Monthly Archives: September 2015

Tails: What Puppy Mills Mean to Me

September is Puppy Mill Awareness month.  In some ways, I have completely overlooked this fact.  The truth is, to me, every day is about puppy mill awareness.

If you haven’t read my book, Bark Until Heard, you don’t truly know how much puppy mills mean to me.  See, my entire life changed the day I walked into the Amish auction barn and saw hundreds of dogs bought and sold like commodities.  Commodities no one gave a shit about.

Mere mention of that day and my entire soul is catapulted into a different time.  I can feel my heart stop and feel the tears well up in my eyes.  When you love dogs like I do and you see them so spiritually broken, there are no perfect words to describe what is the most heinous experience you will ever have.

That day was 7 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I rescued a dog I now call Thorp.  He was unlike any dog I had ever seen – even after years of working in a county shelter.  He was an empty shell.  He looked at me with such sadness.  He didn’t know grass or stairs or toys or a warm bed.  He certainly didn’t know the love of a human being.

He changed me in ways I never saw coming.  He taught me patience and the ideals of unconditional love.  He helped me find my courage to fight against the mills and to fight for dogs everywhere – locked in metal cages, forced to breed, unable to ever see the light of day.

Today, Thorp is a certified therapy dog.  He works with kids who are emotionally and behaviorally challenged, something Thorp understands.  For 5 years, Thorp has been a hero at Clay Academy.  We just returned last Wednesday to start the school year.  Within minutes of our arrival, Thorp was surrounded by kids who love him.  They brushed him and talked to him.  Many of them have grown with him and are now teaching the younger students about Thorp and his past.

Our journey is definitely one I will continue to share.  It is so full of pivotal moments and beautiful accomplishments.  However, the number one thing I want people to take away is that our journey is real.  Thorp lived a life of hell in a crappy cage for over 4 years.  I saw him and hundreds of other dogs bought and sold like used cars.

There are THOUSANDS of dogs just like Thorp waiting for someone to free them, so they can change the lives of others.

Puppy Mill Awareness month is great, but the message needs to be heard every single day until mills are a thing of our past.  Please, NEVER buy a dog or cat.  ADOPT.  And, take a few minutes to contact your legislators and demand justice.  I no longer find hope in “making mills better” instead, we need to stop the selling of cats and dogs in pet stores and replace them with rescued animals.  Once we stop the demand, the mills will close.  They were never about the love of the dog, only the greed and profit.

I will be at the March this Sunday, September 27, in Chicago on Michigan Ave.  Join me and help make a difference.  You can register and find more information at The Puppy Mill Project.


Tails: It is Time to See the BIG Picture

Every day people, just like me, post things declaring “millions of dogs and cats euthanized each year.”  Yet, I don’t think many of the people who post those phrases truly grasp the gravity of the words.

I write this blog under duress.  I am pissed off and frustrated.  I feel completely helpless and overwhelmed.  Once again the municipal shelter system is to blame.  For me it is CACC, but I know Chicago, sadly, isn’t alone.  There are hundreds of these crappy shelters across the United States.  Hundreds of shelters killing thousands of animals for NO good reason.

Let me describe my current situation.  A woman contacted me through Facebook.  Her rescue would like to pull two dogs who are “transfer only” from CACC, but her rescue has not been approved yet as a Homeward Bound Partner, so she can’t.  Unfortunately, like her, our rescue, who applied months ago, has not been approved either, so I can’t help her.

Before I continue down what I deem a horrific path, let me address the issue of “transfer only” because, it, too, is one of the ridiculous practices of CACC.  There are hundreds of “transfer only” dogs listed everyday for CACC.  Transfer only means that the dog must go to an approved rescue.  If no rescue pulls it, it will be killed.  The crazy thing about this policy is that we have pulled “transfer only” dogs only to turn around and adopt them almost immediately to people living in Chicago.  The very same people who would have adopted the dog at CACC.  The process would have been quicker and cheaper.  Our adoption fee is $300, CACC’s is like $70.  Why does a perfectly good dog have to be “transfer only?”

I have attended meetings at CACC only to hear their volunteers voice the same concerns.  They say repeatedly, “We never have any dogs for adoption.  People come here from all over the city on a Saturday and the adoption room is empty.”  So, the citizens leave pissed off and never return because who wants to waste their time?

