During the holiday season, I've asked my rescue friends and contacts to share their heartwarming stories involving pets that they've rescued or adopted. Today's post was submitted by Leo who was rescued by the National Mill Dog Rescue and adopted by his foster mom. After over 8 years in a puppy mill, Leo had a lot to learn. He's also a great reminder that dogs of all sizes languish in the mills...and I love his dream - Every dog deserves their very own bowl!
March 23, 2012 was the BEST day ever. That day, I met National Mill Dog Rescue and they forever changed my life for the better!
My name is Leo and I am a 10 year old boxer. I want to tell you the story of the luckiest day of my life. One morning, a beautiful van with the words ‘National Mill Dog Rescue’ pulled up to the warehouse where I was living. Word quickly spread that they were here to save me and some of my buddies. I did not know what that meant, but I heard a man say – “your life will get better.”
I was a little scared even though everyone was smiling at me and it looked like they had tears in their eyes as they loaded us into the van. My buddies and I were quiet, but rather nervous as we travelled from Missouri to Peyton, Colorado. It was great to be out of that awful building, but I still had terrible pains in my belly and fleas all over me. My mouth was full of blood and my ears were full of dirt and bugs. Going through my head, I kept hearing that man’s words – life will get better - and I had this feeling this man was right. During the ride, I think I finally understood the word ‘hope.'
We pulled up to this huge kennel; it was cold outside and I started to panic and thought I was just going to another breeder. Oh no, this glimmer of hope had just been a dream. You see it is common for breeders to sell their stud dogs to each other and I thought I was going to another terrible place.
Boy was I wrong! There were so many people there to greet me. I got lots of pats on my head and kisses by so many new people. It was really something and I couldn't get enough of at all. I just stood there and one by one I kept getting more kisses and hugs. I enjoyed every minute of it and never wanted it to stop. This must be what heaven is like.
After all of the loving, they put each of us in kennels with warm blankets and gave us lots of food. My mouth was really sore as my teeth are shaved all the way down to the gum line, but I was so hungry and the food was so good, I just wanted to eat. They kept calling me Leo. Every time I heard the word ‘Leo’ I would get a kiss or a compliment. A lady came over, knelt down and said - “your name is now Leo.”
Leo settles in
She smiled and kissed me. I saw a tear run down her cheek. I was confused since I did not know what it meant to have a name. I had never been called by a name, but I decided that ‘Leo’ must be the very best name and perked up when I heard it. I was not sure what was going on but boy did I like all this attention.
For 8.5 years, humans were not very nice and I was very nervous when one approached my cage. You see, nothing good ever happened when they were near me. There must be many types of humans, because the humans as Lily's Haven are wonderful and it was a good feeling when someone approached my kennel door. They called me Leo and I LIKED it.
One day a lady with white coat gave me shots and gave me medicine to make me healthy. On another day I got to get a bath. I never had a bath, but I liked that, too. And, boy did it make me feel better. I think about the words - life will get better – all of the time. I like this better thing!
I lived at Lily’s Haven for over two months and was repeatedly told that ‘life will get better.’ A few people were interested in taking me to their home, but it never happened. I did not care because I thought this place was great and I liked it here. However, people were determined to find me something better.
Life with a foster family
One day, I heard this lady Kim was going to drive me to the mountains. What the heck are mountains? Auntie Kim, that is what I call her, kept saying "Leo, you are going to Vail and you are going to love it." I climbed in her SUV for a three-hour ride. We arrived at this place called ‘Vail Doggie Day Spa and Lodging.’ My new foster mom came out to meet me. She told me I was beautiful.
There were lots of people and dogs to meet and she introduced me to all these little dogs. I met Farside right away - he was funny. I met Josie she was sweet. My foster mom told me that she owned this place and she was going to take care of me. I could play whenever I wanted and we would go on hikes all the time. I did not have to be in a kennel anymore and could hang out with my peeps. I even got my own huge bed. I was so happy.
As a foster dog, life was better and I learned how to enjoy life for the first time. I never knew people could be so kind; I get so many kisses daily from my foster mom and all the employees at doggie daycare. I just wag my tail and wiggle my bottom every time I get compliments and attention which means I am wagging and wiggling all of the time. I am so tired at the end of each day. I get to play with so many soft toys and the cookies are spectacular. My foster mom calls my treats, cookies which is funny to me.
I go for car rides, hike the mountains of Vail and play in the water. I get to play in the snow with all my four-legged friends. I attend adoption events. Even with all the fun times, my health was shaky at best. I have really great days and then the whipworms come back to hurt me again.
My foster mom found out that my whipworms and parasites damaged my organs. I take meds to kill them, but they are in me for life. I sometimes have to go get fluids since they dehydrate me and make me really sick. We are now on a regular schedule to see my vet every two months. My vet will give me osteopathy, massages, acupuncture, meds when needed, and lots of kisses.
Foster failure for a forever home
After 18 months with National Mill Dog Rescue, there had been only a few applications on me. I am considered a senior with medical issues so I am a bit harder to adopt. I also had to learn to get along with other dogs. My teeth were shaved to the gum line at the mill most likely because I was a pretty tough dude. I was alone in a cage unless I had to perform my duties as a stud. So when I arrived at doggie daycare I tried to dominate all the other dogs.
My foster mom worked with me and I learned how to love everyone and I didn't need to fight for food or survival anymore. I also tore up and rearranged furniture. We learned that I did that because my belly hurt so badly from all the whipworms. I would rage after eating because of the pain. I am much better now although I sometimes still move the furniture around, but that is because I am true designer at heart.
During the time with my foster mom, I could tell that she really needed me to stay in her life has her very own dog. Finally, that day arrived and my foster mom officially adopted me. I knew she really really needed me. And, I know for a fact her life is better with me in it. Someone must have told her that life would get better before I arrived and again before she adopted me. Yep, both of our lives are better now.
I have a job here and it is one that I love. I help my Mom with new puppy mill fosters overcome their fear of humans. They follow my lead and they learn to trust people. I also educate the public about puppy mills through my very own Facebook page.
I want all my fellow peeps to have their very own food bowl and family like I do. Every dog deserves love, kindness and their own bowl!
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