That Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady
The day I picked her up at the airport I gave her a toy, but she didn't understand what to do with it. The leash confused her; she tried to run from it and cracked her little face into a plate glass door. I took her ten months to really respond to her name. You see, breeder dogs in puppy mills don't have names. They also don't have toys or walks or treats or love or any of the things we give our pampered companions.
Our biggest obstacle was house training, but it was never hard to be patient with her when remembering how she had lived. It's sort of difficult to crate train a dog who has lived in nothing but a cage all her life. Where else is she supposed to poop? I was never much on leaving her in a cage anyway. After being accustomed to being out of one, she shook uncontrollably when locked inside.
Lady's original cage was in a stack in a puppy mill where the waste of the dogs above fell on her. When she arrived, she still had some skin lesions and abscesses on her feet from walking on dirty, rusty wire. She was obese from a lack of exercise, and her belly almost drug the ground -- from being stretched so many times, I suppose. Lady was lucky; these were the only problems she had. At least she wasn't blind like a lot of the Shih Tzu coming out of puppy mills. Her rescuers had already given her a few weeks of attention and medical care before she came to us. Oh! -- and they gave her a name.
It was so rewarding to watch her progress. Her first three months were spent mainly under the bed. The next three months, she started sticking her head out just enough so the dust ruffle framed a cute little bonnet around her face. After a year, she sleeps on the rug beside the bed and romps and frolics with her "brother " Tzu, Gizmo, every morning.
Lady tolerates her adopted mom's grooming experiments and sports the wildest Tzu hairdo in town. She loves riding in the car, as long as the trip involves getting strawberry yogurt. She earns her keep these days by modeling doggie bandannas and bows at Gizmo's gift shop (which means she gets all dressed up and snores on the counter.) She went to the beach last spring and took to it like a pro: prancing through the edge of the waves and barking at the gulls, she created quite a stir in her Hawaiian-flowered shirt and gold dog bone necklace. But we learned she still had to conquer some of the finer points of civilization when she walked into the sliding glass door of the condo!
I still cry sometimes when I look at her and wonder how anyone could treat such a gentle, undemanding, grateful Lady that way. I wonder if she remembers? No, that's no way to treat a Lady, a dog or any other living creature.
Seven years later, she's still here. She's probably fourteen or fifteen now. She's old, for sure. The eyes are cloudy and the ears don't work too good either. The old ticker's not what it used to be, and some strange and sudden liver and kidney malfunction almost got her a couple of years ago. But it left just as quickly as it came, and once again that Energizer Bunny bounced back. She always does .... so far.
It's hard to believe that there are still some people out there who don't know what a puppy mill is and ask why she needed rescuing. Why so much effort and expense over one little old, unsocialized, overbred, worn out dog? Aside from the fact that she returns the love a million times over, the following anonymous writing is the best answer I've found, and it's the little flame of encouragement that keeps lots of rescue people going -- when their pain is almost too much to bear.
"As the old man walked along the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally, catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was doing this. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish," countered the other. "How can your effort make any difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand. Tossing it to the safety of the waves, he replied, "It makes a difference to this one."
I'm so blessed to have been able to make a difference for this special one. If you think you could do it, just browse under "puppy mill." You'll find someone who needs you desperately, and if you're not in a position to take one right now, just learn all you can and tell someone else, and ask them to tell someone else, and them to tell someone else, and them to tell someone else.............. Please, for Lady's sake.
July 2, 2000
Lady received an Award for Courage at the IMOM Voices for the Voiceless Rally in Washington, D.C. It reads: "For extraordinary bravery while surviving abuse and neglect and for undeniable courage in giving humans a second chance."
April 9, 2001
Lady died as she had lived -- with dignity and courage and without complaint. She left this world quietly at 4:00 p.m. today. Thank you, Lord, for the nine wonderful years you entrusted her to my care. Thank you for the lessons she taught me. I pray for the strength and courage to continue this fight against puppymills. Please never let me forget that there are still thousands of dogs out there suffering, and keep it in the forefront of my mind to tell someone about them today -- and ask them to tell someone else, and them to tell someone else, and them to tell someone else.............. Please God, for Lady's sake.