I recently acquired four dogs from a puppy mill (or large scale puppy producing site if you prefer). I’ll be posting about them for my next few posts. This particular site was closing down, and I occasionally make a long trip (I won’t be providing details) to get some dogs when a site closes down. My purpose is not to attack anyone in particular, but rather the notion that animals are a means to an end (in this case, a means to make money). If a relevant modern Unitarian Universalist theology is to have any real ethical standing, it must consider the plight of animals, not just people. My work in seminary incorporates my work with dogs, and this story is just one more piece of my development, both as a human and as a minister.
Let me introduce Karma. She is a Pomeranian, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at her. She should have a full, beautiful coat, but I had to shave it off. Her hair was filthy and matted, filled with feces and dirt. As I slowly shaved her, I also removed at least 40 ticks. During this process, she never complained. It must have felt so good to get all that crap removed from her body.
Karma came from a site that had roughly 300 dogs, where each dog lived in a small kennel with a doggie door leading outside to a small cement run. Based on what I saw, 6-10 animals would share one of these setups, and there were many of them. This site was in the backyard of a home, and was up to code. It was not a horrific puppy mill in that sense. I’m sure it passed state inspections. But what it didn’t pass was the ethical test. If Karma is coated in feces and ticks, where is the soul of the person running this place? Dead, at least to animals.
Mass dog breeders are fond of pointing out that their dogs are no worse off than the animals you eat at dinner. Ever check out a cattle factory? Etc, Etc. Of course, I agree with them in that humans are great at abusing all sorts of animals for all sorts of reasons, and most of us don’t want to know the details. But that’s another story. Point is, we should treat all animals humanely. Even those you intend to eat. If that is possible.
So back to Karma. I would love to breed dogs myself. I enjoy raising puppies and finding homes for them. But knowing how many dogs are out there needing homes, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I make long trips to sites that are closing down, and I purchase pregnant dogs from going-out-of-business auctions. I do this to keep a few from ending up in another puppy mill. It is a tiny blow against animal cruelty, or so I hope. I can also experience the joy of raising pups, without adding to the population problem. And each dog I find a home for might be one less purchased from a pet store, who get their dogs from these large scale puppy farms.
Karma was very pregnant when I acquired her, but I thought I might have a week or two before she delivered. Wrong. Three days after she arrived at our home, she delivered four beautiful pups.
Fortunately I was there throughout the delivery, because the second pup wasn’t breathing, and Karma gave up trying to revive him. I spent about 30 minutes clearing his lungs (by swinging him in a gentle arc, believe it or not), rubbing his body, and having Karma lick him, and slowly, so agonizingly slowly, he revived. At first his tongue just hung out of his mouth, and he made gasping sounds. I doubted he would make it. But in the closest thing to a miracle I have ever seen, a dead dog came back to life. It moved me profoundly.
Here are photos of the pups. Stay tuned, more news on my rescued dogs in the near future.