Anyone who has walked by a puppy in the window of a pet store knows that instant feeling of “I need one.” They’re so tiny and fuzzy and seeing their little paw pads pressed against the glass is enough to make even the biggest “cat lover” cave entirely and declare their obsession for all things canine. While this feeling may be well known, what’s not is how those puppies came to be in that window. And unfortunately, the truth is about as horrifying as those puppies are adorable: extremely.
Most dogs sold in pet shops are the product of puppy mills. These are large-scale breeding facilities that resemble dingy and decrepit factory farms where dogs are seen as nothing more than commodities. The typical mill houses hundreds of breeding dogs in tiny cages, providing only the care needed to keep these animals alive long enough to produce a profitable number of puppies. These dogs never know anything outside of these horrific conditions and will spend their entire lives producing offspring only to have their litters taken away far too soon so they can start the cycle again.
And all of this happens because consumers are not told the truth about puppy mills. But one former puppy mill dog made it his life’s mission to change this.
Harley was rescued from a deplorable puppy mill in terrible condition by National Mill Dog Rescue. He lost one of his eyes and needed to have a number of teeth removed due to infection. Life in a small cage with improper nutrition caused this tiny Chihuahua to have joint issues that made moving around difficult for him. But thanks to lots of love and care, he eventually learned all the wonders of life as a free dog – including the joys of belly rubs and playtime! With the pain of their pasts behind them, these two set their sights on rescuing other dogs from puppy mills – and gained quite a lot of notoriety for their “freedom rides.”
With the help of his amazing guardians, Harley became a hero for other puppy mill dogs, advocating for “adopt don’t shop” and carrying out “freedom rides” rescuing other puppy mill dogs with his BFF Teddy, another puppy mill survivor. Anyone who knew Harley was instantly inspired by his transformation and encouraged to educate others about the harsh reality of puppy mills. Sadly, after years of fighting for other dogs, Harley has crossed the rainbow bridge.
He may have just been one dog, but his message saved the lives of thousands of others and indefinitely changed public perception of puppy mills for the better. This little hero might have hung up his cape, but it is up to us to pick it back up and stand up for the millions of dogs still suffering in these conditions.
We can all honor Harley’s memory by supporting the work of National Mill Dog Rescue and always, ALWAYS choosing to adopt and not shop for puppies. When we stop for suffering, it can finally stop. Harley certainly was a little dog with a big dream and we all have the power to make that dream come true.
Rest in peace, Harley.
All image source: Harley Freight Train Taylor/Facebook