I never met him but his story is all too familiar to me. Ralphie, a sweet Basset Hound, was rescued from years in a cage as a breeding stud in a puppy mill. He finally found his freedom and was adopted by Dana Mania, a dedicated volunteer with Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue. After living with and being loved by Dana, her husband and many other canine friends for just two short years, Ralphie passed away last week. It isn’t fair, to suffer for so many years then to finally find freedom and love, only to die once he knew what it was to be loved. It’s a bitter pill for Dana to swallow and so difficult to accept. Our hearts go out to her, for all she did for Ralphie to help him to adjust and for loving him despite his typical puppy mill dog quirks. 

She’s not the alone. Steve Jackson and his wife adopted Camille from Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in 2007 and renamed her Callie. Callie had been a very psychologically damaged dog from her years of captivity in what must have been the worst of the worst puppy mill. But through the love and patience of first her foster mom, Dawn, then finding her forever home with the Jacksons, Callie flourished and was enjoying her freedom. Cancer struck and she was gone only a year after being adopted. Like Ralphie, Callie only knew freedom and love for a very short time. 

Callie Jackson

I could give many more heartbreakingly similar examples like Ralphie and Callie. Why do these dogs so often die soon after being released from their lives as prisoners in puppy mills when they now have so much to live for?  It’s likely due to several factors:

–          Stress

–          Poor genetics (It’s a known fact that puppy mill operators don’t care about the health history of their breeding stock)

–          Inadequate nutrition

–          Lack of veterinary care (poor dental hygiene may lead to many health problems)

–          No exercise

All of these issues are bound to take a toll on the dogs’ bodies. Additionally, the adjustment to living in a brand new world – a house with people, strange noises, etc. – is also stressful like a prisoner trying to adjust to life on the outside after living in a small world for so long. Change, even if we perceive it as better, can still cause stress. 

Stories like these renew my anger at the fact that puppy mills are still so prevalent, and that so many people remain unaware of where their puppies are coming from. I met a man the other day who proudly told me that his daughter bought a rare breed of dog, a Husky mixed with a Chihuahua (?!??!) and she paid $1500 for this “special breed”.  Without hesitation, I shook my head and told him that it was a shame that she spent that kind of money for a mutt that she could have found in a shelter for $100 adoption fee. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, people do more research on what kind of TV to buy than the dog who will be sharing their lives. It’s time to educate people – in honor of the Ralphies and Callies and other dogs who are locked in cages making puppies for people who don’t know where they come from.