How one dog captured the hearts of many and inspired them to act
While I’m a UK based writer and campaigner, there are many good reasons why I often highlight issues in the US and follow the anti-puppy mill movement closely. The puppy business there is huge, but so is the dedication shown by many individuals who are campaigning to end it. Since beginning my research for ‘Saving One More’, I’ve had the privilege of hearing personal stories from many of them. People who devote their lives to doing what’s necessary to bring the ugly truth of this industry out into the honest light of public scrutiny. Social media is a fantastic tool for activists and is used effectively by many such as Lil Olive, whose passing and legacy I wrote about recently.
The very best campaigns utilise all forms of peaceful protest, and this is what the US is doing well in my view. This past weekend was National Puppy Mill Awareness Day and the country witnessed a tremendous awareness push with protests being held in many towns and cities. People in America are motivated, active and show a tenacity and willingness to support the efforts of others, that I find inspiring.
Hot on the heels of the weekend’s awareness rousing, October is an important month for thousands as they lobby legislators, another important tenet of any effective campaign. The first of the month marks the birthday of one remarkably iconic puppy mill dog, Lola, who in her short life – she died at 6 months old – managed to mobilise thousands to campaign in her name. A campaign that gains strength each year. In the early days of my research into the global puppy breeding business, hers was the first story that Karen Doonan, co-producer of Dog By Dog, shared with me, and here, Karen explains how Lola’s story inspires her, with thousands of others, and now features in a film and book.
“Normally birthdays are a day of celebration but for Lola, and the thousands who loved her, this day is bittersweet. Lola never got to celebrate her first birthday because she passed away at 6 months old, from a genetic brain disorder, likely caused from over-breeding at a puppy mill.
Her face and soul were beautiful, and using social media, it was a face that stole thousands of hearts as we all got to know Lola and celebrate her life outside a cage. Then, tragically, we watched as she withered away and across the nation, we all mourned for a beautiful dog that deserved better. I can say, without a doubt that losing her, made me take action. Her life mattered to so many and since her death, incredible acts have happened in her name; there are countless stories of adoptions because of her, many participate in protests, and others have taken to social media to have their voices heard. An army of strong voices have emerged and are being heard in all directions on her behalf. Voices that won’t go silent until the industry that harmed her, is history. Powerful things occur when we’re profoundly moved by one simple gesture, one act of kindness, or for me, one little dog that deserved better.
Her name was Lola and she was a showgirl and for her, I fight until we end this industry of factory farming of dogs”.
Although I didn’t know Lola’s story until after her death, I’ve been curious to find out more from others, who, like Karen have been captured by her spirit and act daily to do something to end the puppy breeding nightmare that condemned Lola to a life cut short.
One such person is Gary Daley, his Facebook page is a celebration of life with his mill dog Lee the One and Only and is a great example of the spread of awareness that can arise when one dog captures hearts. Gary coined the phrase “We Are Lola” and explains why he got involved and how he continues to honour Lola:
“I fell in love with Lola on Facebook, sadly I watched her pass just 4 months later. She inspired me to take action and try to end puppy mills, or at least tell as many people as I could about them. Then along came Lee, The One and Only, he was one of Lola’s Legacy’s rescued in her memory along with 83 more dogs. Lee adopted me and now, together, we go to pet expos and events to encourage adoption. We also protest pet stores, transport rescued dogs and cats from shelters to freedom. Lola inspired me to do whatever I can to help those in need, to ‘Be the Voice and Speak for those who can’t’.”
Back to the October Team Lola Pink Letter Campaign, now in its 3rd year. Supporters send letters written on pink paper to legislators across the nation, including the President. This year is especially meaningful for many who followed Lola’s story, with the passing of two high profile puppy mill dogs Lil Olive and Leo. And this is another great element of the US movement, support among individual campaigners and those on social media is strong, mutually celebratory and brings a potency that makes for a hard-to-ignore force. I dream of a similar surge of open-hearted cooperation and warm collaboration happening in the UK.
From Lola’s Facebook page, her mum Sandra writes:
This is our third year to send pink letters to lawmakers who have the power to change the plight of those sweet souls in puppy mills. Thank you all and I know this will be our biggest year ever. Lola would be so proud of each of you. With the loss of Leo and of sweet Olive, we have to step up our game. We owe it to them to be their voice.”
To support the Team Lola Pink Letter Campaign, there’s a template letter on her page.
And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Footsteps of Angels