By Karen Sturtevant as told by Dawna Pedezani
Recently we posted a somber, disheartening report on puppy mill breeding and the innocent souls so affected.
Although many puppy mill dogs never live a life filled with family love, scratches behind the ears and car rides, occasionally, in real life, there are those lucky ones. The ongoing narrative of Tilley and Penney, two rescued English bulldogs, continues with their story being rewritten with high hopes for a fairytale ending fit for a princess (or two).
Most rescue dogs come with stories. Even those that are direct owner surrenders usually come with a glowing history. It often goes like this: great dog, perfect dog, no issues, but needs a new home due to the owner moving or having a new baby or… (the scenarios are endless).
In reality, often there is a behavior issue that has developed with the dog that has become dangerous or is no longer manageable and the dog is being passed on so that the owner no longer has to take responsibility.
Meet Tilley and Penney
They were puppy mill breeder dogs in Iowa. The owner of the puppy mill passed away and the 40+ dogs were going to be put to sleep. A group of her friends drove out, divided up the dogs and took them home to sell them on Craigslist. Since English bulldogs bring good money, this opportunity must have looked like an easy and fast payday.
Dawna got a call letting her know of the posting, checked it out and made immediate contact. The dogs (eight of them) were being kept in a bedroom of a second floor apartment outside of Boston.
The floor was covered with a tarp and newspapers and the dogs were not allowed out. None were leash trained or house trained.
Dawna negotiated with this (man) who posed as a woman for three weeks until he realized that he could not sell these two, and agreed to meet her for a price.
Dawna never buys dogs or pay adoption fees. However, when these three guys opened the back of the van and she saw these two filthy, smelly girls stuffed in the back looking absolutely terrified, she paid the ransom, grabbed the dogs, and could not get out of there fast enough.
Why are the dogs with Dawna?
“There are so many answers to this question: I adore this breed. I am insane. I love being broke and stressed out. Perhaps the truth is a combination of all of those.”
She often gets calls from owners who want to surrender. Once she took a call at 10:00 at night regarding two elderly English bulldogs that were to be euthanized at 8:00 the next morning in Boston. Sometimes she gets referrals from vet clinics or shelters that know about the “English Bulldog Lady in Vermont” and have a dog or dogs that have been surrendered.
She also spends hours each day scanning Craigslist up and down the East coast for English bulldogs who are being thrown away. Dawna’s flown rescues in from as far away as Delaware and Syracuse.
She contacted the owner of Tilley and Penney (their newly given names) after a tip that the owner was about to dump them on a highway or throw them off a bridge because he could not sell them and he was leaving the country.
Heart and Health
When Dawna brought them home, Tilley’s eyes were glued shut. She was 15 pounds overweight from being fed junk food (high carbs, no nutrition).
Her footpads had open bleeding sores and in between each toe she had inter-digital cysts the size of plumbs. Walking was very painful. She was covered in urine and feces.
After cleaning her eyes enough to open them, Dawna could see that they had no tears at all, a condition called chronic dry eye. She also had a blue tint to her eyeball caused by chronic inflammation.
Penney also had infections in both eyes, inter-digital cysts that were so huge and infected that they had begun to rupture. She is missing a toe, most likely due to standing on wire. She too was severely overweight, covered in urine and feces. Both had significant ear infections.
Diet and Supplementation
Dawna uses a combination of food to change the pups’ diets, but the base is one that she prepares at home from organic kale, celery, carrots, cucumbers, bone meal, kelp, organic strawberries, blueberries and coconut oil.
She chops, purees and packages into containers and freezes. She makes 20-30 containers at a time and thaw 2-3 every other day. To this she adds a high quality, grain free, poultry free kibble, and supplements.
Supplements Glyco Flex III, Omega 3.6.9., Canine Plus and Bladder Support from Vetri Science Laboratories have done wonders for the dogs.
Every dog that comes to her goes on the Glyco Flex and Bladder Support. She’s used Glyco for years and would not be without it. She’s now added the Bladder Support after giving it to her puppy mill survivors.
Physical and Emotional Challenges
After three days, one of the dogs began bleeding. Thankfully it was not ill or injured, but in heat.
