By Kathy Mordini
When Cari Meyers headed out to the National Mill Dog Rescue to volunteer last month, the last thing she expected was to adopt a dog. But, on her first day there, she met a minute Maltese that reminded her of her late dog, and she fell in love. Soon, she was making plans to add Millie to her family.
Now, Millie has a new role as the mascot (or spokesdog, if you will) of The Puppy Mill Project, an organization founded by Meyers. Millie’s story of neglect, overbreeding, zero socialization, and inhumane treatment exemplifies what the organization’s whole purpose stems from–a hope to end puppy mill cruelty entirely.
“It’s been less than two years since I lost my girl Freddi, and I just wasn’t ready to add another dog to my home,” says Meyers. “[But] I took one look at this scared little girl and she just reminded me so much of my other girl. Millie was so afraid of people, and a couple of days into my volunteering, she tucked her head under my chin…I was hooked. I couldn’t leave without her.”
The National Mill Dog Rescue had recently rescued Millie from a puppy mill. Because she was dealing with a few health issues, she wasn’t quite ready to leave the kennels at the shelter. That first day, Meyers had to go home alone. During the weeks she waited for Millie, Meyer provided updates to her friends as to when her new family member would be arriving.
“She really is a doll,” Meyers told me a day after her arrival. “She did try to escape a couple of times from the backyard and she howls and cries when left in the crate. Both of these are pretty common with mill dogs. She loves to move from dog bed to dog bed, as if she owns them all.”
Millie is now living the spoiled life at Meyers’ home, but her life was far from pretty prior to being rescued. For five to six years she’d been caged and neglected, and had suffered emotional, physical, and mental abuse. She also had been a breeding machine, producing between eight to ten litters of puppies by cesarean with no vet care.
“She had such a severe infection of the uterus, it would have killed her if it hadn’t been treated,” says Meyers. “While in the care of the National Mill Dog Rescue, she had a full hysterectomy because of the infection and had 13 teeth pulled. We’ve found out since she moved in that she has a heart murmur as well.”
Even though Millie’s problems are specific to her, all mill dogs experience emotional, physical, medical, and mental issues. Due to lack of socialization, mill dogs are slow to trust, and you must earn it over a period of time.
Thankfully, shortly after arriving at her new home, Millie is beginning to adjust to her life within the Meyers’ household, which includes three other rescue dogs—Bernie, Stewie, and Ollie. Although Bernie and Stewie joined the family as strays, Meyers suspects they too had a life in the mills at one time.
“She is really making remarkable progress in her first few weeks with us,” says Meyers. “She comes out of her bed wagging her tail and is finally becoming a dog. She sits in her bed in the family room and watches me very closely. It’s really unbelievable to see the transformation. I can’t wait until she’s ready to play with the other dogs.”
One thing that Meyers has learned is that Millie hates the crate. After years of being held hostage, she rattles the crate, cries, and does her best to stage an escape. So, the crate has gone by the wayside.
“I have hit the lotto with Millie,” says Meyers. “Mill dogs never forget what they have been through, but it amazes me that they have the ability to forgive after all of the cruelty they endure. They are very special creatures. Although raising a mill dog is not for everyone, I couldn’t picture my life any other way.”
Kathy Mordini is an animal lover who has counted rescue pets as a member of her family since she was a child. As a writer, she is passionate about advocating for homeless pets and the rescues that give these pets a second chance. She also volunteers for The Puppy Mill Project. Read her pet rescue blog on ChicagoNow and her pet care columns on Doggy Woof.