Be the change: The Schindler Farm rescue

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Editor’s Note: This is a special cross-post by Doreen Disbro, who runs the blog Doggies and Stuff. If you haven’t been there, check it out!  About one year ago, Doreen went on a rescue mission to help save some dogs from a puppy mill in Missouri. Here’s her story. Be sure to read to the end to see how you can sign a White House petition to crack down on puppy mills.

It was a six-hour drive to Mexico, MO in late October 2010, Halloween weekend to be exact. The weather was crisp and the leaves were falling. I was thinking about how I would cope over the next two days, as we try to rescue dogs from the Schindler Farm, who was going out of business and auctioning off all their dogs. When we woke up the next morning, it was a quick “get ready and go” attitude. We met with various other rescues across the street at a McDonald’s to discuss a plan of action. We needed to know who the rescuers were, so that we weren’t bidding against each other.

Photo by Doreen Disbro

The drive to the farm was short, but not sweet. We drove down a very long gravel road and turned into another long road, which was the drive to the farm.

We were stopped at the top of the drive, where security was in full force. We were asked to sign waivers stating we would not take any photos, would not cause any trouble for the Schindler family or the other breeders and farmers that were there to participate in the auction. They also asked for our licenses and made copies.

We parked on some land near the home, a grassy area they made into a sort of parking lot for everyone that was coming to the auction. We had two cargo vans. I noticed, as I got out of the car, several vans, trucks and cars with rescue stickers on the bumpers and back ends. I also noticed a lot of cars and trucks with trailers. We could easily pick out the rescuers from the Amish and Mennonite Farmers, but there were also some breeders there, so we had to be very careful who we talked to.

Diane and I stood in line to register, while Robin and Jill started to look for the dogs we had circled in the “catalog”. Our goal was 25 senior dogs. There were breed specific rescue groups, shelters, transporters, etc. and all had pretty much picked out the dogs they wanted to try to get.

After Diane and I registered, we started to walk the grounds. I noticed a lot of Amish and Mennonite farmers, who were there to get as many dogs as they could to take back with them to continue the cycle of breeding. I learned later on that some had come from as far away as NY. I talked to some of the women, who were pleasant but didn’t understand why we treated dogs like they were family members. “They are animals”, one of the women said to me. I wasn’t going to argue. I just smiled and nodded. I didn’t want to jeopardize our mission there. I walked over to some kennels, where I spotted one male Frenchie. He was black and looked like he had just given up. I was trying to keep my composure but I was sad and felt so helpless. I stuck my fingers in his cage and he came over. I think he knew I was friendly. He bowed his head and let me rub my fingers across his forehead.

The auctioneers were at the other end of the farm, where they were auctioning off all the large farm equipment. They started auctioning off the dogs in early afternoon. It was pretty horrible to watch. They started with the larger breeds. They would have men pull the dogs out of their cages and show them like pieces of property. Some were scared and cowered in the cages. I can honestly tell you that I have never felt so sick in my life. I never thought I would ever see the underbelly of the puppy mill world, but here I was….smack dab in the center.

Photo by Doreen Disbro

For two days the auction went on. Robin and Jill drove back Friday night with the dogs we got at Friday’s auction.

Diane and I stayed through Saturday and when we had all the dogs we could get, we headed back to Indianapolis. On the way home, I kept looking back at the Pomeranians. Frightened, I took two out and we each held one on our laps. I had #361, who later was named Margot by her foster mom and then renamed again by her new forever family. She now goes by Cinnamon. She laid on her back and in my arms, just like a little baby. She was scared, so I tried to comfort her as much as I could. I wrapped her in a blanket and rubbed her belly, neck and head. As it got darker, the stars were starting to shine. She watched the sky, probably wondering her fate. I don’t know. She seemed a little at peace. Do you think she knew that I was a good person? I hope so, because I tried to be very calm. I whispered in her ear and told her she was safe now.

We got to the shelter after midnight. Robin was waiting there for us. A triage was set up, so all the mill dogs were together. They had blankets, water and food. I was sick. I had felt sick the entire way home but it wasn’t until I actually got into my house that I ran to the bathroom and finally vomited. I felt exhausted and continued to feel so nauseous.

I woke up late the next day, still feeling sick but not as bad. I wanted to vlog about our trip and also wanted to encourage my Missouri neighbors to vote YES for Prop B, which they would be voting on that Tuesday. Prop B, if passed, would limit the amount of females a breeder could have, limit the amount of litters, mandatory vet care and more. My emotional plea got the attention of many and the emails started to flood in.

We all watched the polls on Tuesday, hoping and praying that Prop B would pass. It did. The people spoke and the people won. Not only did they win but thousands of puppy mill dogs in the state of MO won that day, too.

As for the dogs we rescued, they all found forever homes. We lost Blizzard shortly after she found her forever home. She broke free by slipping out the front door. The search was on for about 2 days and she was finally discovered by the side of the road. I cried. We all cried. She was a special dog and I hope she found some peace in the last days of her life. It still gets to me when I think about her.

