The Price of the Doggie in the Window

My Italian Greyhound Moose is the four-legged love of my life. He has a fabulous temperament, is well trained, and at nearly 13 years old is in good health save for a seizure on rare occasions. Having said that, never again would I purchase a puppy from a pet store.

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While we have been lucky in terms of Moose’s disposition and health, many puppies bought from pet shops aren’t as fortunate. Sure, the cute puppies in the cages are adorable, but shops don’t want you to know how they acquire them.

You may remember news reports about sick puppies sold to unsuspecting consumers. They bring their new family member home, take them to the vet for their well visit, and are heartbroken to learn their puppy has been diagnosed with an illness or has a hereditary condition. Their new addition will cost them a lot of money over the course of their life, but the heartbreak they will endure when their puppy’s life is cut short due to irresponsible breeding practices is immeasurable.

If you read the tags on the puppy cages in pet stores, they will list the origins of the puppies. You may notice that a majority of them will come from the Midwest. Have you ever wondered why? The Midwest is the puppy mill capital of the United States, with Lancaster, Pennsylvania known for puppy mills on the East Coast.

The parents of your cute new pup live in a puppy mill. Live isn’t the right word, it’s more like they exist. These dogs are held in unsanitary cramped quarters, have little to no veterinary care, and are also deprived human interaction. Filthy wire cages are stacked atop each other, allowing the elimination of the animals to fall onto the dogs below.

The parents are forced to produce repeated litters until they are no longer able. When that happens, they are no use to the miller, and are destroyed. A scant few make it to rescue, but the majority are killed when no longer profitable.

As for the litters of puppies, they are usually taken from the mother too soon, leading to issues for the new owner. There is no health testing or vet care for them as well. They are loaded onto trucks and driven to pet shops. Some animals die during transport.

That is the reality behind the cute puppies you see in the pet stores. What can you do to make a difference in the lives of these animals? First, adopt don’t shop. Shelters and rescues are filled with puppies and dogs waiting for their forever homes. Purebreds can also be found in shelters, and there are many breed rescues. When you adopt your new friend, be sure to patronize pet supply stores that do not sell puppies or kittens. The mills will shutter if the demand for pet store puppies is eliminated.

Chain pet stores as well as independent shops often feature adoption events at their locations in lieu of animals from puppy mills. Some supply chains such as the shop where I purchased Moose, have gone out of business. That is a big win for the dogs and the humans who love them.

Please search this important topic for more information beyond the scope of this blog.

To Red, with Love

When our first Italian Greyhound was about three years old, we decided he needed a playmate. Moose enjoyed the playdates we attended, so we thought he might like a canine companion at home, as he had formed a close bond with our chronically ill cat.

By now we knew about the evil puppy mills behind the cute pet shop puppies. We opted to rescue our next dog. Through Petfinder we found an Italian Greyhound in the care of a central New Jersey animal welfare society. His profile told one story, but the organization told us quite a different tale once we arrived to meet the dog.

The pup was being held at a private home. It was a noisy environment; we were greeted by barking dogs and screaming kids. Knowing this sensitive breed, it wasn’t a good place for an Italian Greyhound.

His name was Red, and he had zero interest in meeting us. In fact, he was under a table and wouldn’t come out. Even the lure of meatballs wasn’t enough to convince him to greet us. The table had to be moved, and he needed to be grabbed and brought to us.

No kisses, no asking to be petted, nothing. Just shaking. I thought I heard his teeth chattering. The foster mom gave us a leash and invited us to take Red for a walk. Why would he want to do that when he couldn’t stand being near us?

Out on the front lawn we walked, my husband holding the leash. A funny thing about this little dog, he couldn’t walk, at least not the way he should. He didn’t stand upright, he walked low to the ground like a crab. He wasn’t in the best condition. His teeth were an interesting shade of green, you could almost smell him before you saw him. He was skinny, even by Italian Greyhound standards. One of his front legs bowed due to a previous broken leg. Red was in poor shape, both physically and mentally. The foster mom told us the real story behind the cute Petfinder photo. Red was “rescued” from a puppy mill by an animal hoarder, so he went from one sad situation to another.

