Saturday, January 31, 2009

You be the Judge (or Jury).

Example #1.

I have nothing against people riding horses with no tack. Remember, its not negligence to hurt yourself. I do think in a state with a negligence standard for loose horses, once you leave a safe enclosed environment and go out in the open you will have very hard time convincing a judge or jury your horse was under control if you get dumped and the horse gets away. Its just like a dog off a leash—you may feel your training gives you control, but its not enough.

Example #2

Is this fence going to keep horses in?

Example #3
This fence is not keeping any horse in. And what do they do? They film it!

Example #4

This one just has it all. The gate is broken. The owners are out of town. They have no horse sitter. They do not seem to know where the halters are. Somehow their clueless neighbors manage to save the day just by being really smart. They know nothing about horses, but they manage to get them back home safely.

Notice all the kids sitting around while horses gallop on the roads out of control. Notice in the end a woman says her horses are out all the time. The State Police call her to come and get them often.

Negligence?? It’s hard to say. That gate looks busted, but the place looks in very good shape. Maybe some kids came and took the halters and tried to play with the horses? In a strict liability state they would be at fault and look how many people could have been hurt! In a negligence state it may just be one of those things and there does not seem to be a history of these horses getting free.

I hope they bought those wonderful neighbors a new car or something!

Lastly, Example #5.

Yes, I know my jumper can clear 4 ft. But if I know he will not abide by our domestication agreement that he stay put in a reasonable fence, then I have to do something about it. That something is not make sure I capture it on film to post on the internet.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Loose Horses. Confusing and Complicated.

Ok. Now you have had some time to digest what a scary liability filled world you live in. You have updated our releases, looked around and lowered your liability exposure and finally feel safe and secure again. Time to get you all worried once more. What if an animal gets off your property and someone gets hurt?

Just like with liability in general, your liability and responsibilities will depend on your state. You have two sources of law: the state code and the case law that interprets what the state code means. For example, the state code may say "[a] person who owns or has responsibility for the control of a horse, mule, donkey, cow, bull, steer, hog, sheep, or goat may not knowingly permit the animal to traverse or roam at large, unattended, on the right-of-way of a highway. Now the courts must interpret “knowingly, highway, right of way and unattended. Each state will have a code and a big pile of case law to interpret that code. See “” for an example of just how complicated this can be.

Some states have strict liability. That means if the animal is out and causes damages you pay. Nobody cares if you were at fault or negligent or knowingly did anything. You go straight from duty to damages with no stopping at breach or causation. Its out, you pay. Some states only hold you responsible for personal injuries if you negligently or knowingly let the animal get out. How they interpret “negligence” can range from “if its out you must have been negligent” (hence it becomes strict liability) to “you must have left a gate open or had ratty old fences or common practices that prove it’s your fault” or you win. Lastly, some states simply do not care. They put the burden on anyone out there to avoid loose livestock and fence it out or swerve around it if it’s on the road. You have no duty at all. They have a duty to not get hurt.

Why so much variation and interpretation about estrays? There are many reasons, but the biggest ones are that loose animals can cause serious damage and that often leads to insurance claims. Insurance companies can afford to fight legal battles as far as they can go. One loose horse can cause wrecked cars, dead people, permanent physical damage and extensive property damage. Someone has to pay and that is usually the insurance company. The other reason is simply the states historical traditions. Western states usually see livestock as having a right to everywhere they are not fenced out. Free range grazing is the norm so if you want a cow free yard or road you need to pay for the fence to keep them away. Eastern states are the opposite. You fence in or else. Depending on how often a code is updated adjoining counties may conflict so your farm may be half fence out and half fence in!

When you read case law you are usually reading the appeal of the original verdict. Most trial courts are not courts of record. You may read a short blurb or a news article about the case, but it is not until the appeal that legal opinions are rendered for publications by the courts. If its gotten as far as an appeal there is either a serious injury or an insurance company involved. A case like that would have taken several years and tens of thousands of dollars to reach an appellate decision. You do not see case law about Dobbin getting loose and eating neighbors Pansy patch. You see case law about horses on the road and smashed cars and broken bones or worse.

Often, the law is pretty clear on property damage from loose animals. You will pay for the Pansy patch or broken fence or ruined crops. When things get fuzzy and expensive is when some human or other animal gets injured. Vet bills and personal injury bills get expensive. The lawyers and insurance companies will try these cases and in some ways they make the judges make the laws. Whoever loses will almost certainly appeal. So you see lots of case law in this area.

