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A Puppy Mill Survivor Shares Her Story

Coco and the Hopeful Tail

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Photo Credit: Fayzulin Sergey/


By Eleanor Wolf

It’s both a tease and a torture peeking through these bars.  Day in and day out like a page in a bad book one has to read over and over never with the ability to turn the page.  It seemed like the other world was right at my paws yet at the same time painfully just out of reach.  My toes straddled the wire bars of my prison, pointlessly pushing tight as if to get closer to the outside, until they might bleed. Sometimes I would rub my back against the bars while fantasizing that it was a kind human hand stroking me.  Freedom, I could see it, taste it, dream it, just not feel it. It had been what seemed a lifetime that I had spent here.  Actually it was a lifetime as I was approaching 9 years of age.  Some didn’t even make it that many years, and some were destroyed for not being profitable producers.  Producers of puppies that is.  We live a narrow path, us puppy mill dogs.  An ugly, narrow, painful path with an even uglier ending to boot. We are nameless as if we have no identity other than the number we have been assigned.

We can’t live out our wildness, our instincts, our “dog”, or our playful and adventurous youth entombed in cages scarcely bigger than ourselves.  Often we are trapped in the dark and can’t hear birds sing their glory, decipher a cloud’s shape, or feel a cool midnight breeze.  We can’t experience the warm glow of a magnificent sunrise, or feel the tickle from a soft carpet of grass beneath our feet, things others may take for granted. I had pain in my teeth and had only one eye, the other one power washed out of its socket, my tail and back legs were almost hairless and bloody from infesting mites and it was excruciating.  I dreamed of running and feeling my stiff legs and feet finally floating with tremendous speed through the air.  I dreamed.  We lived in our dreams as our reality was so painful.  We knew a synchronous world existed and we longed to have been born into it.  A world where dogs like us were loved and cherished, were best friends and companions, and fed nutritious meals and bathed in bubbles as we had heard the lucky ones were. We often wondered if we were paying some kind of penance for a wrongdoing of sorts. Yes, I knew my thoughts were grandiose as I dreamt of my prince Charming to come and whisk me away to the other world.  I hung on to my sanity by hanging on to my fantasy.  A girl can dream can’t she?  It simply gave me a “hopeful tail”.

I knew my time was short now as I couldn’t make puppies anymore.  That meant either death or I would be sold at auction.  That being said maybe death being the better option.  It was an end to the suffering after all.  A way out. Seriously anything to get out of the confinement of the cage. 

The day came. I was grabbed harshly from my cage by the scruff of my neck and tossed into a car that lingered close by.  Soon we were quickly headed down a road towards a highway.  I found this to be a moment I will never forget as I had never been out of the confines of my prison.  I looked back but for a moment.   I had for many years wondered what the world outside the mill looked like. It was scary and foreign and yet pretty with trees and many colors, pleasant odors and fresh clean air, not like the stifling air at the mill that was unbearably asphyxiating.  For a brief moment I was participating in a sort of dance with heaven, a dance with freedom, and feeling downright “waggish”, something I’d never felt in all of my mill years.

Even though I knew these might well be my last minutes breathing life into this old, frail, used up body, seeing the blue sky above through the window was like I was seeing God for the first time.  I knew He hovered over me, I longed to feel wrapped in His blanket of protection. To say I cherished this vision was an understatement.   Free for even but a moment was better than no freedom at all.  I was taking in the wind that was slapping me in the face and loving it, when I was grabbed by my neck and flung out of the car.  I remember my pain as I tumbled into the ditch.  I had been tossed out like garbage.  I lay wondering if I was dead but soon realized I was still alive with the pain I felt throughout what seemed every possible bone in my body. I lie there unable to move, frozen in my shock and now unable to deny my broken body. I felt my tears. There are those that say we don’t cry or feel, we do. It seemed many minutes before another car screeched to a stop and ever so gently I was picked up and supported by loving arms, again very foreign to me.  I felt oddly safe and suddenly hopeful, but for what I knew not. I am told I wagged my hopeful tail even then.

The next few weeks I spent at doctors and in therapy and I felt like a young little lady again, this body not so tired.  My back legs would not make a full recovery and were weak from the damaging car toss but I could walk, albeit a bit wobbly.  I could still get around but might lose my balance and had to think about each step.  I didn’t scratch myself until I was a bloody mess and the mites were gone so I could catch a bit of shut eye without wincing and crying.  I soon had a family of kind humans and others just like myself who were rescued and all welcomed me with love, a word I never understood the power behind until then.  Do you know that these days I AM LOVED.  I’m pretty sure that’s all any creature of this earth wants. 

I now sleep with my human at night and on her fabulous cloud-based soft comforter and truly float not only in my dreams.  I eat good, raw, tasty, organic meals, get cuddled every day, and go for walks when my legs allow, and get carried a lot when I struggle with balance.  I get brushed and bathed and smell good.  I AM LOVED.  When I know there are people out there that help my friends still imprisoned my family says that I smile and of course….my hopeful tail wags. 

There are currently approx. 10,000 operating puppy mills that we know of, many more that we don’t. Puppy mills house anywhere from a few breeding dogs to 800 or more at one time. Caged, alone, neglected, and waiting for your help. For more information on puppy mill rescue, adoption, or other ways to help please visit National Mill Dog Rescue or visit Harley.

Eleanor speaks and educates at events and adoption fairs in hopes of one day seeing an end to puppy mills and all puppy mill prisoners finally being free. To follow Eleanor on Facebook.

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