Both girls will require spay surgery as well as dental procedures. Neither dog was house trained, leash trained or socialized in any way, which is typical of puppy mills dogs.
They are literally a number. Both girls have hot brand tattoos on the underside of their ears. They are bred and bred and then usually killed.
It is difficult to get two, 70+ pound dogs in and out multiple times a day when they won’t walk. Dawna carries them, pulls them, and has a lovely Jeep stroller that was donated for transporting disabled dogs. As they have learned that going out is fun, they are getting more eager to do it. She estimates they are 50% leash trained. That’s progress!
House training is a bigger chore. These dogs have learned to just go when they need to and accept that they are going to sleep, walk, stand and eat in the presence of urine and feces.
Mopping the floor 100 times a day to keep the floor and air clean is a task Dawna does without complaint. She changes their beds the minute they become soiled so that the dogs understand the difference.
Tilley and Penney are taken outside as often as Dawna’s back will allow or when good-deed doers come over to help. They are praised and treated for going out. “We are 50% there. Emotionally they are pretty good, unlike Buttercup and Lulu Belle. Tilley and Penney are social and loving and connected to people.
“However, they also pull away, freeze, or “zone out” if they are caught or know that they cannot get away. Penney is more traumatized. I have every confidence that with time, love and patience they will fully socialize.”
Dogs remain with Dawna until their health is 100% or long-term issues are identified and under control. They need to be house trained and fully socialized if possible.
She does not foster dogs out as she want to assess their personalities and determine what kind of a home is in their best interest.
Every adopter is fully screened through an application process. She tells people that it was easier for her to adopt a human child than it is to adopt an English bulldog from her.
The reality is that she adores every dog and wishes she could keep them all, but that is not how rescue works.
As she sees it, her job is to rehabilitate and socialize then find what she cannot give each dog. She’s had personal dogs over the years; however, the rescues just keep coming. She can only do so much and gives all she can financially, emotionally and physically. Saying that the dogs are lucky to have her is an understatement.
“The level of trauma seen in these dogs is not unlike the trauma that we see in humans subjected to torture, abuse and neglect.”
“The dogs suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder (an inability to bond with others), PTSD (reactivity to noise, sudden movement, and physical contact), anxiety and depression. They do not learn to eat from bowls or drink from bowls; they often eat their feces due to lack of food or food aggression amongst dogs confined together. Injuries are common such as foot, toe and eye injuries caused by pressure washers used to clean cages while the dogs are in them. Blindness and lost eyes are common.”
A Tail of Love
Dawna fell in love with English bulldogs 16 years ago, ironically meeting a puppy at a pet shop in New Hampshire. She went home, researched the breed and pet stores and began the journey of rescue.
Her first girl was a six-year-old retired breeder from a reputable kennel. She chose English bulldogs because she appreciates their comical and stubborn nature.
“They make you work for every inch. They are made famous in the media and as such folks get them and then realize the amount of maintenance necessary to keep them healthy. They are usually ill, bald, infected and a mess. Most folks would not think that 500-1,000 English bulldogs per year are thrown away. Sadly it’s true. They are not easy to place and as such can sit in shelters for long periods of time or be euthanized due to lack of appropriate homes.
The outlook is promising for Tilley and Penney. They are truly two of the fortunate. The future holds big vet bills for spaying, dental procedures, vaccinations, and routine exams. But, spend a few minutes with these comical souls, watch them waddle around the yard, look at their ‘love me’ eyes and you’ll understand why they, without knowing, fill our souls with compassion.
How Can You Help?
- Never, ever, shop for a puppy in a pet store.
- Consider adopting a dog or puppy from the local shelter. Far too many are looking for their forever homes.
- Beware of internet and classified ads. Visit the facility, have a face-to-face with the owners, meet the dog’s parents. Know what you’re getting.
- Educate. Speak up.
- Join an animal rights group. If you can’t donate funds, donate your time and energy.
Do something, anything, to make a difference to educate those about factory dog farming and be an advocate for those who have no voice.
In future blogs we’ll hear the journey of Lou-Lou Belle and Buttercup, two other bullies that now reside with Dawna. Their story will break your heart while their hopeful little faces will help it heal.