So, how to find out the law in your state? First read the code. It’s usually under animals and or livestock. Then check your local county code. They may have something to say about animals too. Next, you will have to read the recent case law in your state. Sometimes it’s sort of surprising. For example, in Georgia they use a negligence standard, but the actual case law defines negligence in ways we might not. A horse got loose by breaking the gate and fence. The judge found that was negligence because the fence posts where not set in concrete. The horse had no history of breaking out or needing special fences, but the judge felt that if the posts had been set in concrete the horse would have not been able to escape. Kind of makes you wonder what a GA judge would think or electric wire fences?

You do not need to be a lawyer to look up case law and you do not need access to a law library or a subscription data base. Use google. Use the terms you are interested in like car+horse+injury but also use Plaintiff or Defendant or appellant and court. That will narrow down your results quite a bit. Don’t try and be your own lawyer if something goes wrong, but you can’t limit your liability if you have no idea what type of system your state uses.

I know the fence requirements in some states as outlined in the code have no bearing on the reality of what we actually use. Minimum of 4ft? Must be all wood? 6 foot for stallions and colts? Is that the reality these days when you look out your door? If you do not meet the state’s code requirements you might find yourself smack dab in the middle of strict liability. Or if the code asks for X and you do Y, that might be proof of your negligence. And guess what—many insurance policies do not cover your own negligence. They will try to avoid paying out the claim at the same time you are being sued by someone else or their insurance company. Nice.

I’ll dig up some You-tube examples for you to decide if you see negligence if you were on the jury or you were the judge.

Next we will talk some about other loose animals besides large livestock. Who is responsible for a dog bite?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How Far does your Duty Reach?

Your liability for negligence reaches as far as your causation does. In most cases, that means if your negligence created the situation in which damages occurred--directly through your own action or inaction--then whatever you set into motion can come back and bite you in the a$$.

So if you let a horse get loose and it travels 200 miles and 4 months later someone gets hurt, are you still in trouble? Yep.

Next we will talk about liability for animals that get away from you and your property. These loose animals are called estrays.

Estrays can cost you. The people they hurt have signed no sort of release at all.

Not Negligence.

You may think it's stupid, unwise or asking for trouble, but it ain't negligence. Nobody has a duty to themselves. No duty, no breach, no negligence.

If the horse freaked out and harmed the rider? maybe then, but the woman under the horse has no one to sue. It's her horse, her idea and her choice.

What Negligence Looks Like: Part IV and final. For now.

Knew or should have known. Should this person have known there was a high risk of a horse bucking when wearing a saddle for the first time? Was the time and place safe and appropriate?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Negligence Looks Like: Part III

You are a facility owner. 3 days a week you rent to H/J shows. All mounted people must wear helmets on those days. 3 days a week you rent out to Western sports. Helmets are not required.
Your facility is made out of metal and you like to park tractors in the ring during speed events. But its OK because everyone knows only jumping is dangerous.

I chose one without small children getting smashed into metal fences.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Negligence Looks Like: Part II

Part of being an instructor is knowing when your students are ready to do more challenging tasks. That's part art and part experience. We know if we wait too long to allow our students to jump, they may get bored and go somewhere else. If we let them jump too soon, they may get hurt and you get sued.

Here, IMHO, is too soon. I am not picking on the kids. They are very cute. I am not picking on the useful and saintly horses. They are also cute. I am simply showing an example of "too soon" and if you go to court with a hurt student and this video bring your checkbook. The camera person is out from lessons with a broken arm.

Too soon? Just fine?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Does Negligence Look Like?

Negligence is almost by definition a hindsight view. If nothing goes wrong there was probably no negligence, or there was no reason to look for it because there was no damage done. If something goes wrong your every action becomes scrutinized. What you did, when you did it and what you did not do all matter.

Remember, torts 101--duty, breach, causation and damages.

Lets build on that a little and add some more small rules. You have no duty to assist or rescue anyone. However, once you begin or initiate a rescue, you now have a duty to make sure that person is OK until handed off to safety. Safety would be home, a hospital, the police etc. . .

So, lets say you are the instructor of a lesson. Student crashes at fence. Do you have a duty? Yes. You are in charge and giving the directions. But you are not liable unless there is negligence and damages. Student gets up, shakes off dirt, you say nothing, student re-mounts and tries again. More duty? No. But if you attempt a rescue, for example if you step forward to ask if student is OK, then you have a duty to make sure student is actually OK. You have assumed another duty and begun a rescue attempt.

