Tag Archives: dogs

Tails: Why I Cry Over Puppy Mills

I am rattled right now.  Somehow, I found myself on the People for PetOWNership  Facebook page.  On that page, they talk about how the protestors of pet stores are liars and lunatics. They actually say the protestors are simply overwhelmed by crazy animal rights propaganda and are acting out without knowing the facts.

What?  No, really, what?

I expressed my view 3 different times.  Explaining that pet store protestors are not acting out nor are they liars or lunatics.  The people protesting the pet stores are there to EDUCATE the unknowing public on where those puppies come from.  They are there to explain that USDA licenses don’t mean didley squat.  They are there to share their stories, often their own personal horrors dealing with pet stores and puppy mills.

Here is why I am rattled…  Lots of people fight for lots of things.  The first amendment, the second amendment, non GMO food, pro-choice, pro-life, you name it.  I fight to end the business of puppy mills.  I didn’t pick that fight because it looked interesting.  I didn’t pick that fight because I LOVE dogs.  The fight picked me.  One day, I found myself among hundreds of mill dogs and my heart broke and my soul shattered.  In front of me were dogs so neglected they didn’t even know what a human hand was.  They didn’t know grass or toys or solid ground.  They most certainly did not know love.

I never thought I would write an animal welfare book, but when you are looking into the empty eyes of a dog, whose tail isn’t wagging and whose body is so stiff and unflinching when you gently touch it – you write a book to share that experience with the hope that people will read it and learn and want to change things.

I spent years after the auctions crying  myself to sleep.  I would picture the dogs who weren’t rescued, still matted and scared.  I would picture them in another barn left alone to rot.  In the middle of the night, I would reach out for Thorp or Penelope and feel tears run down my cheeks because I recalled the thousands of dogs who go without decent food, clean water and even minimal vet care across the country, sitting in USDA licensed kennels who will never see the light of day, let alone a toy or fuzzy bed.

I am rattled tonight because I feel like I can never scream the truth loud enough.  I don’t make this shit up.  Thousands of dogs are rotting away in over 10,000 mills across our country.  Most of them ARE USDA licensed.

My skin has thickened over the last 8 years. I don’t cry as much and I try not to picture the dogs I know who are suffering right now.  The dogs who have eye infections, mammary tumors, and broken legs who will never get the treatment they need and will sit alone in some rusty cage enduring pain for the rest of their silent life.

But, when someone calls me a liar or my fellow rescuers, lunatics, I become enraged.  My heart races and my blood boils not because I “believe” these cruel things about mills to be true, but because I have SEEN these things and KNOW they are true.

One look across my room and there they are laying in front of me.  Two of the thousands of mill dogs, Thorp and Penelope.  Each dealt a horrifying hand at life.  Over 4 years in a mill.  4 years that took 8 years to erase and yet, scars for both of them remain today.

Do NOT call me a liar or a lunatic.  Walk in my shoes and see with my eyes what I have seen and then have the courage or the ignorance to tell me I am a liar.  Anyone who can live through what I witnessed and still believe that USDA licensed kennels are okay, is inhuman.  At the very least, has ZERO compassion for animals.

Do NOT ever call me a liar or a lunatic.  I have witnessed a truth so hideous that I will spend the rest of my life fighting against it.  My heart felt pain and my soul felt anger in such ways that I can never fully express, but each day I use those feelings to make a difference.  I believe, with all of my heart and soul, that I was in that barn for a reason and what I saw fuels my passion to keep going.

I cry over puppy mills because I physically walked through them.  With my very own hands, I pulled mill dogs from crappy cages and hugged them for the very first time.  I saw the fear in their eyes, the desperation in their souls.

And, I still see the ones we couldn’t save – Every. Single. Day.

To learn more about my experience and the truth about pet stores and puppy mill dogs, check out my book,  Bark Until Heard.

 

 

 

Tails: RTO – The Low Hanging Fruit No One is Trying to Pick

There’s celebration in Wisconsin this week.  A bill passed to shorten the stray hold in shelters.  Oh, you probably can’t hear the party, because not everyone is celebrating.  Lost Dogs Wisconsin along with their umbrella organization, Lost Dogs America, tried very hard to stop the bill.  “Why?” you may ask… Well, Lost Dogs America, an ALL volunteer organization, helped reunite over 30,000 families and dogs in 2015.  It seems they know a thing or two about the bonds between pets and their owners.  They are also painfully well aware that most of the shelter systems in WI are broken.  Return to Owner (RTO) rates are tragic with many of the big shelters not making RTO a priority and rarely attempting to find owners or list found dogs on their websites.

