Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Furever Friends: adopt, don't shop!

Diane and Tillie
Today, I am sharing a conversation that I had with dog lover Diane Lattimer. She and her husband, John, have five dogs and two cats. One of their dogs, Tillie, was rescued in a dramatic way from a puppy mill in Ohio. Here is their story:

Tell me how it came to be that you rescued Tillie.

I belong to a group called Furever Friends Dog Rescue of WNY. In the beginning, we had someone who was going to Amish puppy mills in Ohio and she knew that I liked Frenchies (French bulldogs). She went to a farm, and they had Tillie, who was nine months ol. So he bred her, and she was too young. I would say that, say 99 percent of the time, bulldogs should have a C-section because their head is big and their pelvis is very small. They don’t usually let them deliver the regular way. And so this puppy miller decided that he wasn’t going to pay for a C section. So, when she delivered her puppies, her uterus basically went outside of her body, and the puppies died.

He was going to shoot her but, when this was happening, the person that we know was there to pick up another dog. She said, “I have somebody who will take her.” He said, “Here, you can have her.” So she took her to the vet. We had her spayed and then we brought her back to Buffalo. We were fostering her and we never had the intention of keeping her. We had two other Frenchies. Someone wanted to adopt her, and then they changed their mind. A second person wanted to adopt her. They also changed their mind because she has a lot of puppy mill traits.

Could you talk about puppy mill traits?

Because they never leave the cage, they don’t know about grass, and they don’t know about stairs. We’ve had Tillie for six years. She still puts her feet up on the fence to go to the bathroom because, in their cages, they would try to poop outside their cages so they wouldn’t step in it. She’s still afraid of loud noises. If she were to be in the car, she’s very nervous. She loves my husband, but she’s afraid of a lot of other men. 

Is it like PTSD in a dog?

Relaxation time.
Basically. If it’s thundering and lightning, she shakes. I actually bought her a thunder shirt. It’s supposed to keep them calm. She won’t eat out of a metal bowl because, if her tags touch the bowl, it scares her and she runs away. So she eats out of a plastic bowl. It took me about three weeks to get her housebroken because she didn’t know about houses, beds, or blankets. She didn’t know what a toy was. She was ten months old. She was still a puppy. But she never knew anything but a cage for her whole life.

She was pretty well traumatized.

Yes, for sure. We’ve had other dogs that were old that were in the mill for some time. Sometimes, their traits are really bad.

Do you think that’s why the people changed their minds?

The first people didn’t give her the chance to warm up to them. She didn’t know them. They came over, and she was just freaking out. The second people decided that she had too much energy for them. It depends on what type of dog you’re looking for, too. All of the puppy mill dogs that we’ve fostered have had some sort of medical issue. The puppy mills don’t do veterinary care. They don’t take them for dentals. Most of the time, they give the dogs basic immunizations but, if the dog needed a C-section, we know of cases where they did it themselves.

That sounds really awful.

That is awful because they should have anesthesia to do that. Another thing that they do is that they de-bark a lot of their dogs by shoving a pipe up their throats to break their vocal cords. If you have 300 dogs, you don’t want your dogs barking because people will find out.

So that sounds very abusive.

It is very abusive. They treat their dogs like they are a commodity. It’s not a pet to them. The dogs don’t go in the house. They are usually in a barn with no windows and maybe one door. There are four or five dogs in one cage. You could say, "oh, it’s a big cage." No, they have four or five Frenchies in a cage that’s meant for one dog. They never leave that cage unless they’re having a litter of puppies. Then they take them out but, normally, they don’t. They go outside but it’s in a wire cage. They have a little doggie door to go outside. But when it’s really cold outside, some of the people don’t heat the barns. During the summertime, it’s brutally hot. There have been cases where we’ve seen dogs dead in the cage because of the heat or the cold.

My gosh. That’s so horrible. So Tillie has already been through having a litter of puppies who all passed away because they didn’t do a C-section. It was a painful delivery. She came to you very traumatized. How were you able to help her adjust and to be a happy dog? It seems that, now, she is a happy dog.

