I have a new companion dog. My mother suggested his name–Sparky. It suits him well. With a reddish-brown coat highlighted in white accents at his chest and paws and a little greying on his muzzle, Sparky entered my life just a few short weeks ago. Upon the losses of my Sophie and Izzy this past autumn, I have been one very sad human. Sophie was with me from the age of eight weeks until November 23, just shy of her fourteenth birthday. Izzy was with me for over five years. Izzy was the first dog I fostered as a rescued puppy mill dog. She was estimated to be only about nine years old when she passed of an apparent heart attack. Sadly, we were only about five minutes from the vet’s office when her heart gave out. To have two of my dogs die within five weeks of each other after they had been my companions for many years, shook me to my core. Any animal lover can understand that fact. At first I considered (very briefly) the possibility that I would live without a canine companion for a while during the grieving process. As anyone who has gone through the process knows, grieving never completely ends. With time we become less sad and we may even experience longer and longer episodes of joyful reminiscences as opposed to sad, end-of-life memories…but the grief can come back at any moment. Raging and angry or quiet and sad, grief takes many forms.
Up front, in my conscious thought, I choose happiness. My subconscious may have other plans for me, especially in dream state, but I dismiss that as quickly as I can and get back to the reality of what “is.” If you have ever studied the habits of a companion dog, you know they live in the “now.” They can remember the past, they can anticipate the future (as when the treat bag is pulled from the cabinet, or the garage door goes up signaling “Mommie is home”) but, for the most part, dogs live in the present…the reality of what “is.”
My current present is a little dog rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio named Sparky. This little fourteen pound dog is a mix of a Papillon with, possibly–just guessing, a dachsund. According to the information my vet, the rescue group at Serenity Animal Hospital, received, Sparky is a retired “breeder.” By retired the mill people meant to say ready-to-be-killed. That is what happens to dogs retired from puppy mills. They are put to sleep. Which is a nice way of saying they are killed. Sparky is not ready for the “long sleep” yet. Estimated to be about eight years old, he is full of life and a bit of a spitfire. Curious about everything, ready to squeeze into or around fences, barriers, or partially opened doors, this little papillon is full of life. Upon investigating the potential lifespan of a papillon I found that Sparky could live to be sixteen. So, at half his life expectancy, the puppy mill people were ready to end his life. All I can say is, thank God for the rescuers.
More and more people need to jump into the conversation about abolishing puppy mills. Spread the word as best you can. These days most of us have seen, or have looked away from, advertising depicting the deplorable conditions in which dogs are forced to live while penned up in a small crate at a puppy mill. Even if a person cannot afford to adopt a rescued animal, or are unable to donate time or money to a rescue organization, you can still pass along your condemnation of puppy mill owners and horrific practices.
May I be the first to say to the person reading this post who chooses to take a step toward helping innocent, abused animals–thank you–thank you very much.