Among the Flowers

A virus lurked among the flowers.

Not of the pandemic kind. Or even the botanical kind. But of the completely preventable kind that ravages young puppies.

They arrived from a breeder that had been hospitalized. Seven puppies of selling age:
Heather, Iris, Lilac,

Pansy, Poppy, Tulip and Rose.

And two mama dogs. Clover and Dahlia.

Beautiful, fragile flowers. How fragile, we would quickly discover.

At four or five years of age (no one actually tracked her age), Dahlia’s body was wrecked beyond repair. What they noted as a possible thyroid issue was a bladder so enlarged it took up most of her abdominal cavity.

None of the puppies had received their first vaccinations. Unbeknown to us, they had already been exposed to the parvovirus. Within a few days, symptoms began to appear in one – and then another.

Quarantine procedures were initiated. The two were taken to the vet for intensive care. One battled and won. The littlest, dear Rose, was lost. The other five, thankfully, remained well.

It was a devastating time full of rage and grief for the destruction that did not need to be if people would only choose responsible breeders.

Cleared by the vet, Clover and five puppies have found their way home. One baby remains with us until she too receives the all-clear. But she is healthy and strong and is making her understandable displeasure with her isolation known.

In the midst of it, little Zoey arrived.

At 15 weeks, she was surrendered for being “viscous and aggressive.” We know it simply as puppy zoomies. Her first family was clearly inexperienced and unprepared. But we’re so grateful that they recognized they were not up to the task. It gave us the opportunity to get Zoey on the right path to a happy, well-adjusted life. Destruction avoided.

To keep her safe, she came to stay with us where she and our Yogi engaged in epic play. All this girl needed was someone who understands that bursts of puppy energy need to be channeled into positive play and that a tired, well-worn-out puppy is a good puppy.

Her new family with their huge yard, love of adventures, and their high-energy, Border Collie-mix boy, are a perfect fit.

Wins and losses. The work of rescue. We lean in, fortify each other, and put one foot in front of another doing all we can for those who cannot do for themselves.

And in the garden, we will plant special flowers in honor of Dahlia and little Rose so they will know that here, they were loved – and will always be remembered.

The Lab Lift

Behind human failing—due to health or incapacity—you can often find animal suffering. This was the case behind a recent large-scale rescue.

In Oregon, a backyard breeder struggled to care for his wife with dementia. I don’t know if the situation was ever better than we found it but things had obviously gotten out of control long ago. When he passed, there was no one to care for the dogs or the other animals on the property. A plea for help went out. Our team responded, arranging for extra transport to bring all 19 beautiful Labrador Retrievers to safety.

It was the largest single intake of adult dogs in our history (I believe) and a monumental task for our volunteers and our devoted vet, Dr. Codde.

All but two had been kept in outdoor kennels without protection from the elements. They weren’t abused – but they were neglected. It was impossible to know how many litters some of the girls had birthed and weaned.

They had probably never seen a vet or had a dental, much less a bath. The food clearly went to expecting girls. The rest were rail thin and all were full of worms, fleas, and filthy ears.

They had never known collars or leashes and were terrified at first not knowing our intentions. As Labs do, they showed remarkable resilience. With one exception, they were well-socialized to other dogs. Maybe it was the cookies and food, but they pretty quickly figured out that humans were okay to be around, too.

Baths and vet exams took all day long. Deworming, dentals, skin treatments, pedicures, and spay and neuters were in store. Minnie appears to have had the most litters. We had to remove her teeth and we found mammary cancer. We removed that too, but it has metastasized and will return at some point.

Georgia’s ear was so badly diseased that we had to perform a TECA (Total Ear Canal Ablation) – removing the ear canal. She is recovering well.

The rest are now all in good health. Twelve are officially adopted and have adjusted beautifully.

Four are home as foster-to-adopt given their extreme shyness and their lack of experience living in a home. One, North, is waiting for his forever people to come and find him.