Probably because we had Stewie, another Frenchie, and my other dog, Lola, who is now passed away. Lola was very motherly to her. I would say, "let’s go outside," and Tillie would be like, "‘what?" She learned how to go up and down the stairs by following the other dogs.

She was with these other dogs. Tell me more about that.

Paws for Love dog at the
Taste of Grand Island.
Dogs are pack animals so they learn from each other like a mother dog teaches puppies things. Lola had had a litter of puppies so she kind of took Tillie under her wing, so to speak. She was always licking her or sleeping with her, and Tillie seemed to like the comfort of that. She still has one toy… as soon as we got her, she had that toy. She picks it up and carries it in her mouth, as if it were a puppy. I think that she knew that she had puppies, but she never had to take care of them. She’ll take a toy and put it on a bed and lay on top of it.

So she still had that maternal instinct.

Yes. We do foster care for puppies and, sometimes, she’ll want to lick them or lay with them. She’s gentle with them. Who knows what goes through a dog’s mind when they have been traumatized like that?

That’s so horrible to treat dogs like that.

Making a new friend.
Yes, it is. There’s no real law against (running puppy mills), and we’re trying to change that so that millers can’t have 100, 200, 300 dogs and breed them over and over because that’s what they do. And, when a dog gets to be a certain age, and they don’t have any puppies or if they have only one or two dogs. They are of no use so they either shoot them, drown them, give them away, or sell them.

Tell me about your dog family and then tell me about your human family.

My dog family is five French bulldogs. There is Stewie, who is going to be ten, Gabbie is eight, Tillie is going to be seven, Edison’s three, and Fiona’s a year and a half. I live with my husband, John, who is a vet tech with the Erie County SPCA.

One of the many rescued
dogs from puppy mills.
So our rescue group gets dogs from the dog rescue. We bring the dogs in and surrender them to the SPCA, where they get their shots and they get spayed or neutered. Then they get put up for adoption. People who know us are very aware of what a puppy mill dog is. I have three daughters. They all have puppy mill dogs. Most of my friends have puppy mill dogs. So people are aware of what a puppy mill dog is. Those are the ones that need a new home because they need love. They are the most receptive dogs to giving you more than you could ever give them. When we put them in the car to bring them back from Ohio, they know that they are going to a better place. They appreciate it. They’ve never seen a toy and they’ve never had decent food or a blanket or a bed to sleep in. All of those things are new to them but they sure take to them right away.

They’d never been in a car before, and you’d think that they’d be really upset. I swear, and everyone else who does transports swears, that the dogs know that they are going someplace better. They know that we are kind, we are going to comfort them, and we are going to help them.

How many people usually go to collect these dogs?

It depends on how many there, are and how many places we have to go to pick them up. There could be two people or four people. They are doing a transport this Thursday and Friday. There are twelve dogs from Ohio. We have to take them to the vet there because we have to have a health certificate to transport the dogs across the New York State line. If they are old enough, they will get a rabies shot. Any other vetting they need gets done at the SPCA. We used to get some dogs that were in really bad shape. They would need a lot of work, like surgeries and amputations, eye removals, eyelid surgery. The dog that my daughter has is a shar pei mixed with a basset hound. That’s a really weird combination. He had something called teary eye, which is when the inside eyelids flip out. It’s very painful. He was a puppy. The miller took him to the vet to put him to sleep. We got to the vet. They said, ‘Do you want this puppy because we’re going to put him to sleep.’ So we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take him.’ So he had his eyes fixed at the SPCA, and my daughter adopted him. He’s the greatest dog ever. Beautiful dog. They call him Mr. Handsome.

So tell me what got you into the business of rescuing dogs?

