Sick Puppies

Running a DIY dog-rescue operation is never easy, but when you’ve got two dozen misfit animals under your care, you need a way to let off steam.

  1. At most commercial breeding facilities in the U.S.—known as "puppy mills" in rescue slang—dogs are packed into wire cages, usually for the entirety of their time there, often in pitch-black conditions. There are waste-collection trays beneath the cages, but they're rarely emptied. Flies are a constant. With no air conditioning in summer, no heat in winter, dogs regularly freeze to death or die from heatstroke. The food is bad and vet care infrequent. Open sores, tissue damage, blindness, deafness, and ulcers are more the rule than the exception.

    Maus was a Chihuahua, a breeder dog, rescued from a puppy mill. For two years, dating back to our time in Los Angeles, Joy worked with her on a daily basis. It was an uphill battle. By the time we got her, Maus was mostly deaf, completely blind, and seriously damaged. Open spaces were too much for her to bear, as was the company of people (especially men), other dogs, sunshine, loud noises, and any sort of affection. Maus lived at the back of a closet and never came out. Her entire world consisted of a bed, a water dish, and a couple of pee pads.

    Holding her was impossible, so Joy would scrunch under a shelf that ran along one side of the closet and stay still for an hour at a time. After six months, she got Maus to accept a scratch on the neck. After nine months, Maus allowed a head rub. But that was as far as things went. Anything else and Maus would start wailing and shaking. We tried every drug on the market and a dozen other th...

Originally published in Outside, October 2010