Thursday, April 24, 2008

A look back at Henry...

A little history lesson…

Someone commented to me that they didn’t know that I knew so much about puppy mills, and since I wrote the letter and have a link on the side of this page, I thought I would tell the story of how my eyes were truly opened to the horrors of puppy mills.

I volunteered with a rescue organization called Adopt A Lab, which, at that time, handled rescue of Labs or Lab mixes, mostly from shelter settings. I had mostly had puppies that I would keep for 2-3 weeks at a time, along with a couple of adult dogs, one of whom I had to housebreak. Talk about intact male peeing on your leather couch. And a female who would drink an entire bowl of water at a time, unbeknownst to me, and I couldn’t understand why I was tripping over her all the time! Until she squatted and peed a gallon onto my bedroom carpet.

So one day, I receive a call from the president and founder of AAL, describing to me the horrors of the puppy mill dogs that she had just rescued. I was asked to take a little chocolate boy, who was in pretty good shape, just needed a place to live until we could beef him up and find him a new home. Then I got to the meeting place to meet him. Patty takes out of her minivan this bag of skin and bones, which was yellow. He stood shivering on the grass, leaning against her, until he walks a couple of steps forward to greet me with wagging tail. She explains that after getting everyone home, she realized that “Henry” needed more one-on-one care than she could give. The chocolate boy would stay with her, and could I take Henry? He was 6 months old, weighed only 16.2 lbs, and had infections everywhere. We are talking skin, ears, eyes, and to top it off, he had intestinal parasites. In short, he was a mess.

The details of where he came from were soon revealed to me. A “breeder” (puppy mill) in Missouri had over 300 dogs, and was shut down by the state. They were kept in small, mud-filled runs, since they were big dogs. The little dogs were kept in tiny cages barely able to turn around, stacked one on top of the other, never taken out, receiving barely enough food to survive, and no medical care. The breeder knew that he was in trouble, and tried to cover up his sins by overfeeding the dogs the last few days that he had them. This caused them to have massive cases of diarrhea. Almost all of his dogs were sold at auction, and AAL took the 12 that did not sell. They weren’t all Labs, but there was no way that Patty was leaving anyone behind. The trip back to Indiana from Missouri was horrendous. The dogs had almost constant diarrhea, and Patty almost got arrested when she stopped at a hotel for the night…people were convinced that she was an animal hoarder or abuser, and she left before the police got there. When they first started bathing the Lab puppies, they didn’t know what color they were; layers upon layers of poo covered them. Henry had probably had 3-4 baths by the time I got him, but he still stunk to high heaven, and got another bath once we got him home.

The bath itself was uneventful, Henry was very good because while he had been neglected, he had not been abused, so once he discovered the joys of human affection, he basked in the attention. After the bath, I wrapped him in a dry towel and sat with him in my lap on the couch. He was perfectly content, and lay quietly curled up in my arms. At some point though, I had to get up, and so I did, placing him gently on the couch where I had been sitting. That was it…I had christened his spot. And over time, he got more comfortable, as you can see below. For the remaining months that he stayed with us, he laid on that spot whenever we hung out in the living room, and The Fonz never once challenged him. This picture was taken after he had gained about 20 pounds...

I’ll write more about Henry’s trials and tribulations while he lived with us, mainly the miracle that Workaholic didn’t kill him, the fun we had, (think tailgating with Purdue Pete!!) and my struggle to give him up. He found the perfect family that he lived with for 3 years, but unfortunately, he ultimately could not overcome his genes…cancer took him from us on Christmas Eve, when he was only 3 years old. At least he got 2 good years with a wonderful family. Here he is below with his parent's granddaughter. What a handsome boy!!

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