CACC could have lots of dogs for adoption – all different kinds of dogs.  The dogs we pull are small, fluffy dogs – the cute ones – the ones who are almost always easily adopted.  There is no reason why CACC can’t be adopting these dogs out themselves.  Well, there are a few reasons but they only scream words like, “lazy, irresponsible, uncaring, pathetic, etc…”

Back to the scenario…  So, knowing that I can’t help this woman and her rescue,  I turn to FB contacts begging for help.  No answer.  Two dogs are sitting in a city shelter days from euthanasia… there is a rescue who is willing to take them…and yet, absolutely nothing can be done.  Can anyone feel my rage?

I got comments, of course I did.  “Quit whining and network.”  (I believe that is what I am trying to do) “I won’t help anyone right now, there are too many hoarders.”  (So fear of a possible hoarder trumps saving the life of these two dogs?)

In July, I attended the Best Friends Animal Society conference.  I was fortunate to choose to attend  The Kansas City Pet Project session and meet Brent Toellner.  During his presentation he described this scenario:

“Imagine you are walking by a pond and see hundreds of dogs drowning.  You immediately jump in the pond and start saving the dogs by throwing them to anyone who will help on the shoreline.  You don’t ask if they own a fence or if they work all day.  You don’t even care if they have another dog.  You are just grateful that they are willing to help you.”

He went on to say, “That is where we are right now.  Millions of dogs are drowning (dying) in shelters.  We cannot afford to be choosey.”

We have convinced ourselves that saving one is better than saving none.  We say things like, “Saving the life of one dog might not make a big difference, but it is everything to that dog.”  The truth is WE can save them all, if we are willing to fathom the whole problem and not just the two eyes staring us in the face.

No, you or me can’t take a million dogs into our homes, but we can create policies and procedures that take into account the BIG picture and not just a few dogs at a time.

The truth is if we really want to save them all, we can no longer compartmentalize a problem that is in actuality a monumental disaster.  We MUST see the entire picture.

In a nation euthanizing a million good dogs a year, it makes ZERO sense that it takes months to process a rescue application, especially in a giant city euthanizing thousands of dogs a year.  If the applications were processed faster, MORE dogs would be leaving that shelter sooner.

Oh, I know, some of you are worried about hoarders or dog fighters or all of the other terrible possibilities, but as you sit there, why not start counting the number of dogs killed while you were wasting time thinking about all the “what ifs.”  Euthanasia is a given, for each dog you ponder cautiously, at least 5 other wonderful dogs are killed.

If we truly want to save them all, we have to stop being so cautious.  We have to believe what is actually true: there are more good people than bad.

We have to bank on these odds because the numbers don’t lie.  Millions of dogs are killed each year.  We can either choose to change that statistic or we can continue to drag our feet and let dogs die.

Tails: March Until Heard

This Sunday, I will march down Michigan Ave. in support of National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, September 27th. It will be my first march, but my fight started 7 years ago when I walked into my first Amish barn and saw lifeless dogs bought and sold like junk.

Seven years ago, I estimate that 1 in 100 people knew what I meant when I said the words “puppy mill.” Today, I estimate that to be 1 in 25. The message, long in the making, is quickly becoming louder. We are being heard.

84 cities across the nation have bans on the retail sale of puppies unless they come from rescues and shelters. More cities and counties are in the process of adopting similar ordinances. The message is strong and it is simple, but it is not without contention.

I believe that we are on a precipice of enormous change for mill dogs everywhere. I believe that we have reached the 2nd stage of truth as quoted by Arthur Schopenhauer, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed and third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

For years, those of us fighting for mill dogs were ridiculed, often ostracized for caring more about dogs than kids. We overcame such initial scrutiny and as our fight has grown momentum and tripled in strength, we are being met with anger, often pure rage.

Recently, we have been called controversial, as if exposing the horrific reality of mill dogs is questionable.   The people we are fighting are running out of options. They have gotten mean and nasty.

It can be frightening to go up against such violent and irrational individuals, but we cannot show fear. We cannot succumb to their tactics. We must march on…

That is what we ALL need to do on September 27th National Puppy Mill Awareness Day. We will walk together – unified in our mission and strong in numbers. We will march and show we are here to educate, to bring awareness, and to fight for the dogs who have no voice.