My husband John is a vet tech at the SPCA, and we’ve always done foster care. And someone who works at the SPCA said that she knew of this person named Deborah who went to the puppy mills to get dogs, and she was always looking for a place to see where she could take these dogs. She asked me to go to Ohio with her, and we went to a puppy mill, basically. There are hundreds of dogs that they auction off, sometimes for five dollars a piece. They would say, ‘this is an ’02 model,’ meaning that the dog was born in 2002. If it was a male, they would say that it produced many litters of puppies, or if it was a female, they would say that it is still good for breeding. Mostly, they were all purebreds. There is a website which features all dogs from Ohio and they sell them for hundreds and thousands of dollars. The buyers are thinking that they are getting this really great puppy. But if they knew where the mother and father lived, they wouldn’t want to buy a dog from there.

That’s pretty horrifying.

Yeah, it is.

So it’s really about lots of money because people pay them cash. Who’s going to know that they could make $100,000 a year selling dogs?

Tell me how you feel about your rescue work.

The world is a big place
for a dog, but a cozy place
for a dog who has been
adopted into a loving home.
I wish that more people were aware of what happens in a puppy mill. You could go to the SPCA in Niagara or Erie counties. You could go to the Buffalo animal shelter. There are always adoptable dogs there. But people think "I’ve got to have a purebred." I would never buy a dog off the internet. If you’re a reputable breeder (she got Fiona from a dog breeder friend), you don't sell dogs that way. Any dog can have a genetic defect. Both of Fiona's parents were grand champions. They were health tested. She happened to have this back problem. But the millers don’t do health testing. They don’t care that they’re breeding something that could cause a defect. They breed strange combinations, like a Pomeranian to a Husky and call it a Pomsky. It’s like a designer dog. But it’s not a very interesting combination.

So you would say, Adopt, don’t shop.

That’s right! That’s what we always say.

So tell me what you like to do when you’re not rescuing dogs.

I actually work at John Oishei Children’s Hospital as a nurse, and I’m going to the Niagara Culinary Institute for baking and pastry arts.

That sounds like fun.

It is fun. I do baking anyway, but I’ve always wanted to do it the right way. I went back to school in January, and I’m just having the best time. And then I take care of my grandchildren, and I take care of my husband and my dogs. I have a busy life. But it’s enjoyably busy. I’ve always loved dogs. I’ve always loved animals.

Did you grow up with dogs?

Cats, dogs. We had a goat. We had chickens.

Where did you grow up?

When I was really little, we lived in Barker, N.Y., on a farm and, then, after that, we lived in Tonawanda.

I don’t have any more questions. Is there anything that you’d like to add?

If people are looking for a dog, it shouldn’t be a whim purchase. They’ll see a puppy, and they’ll say, "Oh, I’m saving it." Or they’ll go to a pet store. Don’t go there. Chances are that it came from a puppy mill. If you really want a dog, you should research breeds and what your life style is. Little kids shouldn’t be getting a 100-pound Great Dane, unless they know what they’re getting into. On the other hand, people say, "I want a really little dog." Well, is it going to fit into your lifestyle?

A mutt is for anybody. Mutts are great. It doesn’t have to be a purebred dog. I’ve had mutts for most of my life. I happened to get into Frenchies because I was at a show and I saw one and I wanted one.

I think that mutts tend to be pretty healthy.

Yeah, they do. A lot of time, purebreds tend to have defects and a lot of problems. I think that all kids should grow up with a dog. You should have more than one because they are pack animals. They like to be together. We used to call ours the dog army because they were always together.

If you are in Grand Island, take a look at my article about Furever Friends in Friday's Island Dispatch!


Cherry-Ann said...

This was disheartening to read, especially as a dog lover... I couldn't finish it.

Samantha. Bartolotta said...

Interesting. said...

This is why one should always consider obtaining a rescue dog. To help turn around the trauma with which they are left

Jessica said...

five dogs.....! I have a rescue puppy and he is a handful....

Eydie Stumpf said...

So very sad.... I hate to hear these stories. Thank goodness there are more loving people than hateful ones.

The Martha Review said...

How terrible for the puppies to go through all the trauma and being terrorized. Diane Lattimer is a super person for all she does!

Lady In Read said...

this is so sad for the dogs.. my kids have been wanting us to adopt one but at this point, we are not ready yet. Hats off to all who Paws for Love!and Diane Lattimer too!