We knew Red was more than we could deal with, and not the right dog for us. However, we couldn’t leave him in that chaotic house, worsening his fragile condition. To make matters worse, he had been neutered just the day before and was recovering from that.

We paid the adoption fee, the foster mom administered some vaccines, and off we went with a dog who really didn’t seem to care for us at all. We brought Moose on the trip to meet his potential sibling and they got on well.

Red was more than we bargained for. I never thought he wouldn’t know about grass, which is why he walked low to the ground like a crab. I don’t think he was anywhere other than a cage in the beginning of his life. He learned from Moose how to play in the yard. Our other dog also taught him how to use stairs, because Red didn’t know how to get in our house when we brought him home.

First Day Home (2005)

Red had an upsetting habit of growling at my husband, complete with raised hackles. He would also follow him and bark whenever Ted moved about the house. Sometimes he nipped the back of his legs, drawing blood a time or two. If Ted tried to put a leash on him, Red would launch himself into a wall to get away.

I had taken three days off from work to get Red acclimated to the family. All Red did was growl and bark, which brought me to tears. I wanted to love him, but I didn’t like him at all.

We took Red to our vet, a fellow Italian Greyhound owner. Red was red fawn in color with a black mask, approximately 1 to 2 years old. I was surprised he was so fancy, I just thought he was brown. We got him microchipped because who wouldn’t want a miserable little creature returned to them? He was in bad need of a dental, and needed to gain weight. The vet confirmed his leg issue, it was broken at one point and was never set. The bones fused together to form the irregular shape. Tests showed he had a parasite called giardia, which meant both dogs needed to be treated.

Once Red was repaired medically, we attempted to fix his damaged mental state. We tried trainers, behaviorists, and even a pet psychic to get to the bottom of Red’s issues.

Red has been a member of our family for 10 years this April. He still follows his daddy around the house barking. He only does this when my husband is standing or walking. If he’s sitting down, Red is curled up beside him. If we’re out of the house, Red acts normally toward him with no barking. It’s the strangest thing.

As annoying as Red’s barking is, this bad habit saved his life. When his voice changed to a muffle we knew something was wrong. He was also having difficulty breathing. Another trip to our vet diagnosed a salivary mucocele, a benign growth so far back in his throat that it blocked his airway. Red had surgery to remove the salivary gland at an out-of-state veterinary hospital and his voice returned to normal.

At first Red was a mistake, but over time he turned into a loving little dog. He does go for walks and playdates although I know he prefers to stay home. He and Moose love each other, and Moose taught him how to be a dog. It took Red a while to play with toys, but now he carries one wherever he goes.

Red is more crazy than Moose. He’s always doing something to make us smile. His exact age and birthdate are unknown but, as with Moose, we hope we have many more years together, and forever wouldn’t be long enough. Red also answers to Reddy, Reddywhip, Whips, Whippers, Snips, and Reddywhippersnapper. Whatever we call him, he is considered family. I love you, Red.

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To Moose, with Love

Photo Credit The Studio

Photo Credit The Studio

He goes by his given name of Moose, sometimes Moo, Mooey, Moo Man, Moose Papoose, Mooey Papooee, Moo Pants, and if he’s in trouble (which is rare), it’s Mussolini. He has a lot of names, but he is also called my heart dog and the four legged love of my life.

When we bought a house the last thing I wanted was a dog. I like dogs, I even had a biting Basset Hound named George growing up. Because of his disposition, George only left the house for vet appointments, so he didn’t have much of a fun factor.

One day I stopped in a now defunct pet store in search of a particular cat toy our kitties favored. I like to say I came in for a cat toy and left with a dog, but that’s not entirely true.

The store didn’t have the toy I wanted but I always looked at the puppies for sale. (This was before I became educated on puppy mills and before volunteering at the shelter). Of course they were all adorable, but one melted by heart. A tiny blue puppy was standing on the wire floor of his cage, staring at me, wagging his tail. His tag read, “Male. Greyhound.” I had never seen a Greyhound puppy before. As it turned out, I still haven’t. My mom, who tagged along on the shopping trip, asked the clerk about the dog. His cage wasn’t labeled correctly. He was an Italian Greyhound, a breed that stays smaller than a Whippet. I never heard of them, and knew nothing about them.