LDA pleaded with WI legislation to fix the shelter systems BEFORE shortening the stray hold, but, sadly, they went ahead and passed the bill with no necessary improvements for shelters.  Basically, in the vast state of WI, you now have only 4 days, that is 96 hours, to find your lost dog at a shelter before they can adopt it out, transfer it to a rescue in or out of state, or kill it.  There was some stipulation for a longer hold UNLESS the dog was ill, or its behavior was a danger to the public.  The reality is those two exceptions are subject to so much interpretation that a shelter can act however it sees fit.  One bad cough or loud growl and your dog could be heading over Rainbow Bridge long before you could ever locate him.

Yes, there are statistics that back-up some of the advantages of shorten stray holds.  Stats that show more dogs move through the shelter system quicker – HOPEFULLY resulting in more live release rates, but not always.  I don’t think anyone really challenged those stats, but, instead, argued that in the world of rescue and animal welfare, we should be trying to preserve the human-animal bond, not destroy it.

Return to Owner is an area of animal welfare few people talk about.  You certainly don’t hear the big guys talk about it much (Best Friends, HSUS – both groups who lobbied in favor of the bill).  Yet, RTO seems like an area shelters and rescues should dedicate resources to.  Why are they so willing to spend time and money on adoptions and transfers (even euthanasia) when there is a really good chance the dog sitting in the kennel already has a home?

I remember working at my county animal control… we had a binder for lost dog reports and when dogs would come in, we would check the binder.  We would also check it before placing the dog on the adoption side or euthanizing him.  However, we didn’t really do much else.  There the dog sits for a week and we just “hope” someone calls or comes in for him.

Not everyone who loses a dog knows where to look or even what to do.  LDA is trying hard to change that by educating those who contact them on the many avenues there are to find your dog, from fliers to website postings, to calling every vet, shelter and animal control in a 100 mile radius.  The truth is unless you are active in the rescue world, not many people know all the shelters and vet clinics in the area.  Rescue people take that kind of knowledge for granted.

LDA partners with Helping Lost Pets.  Helping Lost Pets has an INTERNATIONAL, FREE database that allows individuals, shelters, vet clinics, etc. to post lost and found dogs (as well as pinpoint sightings) on a map based system.  It is truly brilliant.  I did mention is was FREE, right?  Yet, there are shelters across the country NOT using it?  Shelters right in WI who choose to do nothing instead.  How does that make sense?  An animal shelter should be using all possible resources to get that dog home.

RTO is really the low-hanging fruit when it comes the array of possibilities of getting a dog out of the shelter.  To adopt a dog out, he has to stay for the stray hold period, might need medical care, he has to pass some type of temperament test or behavior assessment, he needs to have all his vaccines and be neutered, he has to sit on the adoption side waiting for the right person to want him, maybe he goes to adoption events.  Once someone adopts him, there is a fairly decent chance, he will be returned and the entire cycle starts again.

To transfer a dog, the shelter has to have partnerships with rescues in the area that they manage, the dog has to stay for the stray hold period, be medically treated,  the shelter has to reach out to rescues hoping someone will take him, they have to arrange transfer dates and at times vaccinate and neuter the dog before the rescue will take him.

To euthanize a dog, he has to stay for the stray hold, he has to be behaviorally assessed, he might have to be medically treated and, then, the decision is made to be euthanized.  For most shelter workers, that is the hardest and saddest part of the job – placing unbelievable amounts of stress and depression on shelter workers, causing them to quit the job sooner.

To return a dog to owner, the shelter simply has to post the lost dog in a database.  When the owner comes to get the dog there might be microchipping or a neuter involved, but there is no behavior assessment, no extended shelter time and rarely a chance that the owner is going to return the dog a few days later.  RTO is ALWAYS a quicker, happy ending.

RTO is not a number many shelters use to measure success, but if your dog gets lost wouldn’t you want to believe that getting him back home is part of the shelter’s responsibility as an animal welfare organization?  Wouldn’t you want to assume that a shelter’s first priority is to find the owner, not just get the dog out the shelter?

My favorite phrase is, “Dogs don’t fall from the sky.”  Not really just a phrase, a fact, right?  Yes, in some areas strays are a prevalent reality.  Yes, some people (very few) lose their dogs and don’t even try to find them.  I have found quite a few dogs in my 45 years and not one has been a stray.  Each one had a family desperately looking for them.  Interesting that when good Samaritans find dogs they almost always make incredible attempts to find the dog’s owner, yet, shelters and rescues don’t?  The irony… and the very sad reality that needs to change NOW.

Truths: Have Faith and Believe in your Dreams

I had a moment yesterday.  The Puppy Mill Project was at an event, Hiking for Hounds, and I was selling my book, Bark Until Heard.  Angie had this great idea that Thorp should pawtagraph books, so I finally got an ink pad, and, for the first time, Thorp was signing books,  too.

