He was the most unlikely of heroes – born in a puppy mill and sentenced to a life in a small cage. Harley never knew freedom until he was a 10-year-old, one-eyed dog with a heart condition and what appeared to be not the brightest of futures.
But Harley’s future was much more than bright.
He was adopted by Rudi and Dan Taylor and became an inspiration to animal lovers around the world as they used social media to educate about puppy mills and raise funds to help hundreds of dogs get a second chance at a happy ending.
Harley died today (on Sunday) and animal advocates are now mourning the tiniest of heroes. Just last fall, Harley was the honored as America’s Hero Dog by the American Humane Association for his role in educating about puppy mills and leading his “Harley to the Rescue” missions to Midwestern Puppy Mills.
I never had the chance to meet Harley. However, thanks to this blog, I did have the opportunity to talk to his mom – Rudi Taylor – many times about Harley, a little dog with a big mission. She had started a Facebook page for Harley and started to post inspiring photos of her goofy one-eyed dog. People shared and shared.
When Harley’s popularity started so soar, “Harley to the Rescue” was born. It was an online fundraiser, hosted by Harley and his puppy mill rescue sidekick Teddy, aimed at raising money to help fund some mill rescues for the National Mill Dog Rescue.
If you are not that familiar with puppy mill rescues, they are not normal dog rescues. Dogs rescued from the mills have spent their life in squalid conditions with one job – to continue to breed as long as they can – all for the profit of puppy millers. They haven’t had a proper diet or veterinary care.
What’s worse…they haven’t had a basic dog’s life – no play, no yard, no fun. When dogs are rescued from mills, it is the beginning of a long journey. Most of the dogs haven’t been socialized and face a long battle to be a normal dog. Many dogs need extensive veterinary care because they’ve never seen a vet or had a proper diet. It’s an expensive proposition. That is why many dogs like Harley don’t get a chance at a rescue and family.
“Harley to the Rescue” took off and Harley raised enough money to fund his first rescue. Harley and Teddy hit the road with the National Mill Dog Rescue. During the mission, they posted on Facebook and Tweeted to keep fans up to date. Harley to the Rescue became more than a one-time fundraiser.
The dogs launched “Harley to the Rescue” again and again to help fund additional rescues. Harley may have had a horrid start to life, but his online persona was filled with wit and humor and never lamented his bad start in life. It also highlighted his well-traveled life after rescue as he hit the open road with his family on vacations and educational missions.
The last few months may have been the pinnacle. Harley flew to Hollywood as a finalist for the American Hero Dog. He then flew to the other coast to help his parents testify before congress about puppy mills. He’s been honored at events around the country including galas at Mar-A-Largo.
Harley lived a remarkable life.
Tonight, my heart breaks for Rudi, Dan and their extended family. Earlier today, they announced online that Harley was struggling. Later, a friend announced that Harley had died on his own terms, surrounded by his family. Despite all that Harley has meant to the world, he is still one of their littlest family members – the little dog with a big mission.
Run free little guy. Today the world is a better place for so many other dogs thanks to you.
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