Fierce opposition based on greed and cruelty is opposition we are more than willing to take on… For the love of dogs of everywhere,  for the freedom of mill dogs locked away in dark barns and for the future of canine companionship, we will walk and we will be heard.

What we speak will soon be the self-evident accepted truth.

*** For information about the Chicago March visit the Puppy Mill Project.  For information about other events on National Puppy Mill Awareness Day or how to get involved visit The National Puppy Mill Project.   Here are some events around the nation:

San Diego Humane Society Adoption Event California

Protest, 1 PM National City Puppy & Min Toy Puppies, San Diego, Ca

Awareness Day Proclamations
Brower County and Maimi Dade County Florida

Paws For A Cause Meet and Greet Georgia

Indiana Puppy Mill Project, Tails on Trails, Fort Wayne Indiana

Legislative Meeting on Puppy Mills Iowa

Bailing out Benji 30 protests days 30 Iowa

The Puppy Mill Project, Chicago March Illinois

Petland Protest, 12-4 PM Roundlake, Il

Harper College Animal Rights Club, leafleting Palatine, Il

Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills, Protest Tropic Pets, Waterboro Maine

Boots Place Against Puppy Mills, Protest, Rockville Maryland

Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Micigan, Human Chain through Novi Michigan

Protest Amaze’n Farmyard/Clearview Kennels, Minn, Mn

Petland Protest 11-2 PM 6131 Ronald Regan Dr, St Louis, Mo
more info: “”

Residents Against Pet Stores in Cherry Hill, Protest NJ

Ohio Voters for Companion Animals Ohio

Boycott The Family Puppy Store – Human Chain Toledo Ohio

Leo’s Helping Paws, Puppy Ribbon Project, Lancaster, PA

Puppy Mill & Backyard Breeders Awareness Day 9/26 Peach Bottom, PA

Puppy Mill Awareness Austin, Festival, Tx

Wisconsin Citizens Against Puppy Mills Protest 9/26 Wi
Wisconsin Citizens Against Puppy Mills

Petland Protest off Milton Ave, Janesville, Wi
1-5 PM

International *****

Puppymill Awareness Working Solutions, Ottawa Ontario
9/19 Awareness Event Pet Value Kanata

Puppy Farm Awareness Walk, Penang, Malaysia

Truths: I will continue to fight for the dogs despite world tragedy

Last night I found myself in tears watching the video footage of the body of a small child wash up on a Turkish beach.  He is another victim of the Syrian migrant crisis.  Thousands of innocent people fleeing their country just to save their own lives.  He, his brother and their mother all died when they fell off the small rubber boat attempting to cross the sea to start a new life away from war and terror.

The news coverage showed the dead boy face down on the beach as well as the gut wrenching footage of the father in tears.

Earlier this week, a police officer was shot in cold blood in a town adjacent to where I grew up.  A town where violence didn’t exist.  A town I spent countless hours in as a child walking the streets, playing freely, picking daisies with my great grandma.  The tragedy took place only blocks from my grandma’s home.

The officer went to my high school.  His younger brother once a good friend of mine.

Each day I write in defense of animals.  I fight against puppy-mills.  I advocate for shelter animals.  I encourage people to adopt.  The blood of animals runs through me.  My soul bares their scars.  My heart feels their pain.

Last night, after the news and the horrific image of the Syrian boy and the death of the police officer – so close to my home, I felt forced to take pause.  I questioned my fight for the animals.  It is impossible to see an innocent boy dead on a beach and not wonder if fighting for the animals is what is important in this lifetime.

My head was spinning, my heart was hurting.  Tears were streaming down my face.  Completely overwhelmed by the enormity of tragedies across the globe, it was hard to find peace.

Finally, I took a deep breath and asked myself, “Why do I have to choose?  Why is it animals OR people?”

The truth is that it is about kindness and peace for all creatures.

For me, it starts with animals.  People come with baggage and opinions and beliefs.  It is easy to understand why we can’t get along and why it is, often, so hard to find common ground and live peacefully among one another.

But, dogs come with no predisposed beliefs.  They don’t come with a religion or a race or an income bracket.  They always accept each of us as we are.  They are the most loyal and loving companions on Earth.  To treat them as poorly as we do, makes no sense, and, leaves me little hope for our ability to genuinely love one another.

