Eleven years ago this month my book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK, was published. It’s a collection of stories about adopted dogs who had been breeders in puppy mills and lots of advice on how to deal with the issues the dogs can have when coming to live in homes. The book was intended both to help the adopters navigate the problems that these dogs presented and to educate people about the horrors of puppy mills and what these sweet dogs endure. I wrote the book based on my experiences as a trainer and behavior consultant, working extensively with adopters of puppy mills breeding dogs. But the thing is, I never actually had one myself! I never adopted a puppy mill dog. I was living in a townhouse at the time without a fenced yard, and that would not have been an appropriate home for that kind of dog. Puppy mill dogs are very fearful and require a fenced in yard for their protection.
Fast forward to August 2021, and now I finally have the chance to experience first-hand what it’s like to live with a dog who has never lived in a house and never been shown love and affection. Larry is my opportunity to “walk the talk.”
Larry is a stunning standard poodle, about 8 years old. He was not neutered, had never seen a veterinarian, had no vaccines, and lived in a small, filthy shed on an Amish farm. He was probably the daddy to many, many “doodle” mixes that are so popular. He smelled terrible when he arrived at Forgotten Oldies Farm. But we didn’t give him a bath right away because it’s very important to take it slowly with puppy mill dogs. The least little thing can scare and startle them. The first goal is to gain their trust.
Because we have other dogs at Forgotten Oldies Farm and due to the poor conditions where Larry lived, he must be quarantined from the other dogs for two weeks just to be sure he isn't carrying any diseases. So he is living in the spacious, finished basement here. Don’t worry, it’s bright and lovely for him, and quite a step up from where he lived before! His crate looks out the door to a patio and down the back yard to the vegetable garden. He has his own entrance and even his own bathroom and refrigerator!
We must very slowly introduce Larry to living in a home. Everything is new to him. The least little sound or new sight will startle him. Just the act of closing the curtains brought a mixed look of curiosity and some fear on Larry’s face. Larry needs time to adjust. He stays in his crate and gets walked seven times a day for at least 15 minutes. While walking, he is beginning his training. He has already learned “walk” which means to walk nicely by our side, “wait” so that he does not try to dash out the gate, and “come.” He is very smart and catches on quickly.
For the first few days, Larry wouldn’t look at us. We were able to pet him but we didn’t push it. Each day, he allowed more interaction. After just one week, he loves to have his muzzle massaged and seeks affection
. We can give him kisses without him pulling from us. He is learning what it’s like to be loved, and he’s loving it!
Larry was neutered today and is really starting a new life for himself. We hope you will follow his journey.