Last week, the existence of puppy mills got to me in a very personal way.
I’m opposed to cruelty of any kind to animals as a matter of principle, and the very idea of puppy mills offends me. They trash up Missouri and give us all a bad name. As a citizen of the state that was once credited with “feeding the nation,” I’m embarrassed by this.
But last week, a little dog who had become a friend of mine passed away, and it got personal.
Missy was a Yorkie who escaped from a puppy mill and was found wandering in a farmer’s field. She was taken to the animal shelter. A veterinarian confirmed that she had been in a puppy mill because of a number tattooed in her ear. She was not the kind of puppy most people want to adopt. She was not cute. The ear infections from which she suffered throughout her life had caused her neck to be twisted permanently. Because of the infections, she was often disoriented and would lose her sense of direction. It was not unusual for her to walk into walls.
So who wants a dog like that, some would ask. Well, if you looked into Missy’s sad little eyes and felt her heartbeat, it would only be a matter of time before she won your heart. That’s how it happened. Somehow at the animal shelter my friend and Missy found a connection, and he brought her home. She needed care, and he is a caretaker.
Although she required a lot of medical attention, the one thing we learned about Missy was that she had a strong determination to fight for life. She had what it took to survive the puppy mill, but the damage inflicted upon her made it impossible for her to have a normal life.
I’m sure there are probably puppy mills located somewhere near me, but I don’t know where they are. We live in a free country, and as long as people obey the laws, they have the right to engage in whatever business they choose. I don’t believe that everyone who buys and sells animals is guilty of animal cruelty, but I want strong legislation passed that prevents that kind of abuse.
I realize that not everyone is an animal lover. I’m no longer surprised by the number of people I meet who never had a pet as a childhood friend. And I know a lot of people who refuse to allow animals inside their homes. I don’t think of those kind of people as necessarily cruel to animals.
People who would house animals in inhumane conditions and deprive them of food and medicine so they can sell them at a profit are the kind of people who operate puppy mills. Those who oppose strong legislation to protect animals from abuse usually have a financial motive. Corporate farmers especially are not anxious to have government regulating their businesses.
Others are opposed to strong legislation because they argue that it's not as if animals are people. Well, that’s true, but they are living creatures and, as such, deserve respect. Surely, as higher beings, it’s our duty to protect members of the animal kingdom.
For animal lovers, losing a pet is like losing a member of one’s family. It’s not a matter of getting another dog or cat anymore than one can replace a sibling with someone else. The loss leaves an empty space in one’s heart, and it takes a long time for the emptiness to subside.
Fortunately, we have several “rescue” organizations in our community who take in damaged animals like Missy and try to restore them to good health before adopting them out. Unfortunately, they are never without animals that need help.
I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to live in a world without animals. It is in a relationship with an animal that you learn to love unconditionally, and that’s a one- way ticket to a successful life.
Goodbye, Missy. The best of all was, you were loved.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.