Mid-Life Ramblings; Sanity Optional

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Puppy Mills

I’ve mentioned here before that I volunteer for a wonderful Bichon Frise rescue group called Small Paws Rescue®. It started 10 years ago when two women, who met on the internet and shared a love for Bichons, decided they needed to do something for all the hurting little Bichons out there. From there Small Paws® has grown into one of the largest breed rescues in the world with over 6,000 volunteers.

Our Nate came from Small Paws® just over two years ago. He had been a stray found in north Texas and placed in a kill shelter. His time was just about up when Small Paws® found out he was there and took him in. He was sent to us as a foster but we failed Fostering 101 and happily adopted Nate a mere 11 days later.

Since Nate’s arrival we have managed to successfully foster Sam and Sadie, who are half-Bichon and half-Shih Tzu. As you can read here they are now living a wonderful life in North Carolina. I get updates on them periodically and my heart just bursts to hear how great they are doing.

E and I recently decided to open our hearts and home to another Small Paws® rescue and this morning I drove to the airport and picked up Leah. She is a puppy mill rescue out of Missouri and this is a first for us as we’ve never had a dog from a mill. She’s really skittish and wouldn’t even get out of her kennel for me a while ago. Of course, coming from a puppy mill, she doesn’t even know what it’s like to be a dog.

Leah is here in my office right now. The door to her kennel is open but she isn’t venturing out. That kennel is her little den; her safety zone. As I sat here watching her I realized that she’s lived her entire life of three years in a cage. She’s had little or no human contact. She served only one purpose – to have litters of pups to make money for the miller. Puppy mill dogs are not pets and if they get treated as well as livestock, they are lucky. Leah has no idea what it’s like to be loved. She doesn’t trust humans. Her little soul is broken and it makes me both sad and angry.

Leah and others like her are the reason that no one should ever buy a dog or cat from a pet store. The puppies are taken away from their mothers too early and shipped in large trucks to the pet stores where some of them don’t live to be sold. The mothers and studs are kept in cages all of their lives usually stacked one on top of the other. No one lets them out to potty. Most likely they’ve never even touched grass. Their little toes are splayed from having to walk on the wire cage floor. They are kept outside in rickety buildings with little or no heat or air conditioning and often no windows.

Puppy millers are not legitimate breeders. They couldn’t care less about the breed itself. They don’t care about puppies born with hereditary diseases or genetic deformities. I can’t tell you how many of these puppy mill dogs have heart murmurs – huge holes in their hearts – that are then passed on to their offspring. Puppy mill dogs don’t often get to see a vet if they are sick or hurt. They’re just put down as vets are way too costly and eat into the puppy profits.

Legitimate breeders will not sell their pups to pet stores - I promise you that because legitimate breeders care about the breed and breed for standard. Big stores like PetsMart and Petco do not sell dogs and cats. These are corporations with scruples. Other chain pet stores don’t have these same scruples. We have one of those stores here in Baton Rouge too. I won’t go near the place. Well, once I did because I knew they had Bichon puppies in there (for $1200!) and I wanted to see if they were healthy. I went in and asked to look at them one at a time as if I were interested in buying one. I checked each little pup from head to toe. I also questioned the sales clerk about where they get their puppies. Poor kid gave me the spiel that they are taught – “We get them from local breeders.” I told him I knew better then left and cried when I got into the car.

Small Paws® has worked hard over the past few years to get the broker prices down on Bichons and make them not worth breeding. Since it has become hard to make money on them bred to other Bichons, millers have started cross-breeding them with other breeds to make “designer puppies” like half-Bichon and half-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to create a “Cavachon”. They then sell them to pet stores who sell these pups for over $1,000.00 even though they are just mutts. You can’t register a “designer dog” because they aren’t pure bred. They are truly no different than your run-of-the-mill shelter dog except that someone paid a LOT of money for them and that their parents suffered in a mill somewhere.

Fortunately, a lot of breeders have gotten rid of their Bichon stock and have given them to Small Paws® and other Bichon rescue groups. Dogs like Leah will finally have good lives. It’s going to take her a while and she may never be as outgoing as a normal dog but Leah will learn to trust humans and she will know love. I can guarantee that because until she is adopted, she will be living with us where she will be spoiled and well loved. Leah will never have another litter of puppies again. No one is ever going to make money off of Leah again. Our dogs have a job now to teach Leah how to be a dog. She will someday feel safe outside of that kennel. Beginning today we start working on healing that broken little soul.

Want to read more about the horrors of puppy mills? Click the links below or Google "puppy mills" and please help Small Paws® and other rescue organizations put puppy mills out of business by not buying dogs or cats from anyone but a legitimate breeder, never from a pet store and by not patronizing pet stores that sell dogs and cats. Only when the demand stops will the supply cease.

I thank you and Leah thanks you too.




Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thank you, Johnny Mathis

I don’t know about most of you out there but music marks so very many moments in my life.

We have a new radio station KDDK 105.5 in the area that plays what I consider to be classics – Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett and all the greats. They also throw in some show tunes and the most eclectic mix of Musak-type tunes, songs in French and Spanish, patriotic songs, old time religious songs, and the occasional operatic aria. After my Kidd Kraddick fix every morning, I tune in to this new station promptly at 10 am. I spend the rest of the day either singing or humming along or laughing as I try to figure where they dug up a particular song. I would go out of my mind if I couldn’t have music in the background while I work.

One of the first songs I ever heard played on this station is the one that endeared me to the place forever. I was driving along and heard Johnny Mathis’ “Sweetheart Tree” - a song written by the great Johnny Mercer for the movie "The Great Race" directed by Blake Edwards.

They say there’s a tree in the forest
A tree that will give you a sign
Come along with me to the Sweetheart Tree
Come and carve your name next to mine

They say if you kiss the right sweetheart
The one you’ve been waiting for
Big blossoms of white will burst into sight
And your love will be true evermore

Johnny is Mom’s very favorite singer. She has been fortunate enough to have seen him live several times through the years. “Sweetheart Tree” is one of Johnny’s lesser known tunes so it’s not an easy song to find (as I found out one birthday sometime back when I decided I had to find it on CD for Mom). But the second I hear it I am transported back to 1965 at age 4 when Johnny’s album “The Sweetheart Tree” was brand new. I was an only child at the time and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. “Sweetheart Tree” quickly became our favorite and I remember I would often beg Mom to play our song. She would put that album on the phonograph and we would dance.

I hadn’t heard the station replay “Sweetheart Tree” since the first day I listened but this afternoon they dug it out again. On the first occasion, I had called Mom and turned up the radio so she could hear it over the cell phone. Today I just sat back in my chair and let my mind remember a time when it was just my mom and I at home every day. There wasn’t a set up twins there taking up a lot of her time (not that I’m not glad they came along later), none of the mother-daughter battles of the teenage years had happened yet, I hadn’t discovered The Beatles, and I still believed moms were perfect in every way. Johnny Mathis sang and we twirled and giggled and sang “Sweetheart Tree” together - just Mom, Johnny, and me. I have lots of wonderful childhood memories but this one ranks way up there.

So Johnny, I’ve made fun of you through the years and have given my mom a hard time for being such a huge fan of yours, but the truth is that 40+ years ago you gave my mom and me something special to share and I really have to thank you for that.