Little Traverse Bay Humane Society executive director Deter Racine holds Trooper, one of the 12 dogs the organization rescued from a puppy mill in southern Illinois. Trooper is available for adoption. (Photo by Jessica Evans)
Jessica Evans News Manager
When Number 50 was brought into Little Traverse Bay Humane Society last week, his black and white fur was matted and tangled and soaked with urine and feces. It hung in clumps around the small dog's face, making it difficult for him to see beyond his fur. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary for this dog, though, as he had never been bathed or groomed in his life.
Number 50 has recently been given a new lease on life and a new name to go with it. Trooper, a four year old Shih Tzu Poodle, will never again be referred to as Number 50, and will look forward to a life full of care and a loving home.
Trooper, who is just one of the 96 dogs rescued from a puppy mill in southern Illinois, was brought to Little Traverse Bay Humane Society (LTBHS), a no-kill shelter in Harbor Springs, with 11 other dogs rescued from the situation. Humane Society staff have worked tirelessly to bathe and groom the 12 dogs, all who were severely neglected with dirty and matted fur. Additionally, the animals will all be spayed and neutered and evaluated for their health and temperament.
According to LTBHS executive director Deter Racine, the dogs were kept in small, cramped cages and were bred extensively in order to produce puppies that were sold to pet stores.
"These dogs came here in the worst possible conditions," she said. "My first reaction was utter sadness. These are the dogs that people don't see. People see the cute little puppies in the pet stores, but these are the ones behind the scenes. It brought tears to my eyes and I just felt terrible looking at them. I knew I had to put that aside though, so that we could start helping them to feel better as quickly as possible."
Grooming the animals was a tedious process, Racine said. Many of the dog's coats came off in one piece when they were shaved down. Racine arrived early the morning the dogs were brought in and personally shaved and groomed the dogs, which took the majority of the day. Trooper, formally, Number 50, breezed through the grooming, which is what earned him his name, despite having little previous interaction with people.
According to LTBHS associate director, Marci Singer, the dogs had little to no human contact and had no opportunity to act as a normal dog might in terms of playing outside, being walked or groomed or even petted.
"These are animals that have never gotten to feel the grass on their feet," Singer explained. "They have the ability to become wonderful pets and they truly want to be loved, but they just don't know how. Anyone who is looking to adopt one of these dogs will need to have patience, but in the end, they'll have a great dog."
Like Trooper, the majority of the dogs did well while being groomed, and according to Singer, most of them just require a bit of time and care. Following the grooming, the 12 dogs looked like completely different animals, Singer said.
"You could finally see the look on their face and it's almost as if they knew they were finally being cared for," she said. "They went into the grooming room as just a number, and came out with names and personalities."
Singer noted that each animal coming through their facility could cost upwards of $250, depending on their medical needs. Though it takes a great deal of time, energy and funds to care for animals such as the 12 puppy mill dogs, getting these animals into loving homes is what they are there to do, Singer said.
"This is why we're here," she said. "We're here for the animals who have nowhere to go and be part of the solution in finding them good homes. Seeing these dogs after they're groomed and how grateful they seem to be really exemplifies our motto that true love is rescued."
Little Traverse Bay Humane Society, which is a no-kill, 100-percent donor-funded non-profit organization, sees cases like this come through their doors at least once a year. The organization is constantly taking in animals from this community and others as well, some from downstate or even from hundreds of miles away. According to Singer and Racine, taking in these dogs was just another day for them.
"Literally, this is what we do every day," Racine said. "We took in a total of 24 dogs and cats last week combined, with eight dogs just from Emmet County alone. While this whole thing with the puppy mill dogs was going on, that day we had a Girl Scout troop here in addition to still adopting out other animals and running the facility as we usually do."
Racine noted that she is grateful to the community and their donors for giving them the support to continue to save lives.
"We're so lucky to have such a strong following," she said. "People like to know what we're up to and when we have something like this happen, they are very supportive and want to help whether it's monetarily, volunteering their time, donating items or just giving us words of encouragement. We appreciate it all."
The dogs, which include smaller breeds such as Shih Tzus, Yorkies and Schnauzers, among others, range in age from one to seven years old and will all be available for adoption by the end of the week. Some of the dogs are already evaluated, sterilized and currently ready to be adopted. For more information about the dogs or Little Traverse Bay Humane Society, call 231-347-2396 or go to www.ltbhs.com.