You are in the dark, jammed into a small pen with lots of frightened, noisy, desperate, hungry little bodies. The barn or shed is absolutely freezing cold, you have maybe one battered plastic bed but you have to share this with lots of others. There was a water bowl but it has been knocked over, no more water, another bowl did have swollen, mouldy biscuits, but these have now been scattered in amongst the sawdust that is used in the pen.
Dogs are expected to eat, sleep and toilet on this floor. It is so cold in winter, but it is equally hot in summer. There is no ventilation, just now and again the door is opened as the human comes in.
What will happen now? Will you be placed in a separate pen to be mated with the poor boy, he is so scared and desperate to have some sort of attention -but he has a job to do as well. He is screaming at the top of his voice, so noisy and you are so frightened, to be roughly handled by the human. You have lived every moment of every day without comfort or love. If you stay very quiet, at the back of the pen, they may not notice you. Or if you are very still, whatever the human is going to do will be over faster.
If you have ever been to a puppy farm, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The smell stays ingrained in your clothes and up your nose for a long time after the visit. The volume of noise, the feel of fear is something that will remain with you for life…..
The life of a puppy farm dog is filled with fear and neglect every moment of every day, until they are rescued and that is if they are very lucky. Sometimes they are handed over to rescues when they become too old to have large litters, when they are no longer of financial use to a breeder. Sometimes ordinary people buy them, from adverts cleverly disguised as “family dogs who due to a change in circumstances we have to let them go….” not realising that these poor dogs have lived this previous existence. Others are shot.
But to rescue a puppy farm dog is an incredible journey. They have never had a collar, walked on a lead, been on grass, seen a car, been in a car, been treated with any form of kindness. They don’t know their name, they don’t know how to eat out of a bowl because the food is usually scattered on the ground. Everything is new, every sight, sound, object, experience is new. The dog has never lived inside a warm home, felt carpet under their feet. They have lived in one small, confined space, sometimes they are caged permanently and piled up with other cages, so dogs above have to deficate on top of them. So toilet training is something that these dogs have never had- expect accidents, they may even soil themselves in fear of you because the poor dogs have never felt a gentle touch.
Everything is a first, from feeding, bathing, wearing a collar, a harness, their first walk on the lead, their first sleep in warmth, comfort and above all, peace. The first time a puppy farm dog looks at you, holds your gaze, looks up at their name being called, jumps up next to you on the sofa, puts their paw onto your arm to say “hello” and then that first wag of the tail, every first is an honour because they are sharing that with you. They are giving you the ultimate gift of trust.
You have to be so patient, so quiet and gentle, be prepared for weeks, even months of work because sadly sometimes the damage of their previous existence can take a long time to overcome. Give your little puppy farm dog plenty of space, they need to feel safe and if that means a quiet corner of the room, a bed under the table in the dining room, then let your dog have that- to gain their trust, you need to make them feel safe first. They may never play with toys, chase a ball, kiss your nose, or greet all your family with waggy tailed joy.
They may only trust you and not your partner, they may remain wary of the other people in your household. But once gained, that bond of trust between you and your little dog is the most amazing thing you will ever feel. It is as strong a bond as that between a parent and child. (I speak with the knowledge of both incredible experiences).
Life will never be the same, you are helping your little dog to rehabilitate from living in fear, to becoming a beloved little pet. They may sometimes take a step back, but you just take it in your stride and help them get through this.
You have to learn not to hurry things and take everything at the pace of your little dog. But that makes us slow down too.
You are likely to have frequent visits to the vet at first, because their health won’t be at its best after years of neglect. Their teeth will probably be a mess and they will be neutered, an official end to their years of being used to breed. Often vet bills for commercial breeding Cavaliers run into thousands of pounds, the same goes for their offspring.
2020 has been a terrible year for puppy farming, unscrupulous breeders have taken advantage of the nations desperation for a puppy. The new Lucy’s Law has not helped the situation very sadly due to Covid-19, puppies have been delivered to homes, service stations and lay bys as members of the public are desperate for a new family addition. If anything large scale breeders are wealthier and gaining even more traction to supply the huge demand. Scams are taking place at an alarming rate, we are contacted almost daily by members of the public that have been duped or have had a near miss.
The demand has led to many very sick puppies being born from parents that live in the above mentioned conditions with zero health testing. Cavaliers have dire health conditions as it is, what the future holds for our breed and Cavalier rescues in England is very concerning.