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Candy - Kansas
In Memory of Candy

by Kelli Johnsen

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Some months back I was asked to help in the rescue of three dogs that were being surrendered by a puppy mill.  There are many definitions of puppy mills, my own being a pretty broad one.  However, the place that these girls came from was a very stereotypical puppy mill.  In all actuality, this one was one of the better ones…they only had about 100 dogs, they actually noticed when one wasn’t feeling well, and they didn’t dump the dogs just anywhere when their usefulness was over.  I’m afraid that that is where my praise of the place that Candy lived ends.

Candy was surrendered because the owner thought she had pyometra.  Pyometra is an infection in the uterus.  Since they are generally unable to produce puppies after a pyometra episode (most veterinarians recommend spaying as the treatment), dog’s that develop this are in grave danger in a mill situation.   It is unknown when Candy’s last litter was whelped, but I believe it was around 3 months before I got her. 

When the three girls were brought to me one day, I was a bit overwhelmed.  All had possible health issues, and all had amazing behavioral/socialization issues to overcome.  I knew I had a long day’s work ahead of me.  Candy had two very large scars on her, among many smaller ones.  One appeared to be a hotspot that had gone untreated.  One appeared to be some type of a tear in the skin…probably from poor housing conditions.  Her coat was in deplorable shape, her ear had a piece at the bottom that was almost ripped off at some point in her life, and her toes splayed out suggesting she wasn’t on quality flooring.   And she wagged her tail.  And she very slowly gave kisses.  And she was as sweet as her name.Candy and the Girls

At the time I had a very small car, a Geo Metro.  Believe it or not, a bullmastiff could fit in the back seat.  Candy positively enjoyed having her head between the front seats and feeling the air conditioning blow on her face during the ride home.  I reflected on how this was probably the first time in her life she had ever experienced anything like this.  The leash was new, the blanket in her sleeping quarters was new, everything.

Once we got home I had the unenviable task of trying to get three non-leashbroken, terrified bullmastiffs down seven stairs and into my house.  That was an experience I’m not likely to forget.  I managed to get them in the doorway and onto the first landing.  An hour later I’m still trying to talk nicely to them, beg them, bribe them…anything.  No go.  I ended up setting my feet and heaving one large pull where they rather unceremoniously landed at my feet.

I put each of the girls in their crate and let them chill for an hour or so.  Candy was by far still the most outgoing, but she was pretty nervous.  The other two girls just hid at the back of the crate and tried to “blend in.”  In an hour I offered them some water and food.  I was not surprised when they initially did not eat, but I was surprised when I realized the reason.   These poor dogs had not been exposed to dog bowls any time recently!  I was told that the previous owner had simply thrown dry kibble on the ground for the dogs to eat.   My stainless steel, roomy bowls must have looked like an alien to these girls!  I simply can’t imagine the fear they must have felt at all of the newness in their life.

In short order they began to drink out of the bowls.  They were very careful not to touch the bowls with their muzzles or collars though…the sounds were very frightening.  They each “broke” at intervals ranging from 2-5 days, but they finally did start to eat from the bowls.  However, the first day or so they would take their paw and dump the bowl over…then eat off of the bottom of the crate.  Old habits die very hard.

Candy was beginning to realize that it was OK to relax.  She enjoyed the back yard, enjoyed the air conditioning, ate like crazy, and generally enjoyed everything coming at her.  Her tail never stopped wagging.  She gave kisses every chance she got.  Can you imagine trying so hard to be loved by the kind that had treated you so callously?

About a week after I got her it was time for her spay.  Now was the time to see if she really had a pyometra (since she wasn’t showing any clinical signs, we didn’t rush immediately to surgery).  She’d always had a strange odor about her, but there was no discharge so I was a bit stumped.  We ran pre-anesthetic bloodwork…all was normal.  I did a urinalysis and found one of the most severe urinary tract infections I have ever seen.   We started her on medications for that, then took her to surgery.  Imagine our utter shock when during surgery we found, not a uterine infection, but a DEAD puppy inside her!  Until that moment I was unaware that a dog could have a puppy inside her…who had been dead for at least 3 months…and still be alive, let alone happy and well! 

And this leads me to the point of this writing:  Candy is a puppy mill dog.  She had three scars on her uterus from c-sections.  Lord knows how many litters she whelped naturally.  Candy is the mother of that cute puppy at the pet shop.  Because people kept seeing those cute puppies in the pet shop window and buying them, Candy was bred nearly to death.  Every time someone bought a puppy…whether it was to “save” it or simply on impulse…another reason existed for many people to benefit from Candy’s sacrifices.  Meanwhile Candy languished in a cage with food thrown on the floor and untreated in the most basic of health care.  You see, if a dog’s health problem does not directly affect the ability of that dog to produce puppies, it is not treated.  Why waste the money?  There is certainly no love lost on these dogs…except of course for the money they bring in.  The urinary tract infection, the ear yeast infection, the skin tear…none of this is considered dangerous to the ability to produce puppies, so the dog suffers.

Candy lived with me for several months while trying to find a forever home.  Candy became leash broken, adored going to work with me, and generally thought the world was her oyster.  However, I was soon to discover a black cloud in her world.  Remember that urinary tract infection?  Easy enough to fix, right?  Wrong.  I tried for three months.  Nothing.  I finally sent out a urine culture.  The results showed that the specific bacteria was only sensitive to 2 different antibiotics…one was incredibly expensive and thus out of reach for dear Candy.  One carried with it the risk of kidney failure as a side effect.  I had an ultrasound done on her to make sure we saw no evidence of cancer or kidney problems.  All was clear with her kidneys.  This poor dog, however, had fought this UTI for so long that her bladder had actually started to mineralize and harden.  Can you imagine that your bladder is hard?  Not only does it hurt every single time you go, but you have to go just that more often because your bladder is too hard to expand normally!  Can you imagine the frustration and pain she was in?

I felt so sorry for this girl, I felt compelled to go forward, even in the face of ever-slimming odds.  I was assured by the specialists that all damage done could be reversed if we could just fix the UTI.  I elected the cheaper more dangerous method.  Two weeks after treatment was begun she was bacteria free.  She felt wonderful!  She ran and played and even had a much longer attention span.  Because she wasn’t urinating constantly, she got more freedoms and more fun.   I was living with a different dog who couldn’t seem to believe how good she had it.  Her training started to progress in so many different areas.  I had a wonderful prospective adopter who was just at the end of the process to make her his forever dog.

I went out of town for the next few days and left her in the care of my Mom.  When I returned it was obvious to me that the UTI was back.  Later that evening another urinalysis confirmed my worst fears.  Candy was at the end of her line.  I was absolutely crushed.  Here was my Candy-Girl on the brink of the life she had always deserved but never had.  And something as stupid as a urinary tract infection stood in the way of all of it.  Once again mankind and fate had dealt her an awful blow.

CandySo, with tears in my eyes I set the catheter in her vein that would end her pain and her life.  She wagged her tail, thumping it on the floor of the veterinary clinic where I work.  She kissed me and kissed the friend I had holding her.  We then switched positions and I hugged my Candy-Girl while my friend administered the very last gift in the world I had left to give her…release from her pain.  And she kissed me as long as she could.

And so was the end of the life of a puppy mill breeder.  Please, I beg of you:  spread the word about Candy.  Tell people about this story so that they may get a picture of the mama dog behind the face of that cute little puppy in the pet shop window.  There will be many, many more Candy-Girls as long as there are people who are willing to buy the puppies.  This business of selling life in a commercialized first-come, first-served fashion simply costs too much.

 - Kelli Johnsen
Kansas Bullmastiff Rescue

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