Animal Advocates of B.C.

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"Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace." Albert Schweitzer 1875 - 1965



AAS has heard of this practice before of leaving unprofitable breeding stock in the woods or at the end of a mountain road to save the cost of advertising and veterinary bills and to hide the cruel condition the dog is in.

beegee.jpg (27806 bytes)
It looks like dirt on Bee Gee's nose, but that's not dirt, that is how dry and cracked her nose was.



In the late summer of 2000, I was driving my small pickup home from a business meeting in Kamloops. As an exit sign approached, I found myself turning off the highway, and heading towards it.

"Whoa!" I responded. "I haven’t taken the Barnhartvale turn-off in about a year!" Still, I could clearly hear a voice insisting, "Turn right!"

I had learned to trust my intuition, and so obligingly followed the demand.

The winding country road was beautiful, with small lakes, horse ranches, and breathtaking forests. I watched it all curiously as I drove, wondering why I was supposed to be there. And there, along a stretch far between farms, was a small black dog. "Ah." I sighed. "That’s why..."

Pulling onto the shoulder, I got out and walked cautiously towards the animal. It was sitting quietly, 10 feet off the road, cocking its head as I talked to it. "It’s okay. I’m here to help. Did you get hit by a car?"

And then I was next to it, and my heart sank. "Oh, you poor thing. You can’t see!" The American Cocker looked like she had no eyeballs. And the smell from her ears made one not want to touch her. On closer examination, I realized that her eyes were matted completely shut, so I worked carefully at opening them. What lay underneath the lids were eyes blinded by infection and inflammation. Her corneas were completely covered by ulcers, and each part of the eye that was supposed to be white was in fact, bright red. She had scratched at them and at the infection in her ears so much so that the skin around them had turned to leather. Her teats and vulva were swollen and hung so low that I checked carefully to make certain that there was no milk, and therefore no pups close by. The little dog’s coat was dry, her skin flaky and, it turned out, covered with lice.

Throughout my examination the cocker sat quietly, hopeful, but suspicious. "Okay, little girl. You’re coming home with me." I thought about my four dogs at home, three of whom had been rescued. And I thought of my long-suffering husband, who hadn’t realized that his life would entail so many animals when he fell in love with me, more than 27 years ago. I knew that bringing home a louse-infested, horribly smelling, blind dog wouldn’t be high on his, "This pleases me," list. But I also knew that I could count on his support.

The cocker lay on the seat beside mine, a wide grin on her face, sighed, and fell asleep. I wondered how long she had been on that road, worrying about traffic and coyotes that she couldn’t even see. Turning off the air conditioner, I opened the window to try and avoid the stench. It didn’t work...

Once home, and after some quick snapshots to document her condition, I placed her in the tub for the first of many baths. Gently cleansing her eyes and ears, I was now able to look for what I already knew wasn’t there; tattoo identification. No family, nor any ethical breeder, would be able to tolerate having this animal in their home or even kennel. Not even simple ignorance could explain the neglect. This was a puppy-mill breeding animal, plain and simple. And at the approximate tender age of 5, she was already too old, and too sick to breed anymore. It was despicable.

In spite of all that had happened to her, the little creature was forgiving and lovable. She had obviously never been in a house before, never even walked up a flight of stairs. So the first few days were spent showing her the ropes, introducing her to the other dogs (who wanted nothing to do with her), the cats, and helping her understand toilet rules.

Her stools were a pasty white, and I wondered if she had been fed hog feed. It is a cheap food source that unscrupulous breeders often use. The first night I relegated her to a crate so that she would keep that white stool off of my carpets. But the little dog was frightened, so I ended up staying awake with her, allowing the rest of the family to sleep. And during that excruciatingly long night, I decided to call her BeeGee, short for Black Gold, since she was black, and in spite of all, had a heart of gold.

The feeding transition was necessarily abrupt, and BeeGee’s system didn’t appreciate it. She developed diarrhea with streaks of blood. Working so hard to please me, she caught on to housebreaking quickly, but there were, of course, many accidents. She was a high-maintenance houseguest.

I discovered that three other small-breed breeding dogs were found in close proximity to where I picked up BeeGee. One poodle-cross, was adopted by an older couple who, within a week, mourned her loss when she died of renal failure. The other two dogs, both cockers, were also adopted, and presumably, are doing well.

My veterinarian supplied the medications for the eye and ear infections, as well as shampoo for the lice. With diligent applications, each responded to treatment. However, the corneas had sustained damage, and now had cataracts. Although her eyes no longer were a source of irritation, it was obvious that her sight was extremely limited.

As the lice disappeared, and her dull coat showed a hint of sheen, it was time to get her spayed. During the drive to my vet, I tried to imagine this sweet dog having to whelp and then look after her pups, all the while, in continual agony. I reached over and scratched her ear, "Things will be different now, girl. I promise..."

She sailed through the surgery, and the local Humane Society picked up the tab. At this point, BeeGee had been with us for two months, and was well on her way to health. I decided that, once the stitches were removed, it was time to find her a home. She needed a family that would not only accept her as a "special-needs" dog, but would also continue with her medication, and be willing to deal with the possible complications that such a poor start could precipitate. And, as with all my rescues, her new family had to commit to giving her a lifelong home.

An ad in the Kamloops paper generated several calls. But one person in particular, Helen, seemed to truly understand what was involved. She already had a cocker with long term health concerns, and was willing to take on another. I drove BeeGee out to spend the day with Helen and her family. When I returned, my little dog was well settled in, with a new collar and lead, and her own ball and blanket. She had even had her first visit to their veterinarian. It was clear that she had found her new life. It was equally clear, that she was more than pleased about it.

Since then, Helen and her husband found an eye specialist, and had cataract surgery performed on BeeGee. The specialist had felt that, before the surgery, she could only see shadows and movement. Since however, she can see as if looking through glasses with only a slight smudge on the side. Her ball is quickly spotted, she can find her playmate cocker by sight, and jumping onto her people’s bed is easily negotiated.

BeeGee’s coat is now luxurious, her skin, baby soft, and the smile on her face is undeniable. She has made a giant leap from being an example of humankind’s greed, all the way to being a poster child for the irrefutable evidence of love in action.

As I write this, it is –13 degrees Celsius outside. The puppy mill across the street is alive with the barking and howling of cockers, American Eskimos, and various crossbreed dogs and pups. They have doghouses, food and water, so there is nothing the SPCA can do for them. I can’t help but wonder what this puppy mill does with the dogs that are too old or sick to continue breeding...

This is a multi-faceted problem and the only hope of ending it lies with consumers. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to legislate cruelty issues. We all have different ideas about what it involves. Some in our society feel that, as long as basic needs are met, animal rights end where the owner’s pocketbook starts. Others feel that human beings do not have the right to own another living creature, and may not inflict pain or suffering on them for any reason other than self-defense. Most viewpoints land somewhere in the middle.

But what we do know about puppy mills, is that the market would not be profitable if consumers stopped buying pups from pet stores. This is difficult to explain to well-meaning people who think they are saving the puppy. They could well be. But for every few pups that are bought from a pet store, there is a mother who gets left behind, in deplorable conditions, who simply tries to get by each day, until she is finally "all used up..." And for every small dog that is bought from a pet store, there is another, albeit usually larger dog at the shelter, that is euthanized.

Diane Nicholson is an award-winning photographer.  Look at her photos and you will see why.  The photos of horses are particularily stunning, by far the best we have ever seen.

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Animal Advocates Society of B.C. Canada

Editor:  Judith Stone