I recently had the odiferous pleasure of giving two little puppy mill poodles their first baths.  Dogs who live in puppy mills never get a bath, not on purpose that is.  Some may get squirted by the hose when the cages are cleaned, while others have never felt water and lived in complete filth. Either way, water on their bodies becomes a scary thing when they are finally introduced to a bath after being freed from the puppy mills.

The female miniature apricot was first.  She wouldn’t come to me so I had to corner her in the kennel.  I held her close to my chest to reassure her once I was able to capture her.  She panicked as I tried to place her in the small sink, and the water had not even been turned on.  People terrify her; new situations are frightening.  I slowly allowed the spray nozzle to drip on her as I held tightly to her collar to prevent escape.  She froze in terror and then began to flail, digging her long, needle-like toenails into my arm.  When the water penetrated her kinky coat, the puppy mill stench filled my nostrils and the water in the sink turned brown.  The smell is distinctive and recognizable to anyone who has handled puppy mill dogs. It goes way beyond your basic dirty wet dog smell. Years of urine, feces, rotten food and who knows what else has soaked into the dog’s skin, and the water released the foulness even more.

I lathered and rinsed her several times with dog shampoo made to clean deeply and leave the dog smelling worthy of sleeping next to you on your pillow. As I towel-dried her, I buried my nose into her fluffed head and, despite my efforts, she smelled like a puppy mill dog spritzed with perfume.  It will take months and many baths before the smell finally works its way out of her hair and skin.

The other little poodle that I bathed, a miniature dark gray female, was not at all scared of me.  She even gave me a kiss!  However, she smelled just as bad and was just as frightened of the water – a typical trait of puppy mill survivors.

I came home that afternoon, threw my clothes into the washer and immediately showered.  But that puppy mill smell stayed with me for hours, permeating me as it had the dogs.  I didn’t mind it.  Instead, I smiled because I had helped some dogs feel a little better, showed them love that they deserved and participated in helping them become more adoptable.

Book update: The release is getting closer! My editor and I did the final read-through this week. Stay tuned for the official launch date.