Fighting the big fights for animals means that we are constantly working at an enormous scale to change thousands and thousands of lives—from securing the passage of animal protection laws and filing lawsuits on behalf of animals to conducting investigations and rescuing animals from crisis situations. But today I want to focus on one of those lives in remembrance: a poodle named B.B., who passed away in the loving arms of her adopter earlier this month.
We have told B.B.’s story before. For years, the little pup was used as a breeding machine in the basement of a large-scale breeder operation in North Carolina. A local law enforcement agency requested our help to save more than 100 dogs from this cruel operation. B.B. was one of them.
Once she was removed from her tiny cage, B.B. went to a temporary emergency animal shelter where she was examined by a team of veterinarians from Cabarrus Animal Hospital. She was estimated to be middle aged, 5 to 9 years old, and she had likely spent her entire life in that dismal place. It so happened that B.B.’s future adopter was very nearby. The receptionist at the animal hospital, Brenda Tortoreo, noticed that people were interested in adopting the younger dogs saved from the puppy mill, but not B.B. “Everyone else wanted the puppies,” Brenda remembered. “I wanted her.”
That’s how B.B. came into Brenda’s life. It was time of transition for her, as she was about to retire. B.B. needed a lot of care and attention to recover from her years of neglect, and Brenda had time to give.
At first, B.B. was in bad shape: She emerged from her cage with filthy fur, paws imprinted by the wire floor and rotten teeth that weakened her lower jaw. Of course, not all B.B.’s pain was physical. Many things scared her: grass, throw rugs, loud noises, sudden movements. Brenda worked with B.B. to overcome her fears, and she says she learned a lot about patience from her little rescued poodle. Soon enough, B.B. was running all over the backyard, and even became comfortable lying next to Brenda’s Maltese dog, Treeko. At night, B.B. happily shared the bed with her rescuer, surrounded by her stuffed animal toys, which she moved near her belly as though she was nursing her puppies.
Six happy years went by. Unlike other breeder dogs in large-scale breeding operations who are discarded or killed when they are no longer useful, B.B. aged in comfort and with love. She got cataracts and started to slow down a bit. Still, her death was unexpected.
In early January, Brenda awoke early one morning and found that B.B. was having trouble breathing. There was nothing she could do to save her little dog.
It's been a few weeks since B.B. passed away, and Brenda and Treeko are adjusting to life without her. Treeko now shares the bed, and he seems to sense that his person is grieving the loss of B.B. “He’s like my little guardian angel,” Brenda said. “He just keeps looking at me, like, ‘Am I OK?’”
Our hearts go out to B.B.’s rescuer and her family. At the same time, we are so glad that this little pup found in the basement of a North Carolina breeder was able to experience such love and comfort at all. “There’ll never ever, ever be another one like her,” Brenda said.
Animals have such an amazing capacity to bond, to feel both love and pain. That’s why we are taking on the puppy mill industry, which treats dogs as little more than products to be bought and sold, by passing laws against the sales of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores and by investigating the wrongs done to dogs in these facilities.
It’s hard to think of all the other mother dogs in puppy mills right now, each one of them an individual with a unique personality, capable of being a loving member of the family, just like B.B. was. But it’s precisely this difficult truth that keeps us fighting to end puppy mills for good.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.