinions. All of which said his body was just tired. He took pain meds and anti-inflammatory medications. And every night, Abby snuggled with him in her bed.
When we saw him about a month ago, we felt like it was Wrigley’s time, but Abby wasn’t ready. How could she be? She’d only had him 6 months.
Last week she was able to see how much he was struggling. He wasn’t drinking any water and he was barely able to move.
I think the almost 9 years in a puppy mill really took a toll on him. Picturing him in some kind of rabbit hutch day in and day out. Never having a chance to stretch his legs and run free. His little bones never had a chance to develop properly.
I feel bad for Abby that her first dog was only able to share 7 months with her, but I also think it was the best 7 months of his life. In such a short time, Abby showed him so much. I think Wrigley experienced more in such a short time than some dogs do in 10-15 years
I am so proud of her. Taking in a mill survivor is never an easy journey. Whether it be emotional baggage or the physical scars or the medical needs they bring with them, it takes a special soul to care for an animal who needs more than most others.
Abby was about 10 years old when we took in our first mill survivor, Thorp. I remember how confused she was when she met him. “Why doesn’t he act like our dog, Buddy,” she asked.
Thorp’s shaking and anxiety made her worry about him and what could be wrong with him. Eventually, she saw Thorp become a certified therapy dog and bring so much calm and happiness to kids with special needs. I think that stuck with her and she realized what a gift mill survivors can be.
Wrigley was a gift to her. He stood by her side as she faced some of the most monumental moments of her life. He was there as she graduated college. He was there when she moved to her first place on her own. And, he was there when she started her 4th grade teaching position in a new town far from home.
Nobody hopes to only have a dog for 7 months, but it is truly miraculous the impact a dog can make in such a short time and the imprint of love they can leave on your soul. Abby will always have that thanks to Wrigley.
If Wrigley could tell us something, I think he would beg us to keep fighting for the dogs still stuck in the mills especially the ones who have been there so very long. He only had less than a year of freedom and while he was lucky to have experienced so much love and life in those short months, he would surely have wanted to get out of the mill so much sooner — or better yet — never have been there in the first place.
**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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