Photo by Doreen Disbro

Susy and Tish found forever homes with Diane, who was one of four of us that went on the mission. I visited over the summer and they are doing great. Pictured on the right, after playing fetch, they are relaxed and just hanging out.  I asked Diane to give me a little write up on the girls and this is their story:

After arriving in Indy Tish went to a foster home in Columbus where she adapted well to indoor, pampered life.  She learned to walk with a harness, loved playing with her white teddy bear.   Suzy (aka Trixie) was at Southside Animal Shelter until Dec. when I decided to adopt her.  Both Suzy and Tish had been at a number of adoption events, but people thought they were too old – Suzy is 8 yrs. and Tish is 10yrs.  Well, they don’t show a bit of their age.  They love to play fetch and tug of war with all their new stuffed toys.  They have adapted well in our house with the cats and other dogs. 

Initially both were afraid to be picked up and loved or petted.  Tish overcame her fears more easily than Suzy.  She now loves to sit and sleep up on the couch, will come and ask to be petted.  Tish still doesn’t like to be held very much, but does she ever like belly rubs!  She no longer flattens like a pancake when I bend down to pet her and in fact as long as I am sitting on the floor snuggles right up next to me, rolls over so her belly can be rubbed as long as I want to rub.  I don’t think she will ever tire of these rubs.  They both are a joy to have in our household and it’s a thrill to see how far they have progressed from the days of living in a rabbit hutch with 6-8 other Shih Tzus.  I’m lucky to have them in my life.

Margot (on the left), the little pom I mentioned at the beginning the of the post, the one I held in my lap the entire drive home, found her forever home at the beginning of the year.  We recently got an update (short but sweet) from her new family.  The following is what Robin sent to me when she heard from her new mom:

She said she is the “love of her life”. She gets along well with her other dog and she loves to run around the back yard. She said she looks like she hops like a little bunny. She goes for her spa day every 6 weeks and gets all trimmed up and looks beautiful. She thanked us for rescuing her. “

Would I sound cheesy if I told you I balled when reading that?  I wanted so badly to bring her home with me but I knew it wouldn’t be fair to her, to Millie and Riley and Kiko.  She needed to either be the only dog in the home or with another small dog to play with.  I had to let her go but I will never ever forget her, ever.  I am balling now as I am typing this.  She made a huge impact on me.

So, how has all of this affected me?  Well, it’s made me more determined to shut these puppy mills down.  While I have always been aware of puppy mills, attending rallies and helping get the word out about how terribly awful they are, this was the first time I had actually seen one up close and personal.  I felt sick to my stomach the entire time I was there.  I had a couple of migraines because I was under a great deal of stress.  I tried to keep my composure while I was there and believe me, it was very hard.  I still have nightmares about the dogs we couldn’t save.  I think that will always haunt me.  I can only hope that we can find a way to put an end to this.  We need to take these places down and tell them that we mean business.  We now need the attention of President Obama to help close a loophole that permits large-scale, commercial breeders who sell their puppies online.

The Obama Administration needs to act now and close this loophole to crack down on the worst puppy mill abuses,” said Melanie Kahn, senior director of the Puppy Mills Campaign with the HSUS. “Thousands of animal lovers across the country are bringing the issue of puppy mills directly to the President’s attention.”

The current USDA’s Animal Welfare Act regulates large-scale commercial dog breeders who sell puppies wholesale to brokers or pet stores. However, the loophole within that act means that dog breeders who sell their puppies directly to the public via newspaper or Internet advertisements are not being regulated. This petition is a call to close that loophole.

“The ASPCA has seen first-hand the unspeakable cruelty and horrific conditions of puppy mills,” said Cori Menkin, senior director of the Puppy Mills Campaign at the ASPCA. “The existing regulatory loophole allows many commercial breeders to operate without a license and without any inspection — meaning they are not accountable to anyone for their breeding and care standards. President Obama can take action to protect dogs and consumers and we urge him to do so.”

Additional signatures are still being accepted until Sunday. Animal welfare supporters can take part in signing the petition at We the People – Crack Down on Puppy Mills to help advance the initiative.

I hope you will join me in this battle because the more of us that make noise, the more of us that stand up for their rights and that be a voice for those who have none, will prevail.  Together we can make a difference.  Together we can get them to listen to us.  Together we can end the pain and suffering.

Thank you,

Doreen, Kiko, Millie and Riley

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About Doggies and Stuff: Doggies and Stuff is mainly a reviews and giveaways blog but Doreen often uses that to her advantage in hopes that it brings more people to read her blog, so she can help educate and rally with other pet parents about animal welfare issues.  While Doreen loves telling her readers about the importance of green products for your pets and our planet, she has been on the front lines of dog rescue for more than 20 years.  She is committed to putting an end to puppy mills and is often seen at rallies, protesting at pet stores that sell puppies they get from puppy mills and on the front steps of the Indianapolis State House to help support bills that make tougher penalties for those caught dog fighting.

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