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July 22, 2010

The Kitten at the Puppy Mill: Oliver's Twist

  • Oliver had just appeared at the site a week or two before, and despite the best efforts of the caring property owners, he simply wasn’t getting any better. Inga Fricke/The HSUS

  • Reports were that Oliver was feeling so good that he had been renamed—Oliver the Terrible. Inga Fricke/The HSUS

  • Inga Fricke and Oliver at the temporary emergency shelter site in Mississippi. The HSUS

By Inga Fricke

When you volunteer to assist with a puppy mill raid, you steel yourself against the images of helpless and hopeless dogs and puppies you expect to see, and you promise yourself that you won't take any of those dogs home with you (again!). 

What you don't expect is to fall in love with a kitten already living on the site of the temporary emergency shelter, but sometimes the unexpected happens.

Oliver's story

When we arrived at the temporary shelter site for the puppy mill seizure in Mississippi last week, we were immediately greeted by a little bundle of fur. He was purring nonstop and desperate to be held, but was dramatically underweight, covered in fleas, and was suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection that had left his eyes almost completely sealed shut.

The kitten had just appeared at the site a week or two before, and despite the best efforts of the caring property owners, he simply wasn’t getting any better. His sweet disposition in spite of his failing health made us all fall in love with him, and Oliver (named after the orphan Charles Dickens made famous) became our first “rescue” of the case.  

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In between caring for the more than 100 dogs and puppies seized from the puppy mill, we tended to Oliver, giving him a flea bath, cleaning out his ears, fattening him up with canned kitten food, and getting him the veterinary care he so desperately needed. On one evening when his symptoms were particularly bad, we even snuck him into our hotel room (oops, that was supposed to stay a secret!). 

Oliver the Terrible

We had to settle for daily updates on Oliver’s condition because he was too sick to fly back home with us when we left Mississippi.

“Oliver is feeling much better today”; “Oliver’s eyes are open!”; “Oliver is starting to torment the dogs in their cages”; “Oliver has been banished from the sick animal room!” 

In fact, reports were that Oliver was feeling so good that he had been renamed—Oliver the Terrible.

New life

Because he was almost 100-percent better, Oliver boarded the truck that drove him, along with the Mississippi puppy mill dogs that are finally ready for adoption, up north to The HSUS’s headquarters. Today, a brand new life began for more than 100 dogs and puppies rescued from a puppy mill—and for one little kitten.

Inga Fricke is director of Shelter Initiatives in the Companion Animals department of The Humane Society of the United States.

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