Later in the day, Christine photographed Thorp signing the book and texted it to me.  When I opened it and looked at the photo, my heart melted.  It was perfect.

I thought about the picture the whole ride home.  I can re-call 7 years ago, March 12, like it was yesterday.  The smells, the noise, and the pure heartache remain amazingly vivid for me.  I also remember the exact feeling I had in my soul when I decided in an instant that I would rescue Thorp and write a book about him.

I am by no means a religious person.  I don’t go to church or read the Bible, but I can attest that the feeling I had that day had to be driven by something much larger than me.  I remember sitting in the crappy bleachers, looking around at what seemed like Hell to me, and being overcome with this idea that I could do something to make a difference.

I knew writing the book about Thorp was something I had to do.

It was a difficult road, no doubt.  The writing wasn’t always easy, but the entire journey was  challenging.  Going to two more auctions nearly did me in – emotionally.  Being surrounded by broken spirited dogs is beyond gut wrenching.  The pain and the anger and helplessness were hard to wrap my head around at times.  The fighting and the pleading with legislators took a toll.  Every beat of my heart was wrapped up in the emotional roller coaster ride I spent 7 years on.  Yet, I never once chose to give-up.

The book is out and the reviews have been great.  The last few months have been surreal to say the least.  I am still attempting to take it all in.

Seeing Thorp making his paw print under the words “Bark Until Heard” not only made it all very real, but made me realize how important it is to listen to your soul and to have faith in things bigger than yourself.

I certainly didn’t know the extent of the journey when I felt the desire to save Thorp and pursue writing his story.  I only knew it had to be done.  Now, I find myself at these wonderful dog events being able to share my story and raise the awareness of puppy mills.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are volunteering their time to rescue dogs and improve their lives.  I get to meet adopters whose lives have been changed by their rescue dogs. I spend time petting dogs of every single kind of breed or combination. My heart is full.

I can’t stop smiling.

It isn’t and it never was about “writing a book.”  It has always been about so much more.  I am not a life coach, but I just want to encourage others to follow what they feel in their heart, to listen to their soul when it speaks.  Have faith and believe in your dreams because not only are they possible, the journey they take you on is far better than you ever imagined.

Bark Until Heard is my first book.  It can be purchased on amazon or signed copies can be bought on my web-site beckymonroe.com.  

 

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
www.sdhumane.org California

Protest, 1 PM National City Puppy & Min Toy Puppies
https://www.facebook.com/events/136106673403868/, San Diego, Ca

Awareness Day Proclamations
Brower County and Maimi Dade County Florida

Paws For A Cause Meet and Greet
www.facebook.com/PFACG Georgia

Indiana Puppy Mill Project, Tails on Trails, Fort Wayne
www.facebook.com/inpuppymillproject Indiana

Legislative Meeting on Puppy Mills
www.wp.iowavca.org Iowa

Bailing out Benji 30 protests days 30
www.bailingoutbenji.com Iowa

The Puppy Mill Project, Chicago March
www.thepuppymillproject.org Illinois

Petland Protest, 12-4 PM Roundlake, Il
https://www.facebook.com/events/1466305717012702

Harper College Animal Rights Club, leafleting Palatine, Il
www.goforward.harpercollege.edu

Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills, Protest Tropic Pets, Waterboro
www.facebook.com/mainecitizensagainstpuppymills.com Maine

Boots Place Against Puppy Mills, Protest, Rockville
www.bootsplaceagainstpuppymills.com Maryland

Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Micigan, Human Chain through Novi
www.michiganpuppymills.com/ Michigan

Protest Amaze’n Farmyard/Clearview Kennels, Minn, Mn
https://www.facebook.com/events/162206974115850/

Petland Protest 11-2 PM 6131 Ronald Regan Dr, St Louis, Mo
more info: “leannefritsch@yahoo.com”

Residents Against Pet Stores in Cherry Hill, Protest
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1597746227155105/?fref=nf NJ

Ohio Voters for Companion Animals Ohio
www.ohiovotersforcompanionanimals.com

Boycott The Family Puppy Store – Human Chain Toledo
https://www.facebook.com/tfpboycott Ohio

Leo’s Helping Paws, Puppy Ribbon Project, Lancaster, PA
http://www.leoshelpingpaws.org/

Puppy Mill & Backyard Breeders Awareness Day 9/26
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Puppy-Mill-Backyard-Breeders-Awareness-Day-2015/481388368730540 Peach Bottom, PA

Puppy Mill Awareness Austin, Festival
www.pmadtx.com, 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.