Sunday, October 30, 2011

Suzie: One Puppy Mill Dog's Story

 This guest post is by Deanne Blenkle

 In January 1999, our dog Lassie died after being hospitalized for 5 days. Our other Scottie dog, Laddie, was lost without his friend. Two weeks later, my father-in-law passed away.  My husband went into a deep depression.

This is four years before we began volunteering in animal rescue. At the time, I knew nothing about puppy mills. All I knew was that my family was suffering from recent losses. I called local pet stores to see if anyone had a female black Scottie. On the fifth try, I contacted Pete's Petland in Addison. They had a female black Scottie.

I talked my husband into going to the store “just to look”. His heart wasn't in it, but he agreed to go. The store was dimly lit, and it smelled like dog feces. We went to look at the puppies. The dogs were barking non-stop in their cages. Many of the cages were soiled. We checked every crate, but did not see the Scottie pup anywhere.  

We asked about the Scottie pup, and we were taken to an aquarium tank. The top of the tank was wire mesh, and the top was held in place with a lava rock tank decoration. The proprietor of the store removed the lava rock and the wire top.  Inside the aquarium tank was an 8 week old Scottie puppy.

The puppy's water dish had a layer of scum on it. The food bowl was dried & crusty. We picked the puppy up. She smelled badly, but wanted to cuddle. We noticed a jagged scar on her belly. We could not leave her at that place. We bought her and took her home. We named her Suzie.

We made an appointment to bring Suzie our vet the next day. During the exam, we asked our vet about the scar on her belly. Our vet told us that it looked like Suzie was cut with wire from a crate. The scar was two inches long and jagged. The vet said that the cut healed on it's own without any medical treatment.

Our vet also told us that Suzie was bow-legged. Her front paws turned inward like a bull dog. We were told that Suzie would have medical problems in the future: arthritis, joint pain. The vet asked if the store we purchased Suzie from had a return option... she suggested we consider returning the pup. We told our  vet about how Suzie was kept, and the awful condition of the store. We would never bring her back to that place.

 Suzie was an amazing dog. She made us laugh every day with her antics. She got along great with Laddie, and she loved our cats. She had a great big personality for such a little dog. We had 10 wonderful years with Suzie.

Just as our vet told us, Suzie had health issues her entire life. Her front legs became more bow-legged as she got older. She developed joint problems and arthritis.  She was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at age 6, and walked with a limp the rest of her life. We gave her supplements daily to help with joint pain, and pain medication on bad days. She died at age 10 of bladder cancer. 

When we walked into Pete's Petland 12 years ago, we knew nothing about puppy mills.  Puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations that are focused strictly on profit. They are run by irresponsible breeders who care little for the health of the dogs in their care, and provide minimal vetting at best. Often overcrowded, dogs are kept in small cages and bred over and over. Genetic conditions like hip dysplasia are not screened, and the puppies are pulled from their mothers at a young age without proper nutritional care.

Puppies sold in pets stores usually come from puppy mills. It is not unusual for these puppies to have major health issues later in life like Suzie. Sometimes the puppies become ill and die right away. One time I was at an animal hospital, back in the surgery section, with a pet from our rescue. A very sick puppy was brought in. The puppy could not breathe. The doctor looked at the vet techs, and asked which pet store the puppy came from. He named two local stores, and was correct that the puppy came from one of them. At the time, I was shocked the vet knew just by looking at the condition of the pup that the puppy came from a pet store.  

Being in rescue, I know now that most vets can tell a puppy mill puppy just by the symptoms it comes in with. In rescue, we can always tell an adult dog that was rescued from a puppy mill. Most do not know how to walk correctly because they've spent their entire life in a tiny crate. They are not potty-trained, they do not know how to play, and many have no idea what grass is - they have never set foot on it. They also have health issues because they have never received proper medical care.

Knowing today what I know about puppy mills, I would have never supported the industry by purchasing a dog from a pet store. Although I felt that day like I saving Suzie, what I really did was open up a spot for another puppy mill puppy.

Guest post: by Deanne Blenkle
Deanne and Paul Blenkle
About the author: A lifelong animal lover, Deanne and her husband, Paul, have been intricately involved with their local pet rescue, Almost Home Foundation, since its inception in 2005. As the Cat Team Coordinators, they devote their days and nights, seven days a week, to ensuring the most cats are afforded the dream of a forever home, and to managing all the details of the cats and their foster homes with the organization. Paul is the talented eye behind the lens of the many images we feature here from Purr Photography. In her spare time, Deanne loves to cook, read, and devote her attention to their own dogs, cats, birds and fish. 


  1. Greetings Deanne,
    A cautionary tale that leaves much to ponder. Bitter sweet, yet you saved Suzie from further inhumane treatment. To stop the potential of another spot opening for another puppy mill puppy, we must see the total eradication of puppy mills, or as I know of them, 'puppy farms' and pet shops who would be a party to such outrage.
    I do not think any animal, our beloved non-judgemental friends, should be for sale, full stop.
    Take care and thanks for this article.
    With respect and kind wishes, Gary

  2. This should be required reading for everyone considering a puppy purchase. There should be a copy in every vet's office. Suzie was one lucky dog, and these are very special people.

  3. Deanne,
    This was a very heartfelt , informative article. Thank God you found Suzie and gave her the life she deserved.

  4. athat was quite the story. I wish there were lots more good endings out there.

  5. Thank you so much, Deanne, for sharing your story. I suspect it wasn't easy for you to talk about, yet this is a subject that is so important for us all to understand. Suzie was a very lucky girl to have had the opportunity of a full and loving life with you! All that you do for animals now is surely in honor of your sweet little girl. May there some day very soon be no more places like what Suzie endured.


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