When breeding dogs leave puppy farms it’s the start of them being able to live proper lives. But for a dog whose whole existence has been in a noisy, noxious place of confinement with no exposure to anything peaceful or anyone kind, there’s a terrifying amount to learn about being in our world. One we may understand to be normal to share with dogs, but which for them is confusing and scary.
For rescued dogs, adjusting to multiple new experiences is hard enough. Add the many health problems which puppy farm dogs face and the enormity of their healing journey is clear. The resilience shown by survivors of puppy farming is their greatest strength; without which they stand little chance of getting through each day, let alone thriving in the world they find themselves.
Mabel is an example of why I have enormous respect and admiration for dogs who live for years in the atrocious conditions of puppy farms and yet decide when rescued, to allow humans to help and love them. And, somewhere along their path of healing, they learn to trust, and in a unique way, thrive in spite of what they’ve endured.
Mabel is my friend Camilla’s dog. She was adopted in November 2015 and yesterday went for her regular eye check at the Animal Health Trust in Suffolk. I’ll let Camilla tell Mabel’s story,
I decided to adopt Mabel the day after I heard about Susie-Belle’s death. I’d been thinking about it for a few days but the news of Susie-Belle dying decided me. One of Mabel’s eyes was so damaged in the puppy farm, either through untreated infection, or injury, or a painful combination, that it was removed as soon as I agreed to adopt her. The rescue also said she was ‘almost blind’ in the other eye due to a cataract and I thought hard about taking her on. I had to be sure I could do the best for her.
Actually it soon became apparent that Mabel could see quite well. When she arrived she stepped out of her travel crate, and made a beeline for the comfiest dog bed in the corner of our kitchen, completely bypassing the lovely crate I’d prepared for her! We’ve shared our lives now for over four years and I’ve only seen her bump into something twice. We always try to approach on her non-blind side to avoid startling her.
Almost exactly four years ago, I took her to the Animal Health Trust for the first time to have her cataract examined. I was on tenterhooks until I heard the wonderful news that she didn’t need surgery at that stage. However I fully expected the cataract to deteriorate over time and that we would have to make some difficult decisions. However, unlike some dogs, for some wonderful and fortunate reason, Mabel’s cataract has remained unchanged. But I always hold my breath until I get the good news.
She doesn’t have great vision but enough to manage reasonably well. Her lovely Ophthalmologist, Lorraine Fleming, likens it to looking through clouds. It was at our first visit that we also found that as well as the cataract, she had very severe dry eye. This can also lead to a loss of vision if left untreated. We have tried various treatments but now keep it at a reasonable level with Optimmune ointment twice a day. Which our ever resilient Mabel accepts without a fuss.
Each visit, Mabel puts up with all the examinations and tests with extraordinary resilience, as she does with everything. Everyone at the Animal Health Trust is incredibly kind and gentle with her. There is an examination, then 20 minutes wait while the pupil dilates, then another examination and photographs. Mabel is treated like a queen and behaves beautifully. The first time it was all done with her sitting on my knee, now she stands on the table like a pro!
There are different types of cataract and Mabel’s is inherited. The implications for the many puppies she would have produced in her long years in the puppy farm are serious. It’s highly probable they will develop the same. When we adopted Mabel we were told that she was about six. But it is now apparent that she’s probably a lot older than was estimated. A litter every season for years and years – how many puppies is that? Of course, the people buying her puppies would have no idea that they would go on to develop cataracts. Puppy farmed puppies are not sold with any health tests having been done.
Mabel is a stoical, resilient dog. I am sure that she carried on for many years, only being of no use to the puppy farmer when her abdominal wall collapsed with a bilateral inguinal hernia. Obviously a painful, damaged eye didn’t matter at all to her ability to produce puppies. That is all the value her life held to the puppy farmer.
We took Archie and Isla – Mabel’s canine siblings – along for yesterday’s appointment. It always brings a little more chaos (and a lot of noise from Archie) but their company gives Mabel more confidence. Thankfully, yet again, nothing had changed and so we will be back in six months time.
Mabel is an old lady now; her hearing has started to deteriorate, she’s quite stiff and she spends most of her time asleep on the sofa. Recently she has had some odd blood test results, so we are going to do one or two further, very gentle, tests. We don’t know what the future holds for her but we know she will face it as she always does. As my husband says, “Mabel just gets on with it” A lesson to us all!
Camilla is a Trustee of Schnauzerfest – the charity founded to provide financial support for the veterinary treatment of rescue dogs including those saved from puppy farms.