The one remaining dog looking for rescue after 93 other dogs were saved from a Southern Illinois puppy mill died this past week. Michel, a sweet 10-year-old Rottweiler/Shepherd mix started having seizures at the kennel while waiting for rescue after she was saved from the puppy mill. She was still waiting for rescue.
The person who had been most touched by Michel’s plight and story had been her rescuer – Elanna Bradley. She is the person that discovered the puppy mill/hoarding situation and worked with The Puppy Mill Project and other organizations to facilitate the rescue of the dogs.
Michel had been sharing a pen with a Schnauzer mix and was eating her igloo dog house in her 6 by 4-foot pen. The dog house was about three-quarters eaten and was the third house she'd chewed through. Her owner claimed it was her favorite thing to do.
“From the beginning, Michel was one of those special girls that you can’t help but love,” says Bradley. “The noise around her was deafening with the chaos and barking of 96 other dogs. I thought to myself...this is not her toy, it is her only way of releasing her stress and pent up energy from living in this cramped, loud, stress-filled environment.”
The breeder told Bradley that Michel was a “rescued dog.” He fed her, changed her water and would spray out her pen. He would occasionally pat her on the head before moving on. When he did talk to her, she’d get all excited, jumping around the pen. But most of the day, she sat there chewing on her doghouse.
“We had to hold Michel in a kennel again while we waited for a rescue group to step up and take her in. This time she was in larger kennel and it was just hers,” says Bradley. “I put the oldest doghouse I had in her kennel – fearing she’d destroy it – and filled it with soft bedding. I took her on a walk and showed her home to her. I went into the kennel and gave her a head to tail massage and told her I loved her.”
According to Bradley, Michel got to know the dog in the neighboring kennel – Hannah. Then she sniffed around and stuck her head in the doghouse before pulling out the bedding and circling around it a few times prior to settling in. She didn’t chew the doghouse. Everyday after that Bradley followed the same routine.
All was well until vaccination day rolled around. As soon as Hannah was moved to a different kennel for her vaccines, Michel would pace and then she went for the doghouse. Attempts to calm her down would work for a short time and then she’d start chewing again. However, once Hannah came back to the neighboring kennel, she greeted her and calmed down. That is when they found out that chewing was Michel's way to deal with stress.
She had bonded that tightly with her new friend in that short period of time – she had the space, the quiet and a buddy. The two girls laid down next to each other on opposite sides of the kennel fence. Her previous owner thought he’d given her the good life. She had food, water, shelter but with 97 dogs she didn’t get love.
“Michel needed what we all need, to feel loved, and to be able to show love back,” said Bradley. “The noise, the stress and chaos of her former home was bad, but the feeling of losing her friend and being alone was worse. I took that beautiful face of hers into my hands and I promised her that I would find her a home with a family and all the love she needed.”
Bradley was heartbroken to report that she was not able to keep the promise. After being in her care for two weeks, Michel was found in the kennel one morning having a massive seizure and had apparently been having them most of the night. She was taken to a vet who said that her prognosis was not good. Bradley decided to do the humane thing and let her go.
“I drove to the nearest fast food place, got her a cheeseburger and fries and asked the vet for some time with her,” said Bradley. “I held the food up to her nose, but she did not respond. Her breathing was so shallow, and I am not sure she even knew I was there. But, I held her and I told her I loved her and how sorry I was. The vet came in and put her to rest, I stayed with her and held her until she passed.”
Bradley returned to the kennel with a broken heart and filled with regret that she never was able to know the love of a family. Then she heard the grieving howls of Hannah who had also lost a beloved new friend.
“She spent the last two weeks of her life happier than she had ever been,” says Bradley. She is one of the lucky ones, if only for a short time, she knew love. I will always love Michel, I am so blessed she came into my life.”
Hannah has a new roommate and they two are often running back and forth and playing. Once in awhile, Bradley hears Hannah’s howl as she lets Michel know that she misses her too. The other 93 dogs had gone to rescues around the country. Seventy had been transferred to the North Shore Animal League, 12 had gone to Little Traverse Bay Humane Society and the rest had been taking in by several other rescues. Some of those dogs have already settled into permanent homes.
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