The Puppies That Got Away
My year, so far, seems to be more puppy focussed than it’s ever been. Since 2011 when I began writing to raise awareness of puppy farming and rescue work, much of my output has been highlighting the fate of breeding dogs in puppy farms with their puppies sat more in the backseat. Puppies always get plenty of attention, it’s easy to be wooed and humans are programmed to fall for their charms. But, it’s never been my wish to spend time sunk in puppy dog adoration – easy as it would be – knowing the cute factor contributes to the problems we’re fighting in today’s puppy industry. (Read more).
What’s much harder is to engage people effectively with older breeding dogs, the ones who look far from cute after years of neglect; people turn away, they understandably find it distressing. But, it’s always been important to me that a strong light be shone into the shadowy corners of the dog industry and parent dogs need and get my full attention. It’s what Susie-Belle’s life taught me and she put me on this path that I haven’t deviated from in 8 years.
The majority of breeding dogs don’t leave the places they’re confined in – living and dying in a few small feet of earthly hell, having never known what it’s like to be loved. Their puppies get out, in the main as their value is selling them while young. Some will be kept as ‘stock’ but the majority do get to enjoy regular lives. Albert Claude is a case in point.
Which brings me back to my puppy-heavy year. When I was at DBARC collecting him in early February, I met Lara, a sweet schnauzer, one of a batch who’d arrived in dreadful states of neglect. But she was a little unusual, she was plump for a start. Shortly after I left DBARC with Albert, Janet called with the astounding news that Lara didn’t have a tumour – a real possibility – she was pregnant!
Roll on a couple more weeks during which she grew much bigger than Janet, an experienced veterinary nurse and rescue manager, expected, when in came the news on 3rd March that Lara had delivered, by c-section 10 puppies. This is a bigger than average litter size for miniature schnauzers and for a dog already weakened by multiple pregnancies and years of neglect, poor Lara was facing a daunting future caring for her family.
Fate however stepped in, with one more terrible challenge for her, as she developed rare post-operative complications which required further surgery to save her life. At one stage, Janet made the tough decision that should things have taken a further bad turn, they would not allow her to suffer one single second more and she would be peacefully let go from a world which had failed her so badly.
However, Lara’s a fighter and she not only pulled through, so did all her puppies and they’re now a healthy 4 weeks old. This has only been possible through the extraordinary dedication of Janet and her small team of volunteers. As Lara was unable to care for them, the puppies have been hand reared, an exceptional undertaking, but one which DBARC have pulled off with sheer commitment and cussedness. Having got out of the clutches of the puppy farmer, there was no way that these puppies and their mum were not going to have everything thrown at them to keep them alive.
This involved initially feeding every 2 hours, all through the day and night. With a litter of 10, each feed took 2 hours! It’s been a fraught and exhausting regime for everyone.
If I could physically have been there volunteering I would have been. But I’m proud of several good friends who have been intimately involved with rearing this special litter, not least Janet!
Another, Julia gives a few insights into what her experiences of volunteering is like and with Lara and pups in particular,
I’ve been visiting regularly for 3 years. I take Nellie and Breagh as normalisation for the rescues. Nellie, being an ex-breeder herself is fantastic with them, a kindred spirit. Breagh is kind but a little more reserved.
Julia runs the successful Nellie the Noodle Facebook page, bringing awareness to the issues around puppy farming and the work of DBARC with the dogs who land in their care. She’s uniquely placed to document their progress as she often sees them soon after arrival and right through to adoption,
Particularly last year, the dogs appeared more “shut down” and it’s been incredible being able to physically follow their progress. Social media is so powerful, it’s important that people don’t get a polished version of a dog, something I am highly conscious of. Photos can be misleading, the dogs can appear normal as they have had a bath and a haircut, but they aren’t.
Julia’s had the privilege of being closely involved in the feeding and caring for Lara’s puppies.
I was really struck by their vulnerability. It was interesting being taught by Janet how to feed a tiny, week old puppy.
The arrival of the puppies came immediately after the sad loss of Mila, who had arrived at the same time as Lara, but who could not fight the multiple health problems that her years in the breeeding industry had caused. No sooner had this devastating outcome been borne by the DBARC team, but they were faced with saving the lives of 10 puppies and their mum. Julia sums up how many of us feel,
The impact of Mila passing away was dreadfully upsetting to DBARC staff, so I was just so happy to know and see Lara come through this.
There’s a bitter-sweet irony in the story of Lara and her puppies – one life, Mila’s was lost and hit very hard, and no sooner had grief engulfed her carers, than they were faced with an extraordinary challenge – one which would ultimately save 11 precious lives. And DBARC have done it in style, emphatically in fact.
This is why I support their work and why Schnauzerfest has been doing so since 2014.
Read more about Lara and the other dogs we help through Schnauzerfest here