Here’s the thing. The neighbors had to know. Anyone who purchased a puppy had to know. How this was allowed to go on for so long is beyond us. How these dogs could be AKC-registered shows an appalling lack of oversight or concern by that organization.

Soap box time. This situation could have been reported and ended long ago providing help for the humans and the dogs. Neighbors could have intervened. Had anyone purchasing one of the hundreds of puppies produced by these dogs followed one simple step, the dogs’ circumstance might have been discovered.

When you purchase a puppy, please require that you be invited to meet the mother and puppies at the breeder’s home. See where and how the dogs are kept…inside! Learn how they are cared for and how the puppies are raised. Nothing short of raising these dogs as part of the family will do. For the breeding dogs, it ensures safety, health, and care. For the puppies, it means vital socialization and a healthy start to life.

All responsible breeders abide by and support this practice. Anyone who does not is likely running a puppy mill operation. Your support of them perpetuates dogs’ misery for years on end.

These 19 Labs will all have wonderful second chapters. Even Minnie.

Who knows what became of those who came before them.

Education saves lives. Please help others to understand the importance of this one simple practice. Need more information? Here is our guide to choosing a responsible breeder.

And here’s a look at their first experience with freedom.

The Butterfly Effect

Among those that tower in summer, it is the smallest things that capture our attention –

and our hearts.

They work to feed, but in the process, they help to pollinate.

Without them – there would be no flowers.

They are not our only tiny visitors. Recently, we hosted five four-month-old puppies – although to look at them, you would think they were perhaps half their age.

“Breeder” rejects (I use that term in quotes because no reputable breeder would recognize this person as such) – they arrived malnourished, unsocialized, without vaccinations, and covered in feces and fleas.


Unsold, they were left to fend for themselves. I shudder to think what their fate might have been.

A few weeks later, they were thriving, happy, loved and loving pups ready to go home.

But these tiny things have a job to do – with your help.

Let their story and near plight inspire you to help pollinate education, please. Share with all you know the horrors of puppy mill breeders. Spread the word about the simple ways to identify and choose a responsible breeder. Create a butterfly effect.

For those who absolutely have their hearts set on a puppy, help us put puppy mill breeders out of business by sharing and embracing these important steps. (For the downloadable brochure, visit here.)

Chose a responsible breeder who:

  • Insists on meeting you and your family in person. This is the most important step you can take to make sure you’re getting a great puppy. Reputable breeders NEVER sell their beloved pups to strangers, pet stores, or over the internet.
  • Raises the puppies in the home, not a kennel. They will happily invite you to see where the pup has been raised. They are clean, well-kept, and have appropriate room to exercise.
  • Ask lots of questions about you, your family and how the puppy will be cared for and raised. They will also freely offer references.
  • Happily and proudly introduces you to the parents of the puppies. By meeting the parents – or, at the very least – the mom – you will get a sneak peek of the adult your puppy will become. The dog parents are healthy and well-socialized and never bred at ages too young or too old.
  • Socializes the puppies to people, places, and things.
  • Has a veterinarian individually examine and vaccinate each puppy and has verifiable proof of this.
  • Knows about the breed’s dispositions to certain genetic problems and has the dogs tested for them.
  • Provides a pedigree prior to purchase so you can search the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) database for health certificates.
  • Has active associations with local and/or national breed clubs, breed activities, agility training, dog shows, etc. They show a real interest in the breed other than selling dogs and they abide by the breed club’s Code of Ethics.
  • A reputable breeder is able to knowledgeably answer all of your questions – and welcomes them.
  • Guarantees that they will take their pups back at any point in their lives – for any reason – demonstrating a lifelong commitment to the puppies and to you.

Take the time to find the right breeder – not just for your dog’s sake – but for the sake of the breeding dogs and future pups to come. If the breeder you find does not meet these standards, walk away. If you see something that warrants a welfare check, contact your local animal control. If everyone followed these guidelines, disreputable breeders would be out of business. The butterfly effect: Changing one thing can change everything.