Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is Animal Cruelty...

Brace yourselves, I'm about to launch a colossal rant.

Anyone who's on Facebook knows how easy it is to miss a post by any friend or liked page, particularly with Facebook's "we know better than you" attitude that leads them to show us the posts they think are most important without any real say-so from us. I was constantly switching to the "Most Recent" feed until I was fortunate enough to find a script that allows me to tweak several of the settings on Facebook, including forcing them to stay on Most Recent instead of Top Stories. Anyway, I'm mentioning this because of all the posts made by the Switzerland County Animal Shelter since I "liked" their page, the first and only one I've actually seen was one that was made last Tuesday, February 5. It was post of very cute Golden Retriever puppy who was one of the dogs currently available for adoption. I clicked on the image, which took me to the SCAS page where I caught sight of another image of another dog. This is that image:
Here are the words that accompanied it: This is Marilyn. She is an English bulldog approximately 4-5 years old. Marilyn was found curled up freezing and starving in the North Dr area.
This blog is named Winsomebulldog. My header is a picture of my two Bulldogs, Katie and Briscoe. Katie was my husband's dog, a dream come true for him. A friend's family had one that he spent time with as a young man, and from then on, he always dreamed of owning one. Clearly, we are Bulldog fans.

First off, let me just confess that both Katie and Briscoe came from pet stores. We weren't as aware then as we are now of the horrors of puppy mills. For us, the consequences of purchasing our two darling Bullies at a pet store instead of from a reputable breeder were a significant array of various health issues that could undoubtedly have been avoided if their breeders had been more interested in producing healthy puppies than in the obscene amount of money they could make while forcing dogs to produce litter after litter after litter of unhealthy puppies. Having said all that, I wouldn't trade either of my precious babies for any amount of money. Losing Katie was and still is one of the most painful things I have endured.

So, what does any of this have to do with Marilyn? Well, Marilyn was almost certainly used in a puppy mill. Let me tell you why I believe that.

She is skin and bones. She has a list of health issues that is almost impossible to believe. One of those issues is swollen, raw feet with pads that have spit open. This happens when a dog is forced to stand in their own urine and feces. You can't see it clearly in the above picture, but instead of being white, as she should be, she's more a dingy yellowish brown. She smells terrible. Just so you get a full picture of her condition, let me show you a few more images.

Have you thrown up, yet? I've come close a few times since I first saw her.

The obvious issues:
  • She's been starved. 
  • Her nails hadn't been trimmed in, well, probably ever.
  • There are mammary tumors all along her stomach because she was never spayed.
  • Her eyes are milky and constantly gooey because of entropion. (Entropion is a situation where the eyelids basically roll inward, causing the lashes to constantly rub the surface of the eye. Very uncomfortable.)
  • Due to the untreated entropion, both eyes are severely scarred, making her almost blind. The damage from the constant irritation was so bad that her left eye developed an ulcer that eventually ruptured. Translation, she has a hole in her eye.
  • Her feet are raw.

Now for the not so obvious, but not unexpected, issues:
  • She is heartworm positive. 
  • All her rear teeth are so decayed that they're essentially mush and will have to be removed before they cause her jawbones to rot as well. 

More possible issues that haven't been confirmed, yet, but that I wouldn't be surprised by:
  • Heavy internal parasites.
  • Hip and/or knee damage from being caged constantly.
She can barely walk. This could be due to her painful feet, arthritis, or the fact that she's barely more than skin and bones. Probably a combination of all of them.

When she was found, she was curled up on the cold ground beneath a rabbit hutch, waiting to die. The lady who picked her up said she just looked like she'd given up. She was so cold that she spent the rest of that day shivering, just trying to get warm.

When I saw that picture of her, taken as soon as she was brought into the shelter, I knew I had to do something. I sent the shelter several messages, asking for more information. As soon as my husband got home, I showed him the picture. He was as horrified as I was.

The next morning, I began communicating with the shelter about her. They'd guessed her age to be 4-5 years. By the end of that day, I was positive that I wanted to bring her home with me.

The next day, Feb. 7, she was due to see a vet. I had errands to run in the morning, but went over to the shelter as soon as I got home to meet her. I'd seen the picture, so I knew she was terribly skinny. The shelter had informed me that the picture didn't show how truly bad it was. What really got me when I first saw her, though, was the way she was curled up in a tiny ball on her blanket. She was in the isolation room along with several other smaller dogs. As dogs do, they all began barking like mad as soon as the door was opened. Marilyn's head lifted, then dropped once more in dejection. She began to tremble. All I could think was how much I wanted to take her to a quiet place, wrap her in warm blankets, and cradle her in my lap.

She had her vet appointment later in the afternoon and the shelter assured me that they would call once they knew something. I got that phone call at 5. That's when they told me about the heartworms, her eyes, the mammary tumors, her teeth, and that she was closer to 8 years old. The vet suggested putting her down, but they didn't because I'd already told them that we would still take her if she turned out to be heartworm positive. I'd prepared for that. I hadn't braced myself for all the rest of it.

When I got off the phone with the shelter, I sent my hubby a text message explaining all the additional issues she was facing. Her teeth will have to be removed. This is surgery. The entropion can be fixed through another surgery. The mammary glands can be removed when she is spayed. ANOTHER surgery. And don't forget those heartworms. Want to know how they kill those suckers? Arsenic. That's right. They poison the nasty little things. Follow that up with having countless dead worms flushed through damaged arteries and you're talking about a huge physical impact on the body. Look at those pictures again. Think she can survive that? The vet had concerns that she'd be able to survive any of the treatments she needs.

