Vail Valley Voices: Dog safe now from horror of puppy mill |

Vail Valley Voices: Dog safe now from horror of puppy mill

Susan Wilke
Vail, CO, Colorado

When I first saw Mojo, a yellow Lab, the women from National Mill Dog Rescue were helping him out of the car – not because he wasn’t strong enough but because he didn’t know how.

He had spent his whole life (four or five years) in a 10-by-10-foot cage with three females as a breeder in a puppy mill.

He had never been on a walk or felt grass under his feet. He had barely been touched by humans, and who knows what he was fed?

As a puppy, a heat lamp fell on him in a cage so small he couldn’t get away from it and it burned half his tail off and most of his back paw. When I first saw him, he was spiritually broken – tail between his legs and head down but very gentle and mellow.

I took him from them initially as a foster dog, but I knew right away I would keep him.

He had never been in a house before, so stairs and doors were pretty daunting. I took him on his first walk on the golf course behind our house. He didn’t need a leash and wouldn’t let me out of his sight. He stopped short when he saw the river. He had never seen water like this!

The owner of the puppy mill where Mojo came from was going to put him down because he stopped breeding and was no longer worth anything to the puppy mill.

If it hadn’t been for Theresa (founder of National Mill Dog Rescue), he wouldn’t have made it out of there alive. There are thousands of other dogs who don’t.

The puppy mill business is a $40 million industry in Missouri. Most pet stores and many online sites get their dogs from puppy mills. Usually these dogs are malnourished and sick.

Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy-mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming.

To minimize waste cleanup, dogs often are kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs. And it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns.

Breeder dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements, or crammed inside filthy structures where they never get the chance to feel the sun or a gust of fresh air on their faces.

Recently, one owner set his whole place on fire after learning he was going to be visited by the Department of Agriculture. Many dogs were burned alive. Two dogs were rescued by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, found under a burning truck and given to National Mill Dog Rescue.

These, among many other dogs, are ready to be fostered or adopted. Many of these rescued dogs need surgery, even amputations, because of the deplorable conditions they were forced to endure for so many years.

I’ve had Mojo for about three months now, and he is a changed dog! He can now go up and down stairs and get in and out of the car, is housebroken, is learning how to run (he had never run before) and knows what a treat is and is even learning how to play with my other dog.

It’s a very gratifying experience to see the benefits of a little TLC. For information on the National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado Springs, go to

Susan Wilke lives in Gypsum.

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