Dogs Who Survived Puppy Mill Need Families

Many of the dogs rescued from puppy mills have lasting issues. Some of them are health-related, like urinary tract infections, dental problems that have required removal of teeth or worse.

Other issues are behavioral. Some of the dogs haven’t had any socialization at all, so they’re timid around strangers, won’t get too close to people and have habits that are atypical for dogs raised in better conditions. They might gobble their food down so fast they choke, or they might hide food for later, knowing that in the past, food hasn’t been supplied regularly. When faced with stress, they might go to a quiet place and hide, ignoring everything. They haven’t been housebroken, so they’re more likely to have accidents inside the house than other dogs.

These dogs often still do make great pets, though. They just might require more time and more patience from their owners. The older ones, some of whom have been used as breeders under terrible conditions for years, likely won’t turn around in a week or two. It takes a long time to get over something like that for an animal, just like it would for a person.

It may sound odd, but I thought of the women Ariel Castro kidnapped and imprisoned for years in Cleveland. It’s terrible that people can do these things to other people. It’s terrible that people can do these things to dogs, too.

There’s still hope, though, and as time goes on, the dogs do get better.

I wrote a story this week about some of the dogs saved from a puppy mill near Wheatland, N.D. in July. While more than 174 dogs were taken from the mill, our local group Prairie Paws Rescue took in nine of them. Three of those nine have been adopted, and six of them remain in foster homes waiting for more permanent homes.

Prairie Paws deliberately took in some of the hardest cases, because it has experience dealing with puppy mill dogs and their unique set of issues, so it’s not surprising that some of the dogs still haven’t found good homes yet.

The dogs, all of whom were named after cars, have been making progress.


This is Porsche, one of the dogs that has been adopted. She’s getting along quite well, according to her new owner, Terry McCleary, of Ashley, N.D.


Mercedes, called Mercy by her fosterer, Stacey Ellingson, hasn’t yet been adopted, but her condition has improved greatly from the above image. While she was at the puppy mill, the fur around her eye became matted, to the extent that her eye was beginning to close up.

It looks like they had to trim her hair pretty short, so I’m guessing the matting was pretty bad. Since then, though, with the help of eyedrops and Ellingson’s dedication, Mercy’s eye has improved. And her fur has grown back, too–she looks pretty fluffy now.


She’s probably going to need eyedrops for a while, yet, and may always need them.

“Her hair has grown out, the eye is looking better and her skin and coat are much healthier. She is now a happy girl,” Ellingson wrote in an email to me.


She is a pretty cute dog. According to Ellingson, she does like people, and she’s fine with other dogs, as long as they don’t get in her face.

Mercy served as a breeder dog, so she was older when she was rescued–probably around 7 or 8. That makes her a harder case for adoption, even though, as Ellingson pointed out, she has many good years left in her.

She needs to be on special food. And she has a tendency to gobble her food, and treats too, sometimes inadvertently nipping a finger or two in her haste. Sometimes she pees in the house, as puppy mills don’t teach their dogs to go to the door if they need to go out.

And when she’s stressed, she goes somewhere quiet and sort of shuts down, becoming so unresponsive that rescuers initially thought she was deaf. She’s not deaf, though–it’s just her response to difficult conditions, a coping mechanism she developed at the puppy mill.

For more information about the Wheatland dogs that Prairie Paws still has — Porsche, Mercedes, Buick and the others — click here. Prairie Paws has a website, too, and you can view all the animals currently available for adoption there, dogs and cats, kitties and puppies too.

2 Responses

  1. Deb & Jim Hegdahl

    We have a mini Schnauzer that Prairie Paws rescued from a puppy mill in Nebraska, in 2008. We knew that it would take lots of love, time, patience & more patience. Spock has turned into a great dog. Spock shuts down when he is really stressed, this happens less and less often as we have worked with him. He used to hide food, but when he realized that feeding time was regular, that treats were freely handed out, this behavior changed. We were convince by our vet (the great Nathan Kjelland at Golden Valley Vet in Park River ND) to put Spock on Amitriptylin for his anxiety. When we got him to a therapeutic level, he started coming out of his shell. The process took over four years. I know this sounds like a very long time, and it is. But to see the progress Spock has made, in comparison to how he was when we first brought him home, it is truly amazing! We have worked with him, and while progress was very slow, it has been SO worth it. Spock picks on our German Shepherd, tussles with our other mini Schnauzer, he picks on my husband, and loves to play with me. We do not go to bed at night without our nightly game of rubbing the belly, itch the ears, neck, wrestling, teasing & kindheartedly chewing on the mama. Spock is truly an amazing dog! The staff a Prairie Paws are amazing and hard working angels. Keep up the good work!

    1. It is so awesome to hear another success story!

      Four years is a long time, but I can’t imagine it would take less time for a person to get over being locked in a small cage with no medical or dental care for years. In some puppy mills there are inches of waste piled up inside the cages, and they’re never let out.

      I am so glad to hear that Spock is happy.

      (Also, that is a spectacular name for a dog. I hope he has pointy ears.)

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