Knowing that holding him would seal the deal, my mom and I left the store. I told my husband about him, which led to a night spent researching the breed. After giving it some thought, we decided to get a dog.

The next morning couldn’t come soon enough. I’m not sure which of us were more excited. Hubby wanted a Great Dane or English Bulldog, but I think he would have been happy with anything I was willing to get.

We reached the store, relieved to see our puppy hadn’t been sold. The sales associate handed him to me and he immediately started cleaning my ears. I was in love. He was so young he hadn’t developed the signature tucked belly of a Greyhound. He looked like a rectangle with stick legs. It wasn’t long before he grew to look like his breed.

Moose Puppy (crop)

Puppy Love

Moose was our first Italian Greyhound. We adopted his brother Red from a rescue a few years later. I joined an Italian Greyhound website, and through that we’ve made great friends, both human and canine.

Moose is a laid back kind of guy, he loves people, dogs, and cats. He craves attention and enjoys exploring the world around him. He has his quirks, but in my eyes he’s perfect and can do no wrong. He’s an absolute angel until you move him from the couch and he turns into a 17 pound Cujo.

We just celebrated 12 years together, and he will turn 13 on Veteran’s Day. I pray we have many more years to come but, truth be told, forever wouldn’t be long enough. I love you, Moose.

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Age 11

Red Dog in a Blue Cone

Our two Italian Greyhounds recently had a routine dental procedure and while they were sedated, common canine growths were removed.  This is all part of their annual routine care, but it is an upsetting ordeal nonetheless, at least for my husband and me.  Sighthounds are sensitive to anesthesia, and it seems like an eternity passes before the vet calls with a post-surgery report.

Our boys were brought to us following a briefing with the vet.  Each had tooth extractions, but only Red had lumps removed necessitating an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from removing his stitches.  The collar was a soft blue cone, and I wondered how he felt about it.

He looked silly.  It was too large for him, and it appeared to swallow his head.  From the side you couldn’t see his muzzle, he resembled a lampshade with a dog body.

I wonder if he felt as ridiculous as he looked.  Did he cringe as we left the vet, passing other dogs on the way out?  I don’t think he cared, as he was still under the influence of the anesthesia.  Was our other dog Moose now embarrassed to be seen with him?  I don’t think he cared, either, as he was also still a bit loopy.

When all of his faculties were restored, Red ran through the house with a swoosh.  If curtains could run, this is the sound they would make.  Swoosh.  Then a crinkle.  It took Red a bit to adjust to the size of the cone.  He would scrape it along doorways and walls as he ran.  SwooshCrinkle.

Red answered my unspoken question as to his affinity (or lack thereof) for the cone.  I came home one day to a Red dog missing a blue cone.  It was left in a wad on the crate floor.  Red was pleased with himself, wagging his tail at me, but I was not pleased to discover that stitches from one wound were removed, exposing bone.

Off we went for repairs, the blue cone in tow.  Not only did Red receive three staples in lieu of stitches, but the blue cone was tied even tighter.  Poor boy.  One more week to go until he is the Red dog no longer in a blue cone.

Red the Dog

Red the Dog

Death by Dog

The prisoner was visibly terrified, as he should be.  The most heinous of crimes received the most heinous of punishments.  The state was now working in conjunction with animal rescue groups to recycle pitbulls.  No longer were the unfit for adoption euthanized.  Those dogs forever scarred by humans, forced to fight, were now able to exact their revenge.  Death by Dog, the state called it.  Lethal injection was deemed too lenient for the more violent offenders.  A contest was held to choose a new method to carry out the death penalty, and this was the overwhelming winner.  Not only were the worst of the worst eradicated, but dogs ruined through no fault of their own were allowed to live.

What was this particular prisoner’s offense?  Serial child murder.  He preyed upon the innocent and the weak.  Now tied to a pole and unable to move in an arena reminiscent of gladiator days, the inmate knew the fear his victims must have felt as he took their young lives.  In a moment the executioner would signal the release of the dogs, and give the kill command.  They would rip flesh from bones, his screams of agony only encouraging their attack.  When the prisoner eventually succumbed to his injuries, the pitbulls would cease their rampage and retreat to their kennels to be rewarded for another job well done.  Dog spelled backward is God, and one could only imagine His thoughts on the spectacle.