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Puppy Mill Dog's Prayers Answered

John Moyer shares the story of Mantis, a small dog who made a big impression on the HSUS Puppy Mills Campaign rescue team

Puppy Mill Campaign

  • Mantis was one of 124 dogs rescued from three Missouri puppy mills in March. Linda Candler

  • Mantis bounced back quickly from his physical ailments, but his psychological scars may take longer to heal. Linda Candler

  • In his new home, Mantis is starting to come out of his shell. Anna Maria Clayton calls him "Mannie" and says he is her "little angel." Dennis Clayton

  • Rescued on the same day, Mantis and Taffy became fast friends, and the Claytons adopted the pair together.  Dennis Clayton

  • Mannie also gets along well with Maya (pictured here) and Molly, two other former puppy mill dogs the Claytons adopted. Dennis Clayton

by John Moyer

When I first met this small Shih Tzu, he was bracing himself in his crate, his left paw gripping the back wall and his right paw holding onto the side.

He lay flat on the floor with his head facing the ceiling, in a state of fear that broke my heart. It was as if he was praying for a better life than the horrors he came from, so I called him Mantis.

He didn’t realize it yet, but that prayer was coming true. We would do everything possible for him and the other 123 dogs brought to our emergency shelter that day from three Missouri puppy mills.


When Mantis arrived at the shelter, he was acting skittish, and no wonder: The veterinarian found that he had a fever and an extreme case of colitis. In addition, Mantis' eye was badly injured.

After we treated him, his temperature came down to normal, allowing him to receive vaccinations and take another step toward a new life. Mantis soon started emptying his food bowl, although only when no one else was in view. He would face the back corner of his cage constantly so you couldn't see him. He must have felt that he couldn’t be abused if he wasn’t there.

When I took him outside for what may have been his first time seeing and feeling grass, he just lay there. I told him that if he held on he could have a wonderful life, nourished by the care he deserved. Mantis lifted his head and looked around at the green field, then stood up and started to walk. That walk broke into a trot—and it's a good thing I had a leash on him! He stayed skittish for the next few days, but we did everything to reassure him.

Moving on

We transported Mantis and twenty other rescued puppy mill dogs to one of our Emergency Services Placement Partners in Indiana. Linda at Heartland Small Animal Rescue Group named each of the dogs as we moved them to her vehicle. When we moved Mantis, I told her his story. I couldn’t help but get choked up because Linda was just as determined as we were to find these incredible dogs—including Mantis—new homes.

Mantis’ injured eye had to be removed, but he came through the surgery fine. Over the following weeks, Linda provided pictures confirming Mantis’s progress. Mantis now sleeps on a dog bed rather than uncomfortable wire, and he loves to snuggle. He enjoys the company of other dogs and likes exploring the outdoors. Mantis quickly made friends with Taffy, another frightened Shih Tzu saved from the same puppy mill.

Home at last

Mantis, now called Mannie, shares his new home with a loving mom and dad, in addition to Molly and Maya (two female Shih Tzus from a previous puppy mill rescue) and his pal Taffy.

His new mom, Anna Maria, emailed to tell us, "Thank you so much for bringing them into our lives. They [Mantis/Mannie and Taffy] are little angels that needed us as much as we needed them."

Mantis, you make all of our work worthwhile.

John Moyer is outreach coordinator for the Puppy Mills Campaign.

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