I believe as a human race we have lost all sense of human kind.

For many, human life takes precedent over animal life.  It is not my belief, but I can find reason to respect it.  However, I challenge those who feel that way, to think beyond themselves and to look around and seek true peace.  The kind of peace that only comes when you see yourself as one small part of the universe.  Where you see humans and animals and the ocean and the sky as equals.

The wholeness of the world cannot be divided into pieces and placed in a hierarchy.  All parts must work in unison.

We have done a phenomenal job destroying ourselves.  Each day more violence, more hate.  The world gasps at the little boy on the beach, only to shake their heads with a degree of acceptance at the terrorism behind the Syrian crisis.  The nation cries at the news of a dead officer, yet continues to believe they are helpless to end the war on police.

Sadly, we have come to accept a degree of violence.  We are learning to live in a world full of opposition and hostility.

The refugees of Syria haunt my dreams.  The police officer’s death in my hometown pulls at my heartstrings, but I will continue to fight for the dogs, because I believe once everyone can see the innocence in the dogs, once everyone can see the pureness of their souls,  once we can treat dogs with compassion, I believe we will have awakened a kinder spirit in our own souls.  We will see, with complete clarity, the meaning of life.  We will understand that we, as humans, are but one part of the universe.  We will understand that our purpose is to be kind and to display compassion indiscriminately.

We will finally understand our life’s journey is to the leave the world a better place.




Tails: There is Joy

I spent the weekend at two festivals all about dogs.  Both were fundraisers for animal welfare organizations, but the general public was invited and encouraged to bring their furry friends.

I watched dogs and their families smile all weekend.  Tails wagged as people introduced themselves and their furry companions.  I saw dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors.  I even saw a brown and white Newfie, a silver lab and an Ibizan hound – dogs I had never seen in person before.  Big dogs, small dogs, barking dogs, shy dogs – I was surrounded by so many 4 legged creatures, I couldn’t help but feel joy.

I don’t really know the last time I felt pure joy around a dog.  I know that sounds crazy, coming from someone so passionate about dogs, but when you surround yourself with likeminded, overly passionate animal rescuers, you can forget the joy a dog can bring to your life.

When you rescue dogs and fight for their welfare every day, you simply forget that dogs are amazing and fun and can make even the grouchiest person smile, because you are too overwhelmed by the horror they managed to survive.  I don’t know the last time I looked into a dog’s eyes and felt happiness.  Instead, I look and see their history, their scars.  I see their past and I feel their pain.

If I dig deep enough, I can recall the dogs I had growing up: Spunky, Lassie, Taffy, and Apples.  The days before I found myself entrenched in animal welfare, I was simply enamored by the unconditional love of a dog.  There was nothing better than a dog – nothing.

In Del Mar, CA there is this amazing dog beach.  The very first time I went I was absolutely overcome with emotion.  I sat on a giant rock and spent hours watching as dogs played in the surf and with each other.  It is my heaven.  To see dogs enjoying life, living free and easy.  To see them loved by people.  To see so many dogs happy and healthy.

Today, as I look into my dogs’ eyes, I see Amish puppy mills, rusty cages, years of neglect.  I see the dirty streets of Chicago.  I feel a sense of panic and loss.  I don’t ever see joy.

It is not that I don’t love my dogs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I would die for them without question.  What is true is that I have to come to love them because of their scars and not for the joy they bring me.

I think I have failed them.

It is one thing to show unconditional love, to remain patient and supportive as an abused dog heals and learns to trust, but it is another to allow that dog’s past to become his only identity.  I admit, in many ways, I have done that.  I do that.

I have become so accustom to horrific stories, that I have overlooked the true beauty in dogs.  I have allowed myself to forget the happiness they stir inside of us and the joy they bring to our lives.

I needed last weekend.  I needed to be surrounded by dogs and their people who simply love one another no strings or baggage attached.

It is too easy to become cynical and jaded and hardened in animal rescue.  I look at dogs and see a world of cruelty instead of a world of love.

Last night, as I snuggled up to my dogs on the sofa, I let them be dogs and not sad stories.  When I held them close and their tails softly wagged, I felt pure joy.