I hung up the phone and started crying. I just couldn't help it. I kept seeing her curled up on that blanket. I kept thinking about the hell she's been forced to endure. It is obvious that she's been bred repeatedly. Whatever bastards - yes, I know it's an ugly word - had her, used her, abused her, and then threw her away when she got too sick to be of further use. This is what I kept thinking about. Would it be kinder to just put her down? Would it be cruel to try to "fix" all her problems?

Needless to say, I didn't sleep that night. But when I got up Friday morning I'd made a decision. I had to give her a chance. She's known nothing but misery. She deserves so much more. I eventually came to the decision that even if she doesn't survive one of the cures for her many ailments, I could at least give her the best life possible for however long she lives. I can keep her full and warm and give her all the love she has never known but so obviously needs. And she just might survive it all. Katie was 11 before the cancer took her from us. This precious little girl could have several more years of life left to live. Happy, healthy years. I simply could not deny her that chance.

So, I went to the shelter and picked her up. I brought her home and gave her a chance to sniff a bit in the yard and potty. Then I brought her in the house and put her down on the large orthopedic dog bed that we keep in our living room for Malcolm to lay on. The boys gave her a few cursory sniffs. She wasn't sure what to think of them, but I laid down beside her and gently stroked her head and ears until she started dozing off. I tucked her blanket in around her so she could nap.

Since then, she's had some food and water, and been outside several times. She got a little bit sick, probably from drinking too much. She was a thirsty girl. She's napping on Malcolm's bed, occasionally waking up to look around, as if she's making sure she's still in a warm, safe place.

She has a very long road ahead of her. She needs a bath terribly, but I don't want to put her through the stress. I want to give her a few days to settle in, to feel at home and completely safe before I start doing things that I know will make her uneasy.

I have no idea what her personality is truly like. She's so weak that she doesn't do much more than eat, drink, and sleep. She is just so painfully thin. Watching her try to walk is agonizing. I want to do something, to make her better, to make her happy. Every time I look at her, I am sickened again by how much she has suffered.

Somewhere out there is a person or persons who used a beautiful, gentle, sweet, loving dog to make money with absolutely no regard for her welfare. They could make money off her because people buy dogs off the Internet and out of classified ads in the newspaper, sight unseen. They don't visit the breeder or insist upon meeting the parents of the puppy they're buying.

There is very serious problem in this country. We continue to view dogs, cats, horses, livestock, any domestic animals, as property, no different than a car or a sofa. We blame dogs for being dogs, condemning entire breeds or even breed types for the actions of a few while simultaneously deifying those who contribute to the problem. Michael Vick not only participated in dog fighting, he tortured his dogs to death, yet he didn't actually go to jail for that. He was allowed to plea to "Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture." Racketeering. In the state of Virginia, he submitted a guilty plea to a single Virginia felony charge for dog fighting, receiving a 3 year prison sentence suspended on condition of good behavior, and a $2,500 fine. He spent less than 2 years in prison, got out and picked his NFL career right back up where he left off. He was named the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl.

This from a man who admitted to providing most of the financing for the operation and to participating directly in several dog fights in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. He admitted to sharing in the proceeds from these dog fights. He further admitted that he knew his colleagues killed several dogs who did not perform well. He admitted to being involved in the destruction of 6–8 dogs, by hanging or drowning.

How many thousands of people have cheered for Michael Vick during his "comeback?" How many people out there look at him and think he served his time and should be granted a fresh start despite the fact that he was never convicted of animal cruelty? He never spent one day in jail for it. Even if he had been convicted of animal abuse, he would have gotten little to no jail time for it and a monetary fine of a few thousand dollars.

Abusing an animal is a misdemeanor. No matter how terrible the abuse, how horrific the suffering of an animal, current criminal laws make it nearly impossible to convict anyone of animal cruelty short of having film of them committing it, and convictions carry penalties that tend to amount to a slap on the wrist.

Marilyn is not an inanimate object. She is a living, breathing, feeling creature. She has emotions. She feels pain and fear, suffers grief and loneliness. She has her own personality. She's an individual just like I am or you are. She is beautiful and sweet, wholly undeserving of the hell she's been put through.

So I'm left to ask, how many of you out there have a dog tied up out in your yard? How many have a wire kennel that you visit once a day just to drop off some food and water while the dog you've caged inside spends every single moment all alone? How many of you don't bother to get your pet spayed or neutered, or give the heartworm and flea prevention? They're just dogs, right? All dogs have fleas. So what?

Just because I can't bear to end this on a completely depressing note, I'm going to add one final picture.
Marilyn and her blankets, curled up on her comfy bed. No more shivering. No more fear. Whatever the future holds for her, at least she finally won't have to face it all alone.

I've used the name given to her by the shelter workers during this post, but that isn't the name we're going to call her by. I wanted something less formal sounding, so we've called her Maggie. Maggie May. Of course she doesn't recognize her name, yet. But she's already beginning to respond to the sound of my voice. Perhaps more telling, there have been at least two times that I've seen her wake up and turn her head toward me, her scarred eyes struggling to focus. I speak a few words to her, telling her what a good, sweet girl she is, and she lowers her head back down and returns to her sleep. Don't anyone dare try to tell me that dogs don't crave the companionship of their people.