Monday, May 18, 2009


She's very frightened when I open her kennel door and walk in and when I crouch down and put my hand out and I think she might bite and I'd deserve it too, moving too quickly, in a rush, trying to get all the new dogs' photos done. So, I back off, let her take a moment to get use to me, let her come to me and once again she recoils when I try to leash her but she does not bite and I wonder what it is in some dogs that make them hold back, even when under perceived threat, to not use their best defence and strike with their teeth. Whatever instinct it is, I am grateful and my hand comes away uninjured.

I think this one's a shaggy, powderpuff Chinese Crested but I'm terrible at breed identification, mostly because I don't really care that much about ancestry. Here's a dog, in front of me. Big dog, little dog, friendly, shy, energetic, lazy - these adjectives are what matter to me more than knowing the exact breed name.

It's a puppy mill dog, this one, and that's important to know. It explains a lot: her dirty, ragged looking fur, her smell, her anxiety. It's not hard to see her as a puppy, eager for life, full of abundant joy and giving of love - because that is how all dogs come into this world, because that is how we created them to be - and yet she was born and then packed into some dirty metal box where she knew no tenderness, no soft surfaces, no comforting human hand. How confused she must have been to enter into this world where all her experiences were barren, dull, a wholly empty existence. She must've cried and barked endlessly, like all the other puppy mill dogs I've seen in their millers' cages, for something lacking, not even knowing what it is they cry for.

Or they do know, sort of, in that wordless way all animals must know when they are imprisoned, kept alive but held back from life. You can see it in the lunatic pacing of lions in concrete zoos, in the angry eyes of chimps as they throw shit at the gawking, infantile crowds, in the trancelike rocking of elephants swaying back and forth, in polar bears swimming in endless circuits until exhaustion and beyond and hoping for what? Escape? Death?

And puppy mill dogs bark, crying for an unknown life that many will never experience.

I can't tell what this one's been through. She doesn't seem old enough yet to be a breeder and she seems too frail to be a good producer but what do I know what goes through the semi-formed brain of a puppy miller. They breed brother to sister, mother to son, Poodle to Great Dane. Dogs as commodities. Sell off the desirable ones at a good profit margin to pet stores or directly to consumers over the internet. Bury or burn the rest. Continue the cycle.

These are awful thoughts. I need to clear my head, let my anger subside or else I risk scaring the dog even more. I'm pretty sure she'd be able to sense it, smell it, the scent of anger.

She struggles just a bit as I hold onto her collar and put the leash on but then it's on and I release the collar and she pulls back to the full extent of the leash but then after a moment she comes forward and I reach out to touch her but it's still too soon so I stand up and I lead her out of the kennel room.

"You'll be lucky if you get her very far," someone tells me as I walk outside. "She's good for about ten steps and then she wants to come back inside."

We make it about thirty steps and then she puts on the brakes. I could just pull her but I don't think that would make things any better so I sit down on the sidewalk and wait for her to relax.

Soon enough, she starts to explore, just a bit. She walks around, unsure of the strange feeling surfaces beneath her feet. Asphalt, concrete, wood chips, pebbles. Then she discovers the grass. She's happy about that. She inhales the scent of it and of the earth and of all the other dogs that have passed over that spot. Then she lies down in the grass and at first I think it's strange that she's already tired and then I realize she's just enjoying herself. She's feeling the wind blow by her, carrying hope of a good, full life ahead of her.


Anonymous said...

I bet she'll be pretty in one of your future posts by her adoptive family. She's discovered grass, and soon she'll know good people.

Miz Minka said...

I wish I could adopt her!

Barb said...

I've known rescued puppymill dogs who were afraid to go outside, afraid of grass even - she's doing very well by comparison, and hopefully will find the right family before long. And then Happily Ever After!! :-)

Fred said...

Yeah, agree. I think this one'll do alright.