The common law reason behind this rule is that someone else will be discouraged from helping because they believe you have things covered. So if you act like its your duty it becomes your duty.

Student crashes in your lesson and you ask if he is OK and then let him continue and the next day student have massive brain malfunction? Your problem? Yep. You assumed a duty and if you did not see student through to the ER for that CAT scan you might be liable. Remember, all those fancy laws and waivers won't protect you from negligence.

Now you have "what you knew or should have known" plus "what you did or should have done".

Here is an example. Rescue attempt or not? Comments are open.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Read the Titles on the Right >>>>>>>>>>

I posted a really long Dog law entry so look at the titles of older posts if there is something you are looking for. The last post will scroll on forever:> The titles on the right are like a table of contents to the blog entries. And, as always, topics are read from bottom up. Last post on a topic shows up first.

I changed my Mind. Its Dog Law Time.

This is something I wrote in Law School. It has footnotes. Its long. But it has a whole lot of dog law in it and hopefully is not too boring. I am not going to change all the spacing to fit this format. Its wayyyyyyy too long for that:>

(A Fictionalized Examination of Dog Welfare Laws of the United States)



I was born on a warm summer night. Being the third of nine puppies, the first thing I remember was the sound of young Joey’s voice yelling for his Dad that Molly was having puppies and more were sure to be coming.
I’ll never forget the struggle to right myself and find a teat among my two larger brothers, but my mother’s warm tongue, careful nudging, and prodding soon had me perfectly aligned for that first wonderful stream of milk to ease down my throat and fill my belly with life-giving wonder. The first few hours of my life were spent in the pursuit of more milk while three more sisters and three more brothers made the same journey I had until finally all of us were born, fed, and sleeping.
Mother was exhausted but happy to see we had all arrived safely. She spent that first night licking us each in turn and checking to see that we were all healthy and well fed. We spent most of our time asleep but now and then the people would come to check on us and tell Mother what a splendid job she had done.
The first 3 weeks of life were devoted to the simple business of living. The fair weather and Mother’s abundant milk made this living easy and before I knew it my eyes were opening and I got my first sight of the world around me.
We lived in small room in the family’s house, a storage closet that had been outfitted with a large box for a whelping crate, a bowl of water and another full of food for Mother. My brothers and sisters all looked much like I did and although I was used to all their smells and temperaments from sharing the same crate and Mother for the start of our lives, I had to get used to which smell went with which face.

Grunt, the first born of my brothers was the largest. He earned his name from the family because he had a habit of grunting whenever he was satisfied with the milk flow, the sleeping arrangements, or the comfort and attention from our Mother. This meant he grunted a lot! The last born and smallest of my brothers was Runt. Half the size of Grunt poor Runt struggled to nurse and never seemed to thrive like the rest of us did. He was loved by us all but Mother constantly fretted over him and worried about his lack of growth. In between were Pudgy, who earned his name by his ability to grow fatter each time he nursed, Pokey, who was always last to wake, last to nurse, and last to let poor Mother leave the crate after we had been fed and cared for, and Peter who had unfortunately large ears and resembled and lop eared rabbit. My sister’s were Brandy, Belle, and Sunshine. My name is Honey for my beautiful golden coat and sweet temperament.
After all our eyes were open the family moved us to an outside pen under an old spreading Oak with a cozy large dog house, a small shallow pool for fun and cooling, and lots of dirt and grass to play in. There was a low gate that Mother could jump but we had to respect. Mother loved us but as we grew she enjoyed times away from nine rambunctious puppies and needed to spend time with the family.
Life was all a young puppy could ask for. We spent our days playing in the shade of the tree or splashing in the pool under a warm late summer sun. Each of us in turn learned the complicated maneuvers of locomotion and before long we could run and jump, bark and growl, and soon we were ready for real food. Only Runt had trouble with keeping up in our games and sport. He never seemed to have the energy to play as long or hard as the rest of us did and he soon tired of any games he tried to play. Because the boys played rough and Grunt almost crushed him in their games, Runt soon learned stay close by my side and I watched out for him.
Every day young Joey would come and play with us. He loved us all but I think he loved me the most. I remember him begging and impleading his father that I should stay but his father would only shake his head and say “We’ll see son”. In addition, Joey’s father would closely inspect each of us in turn, holding and measuring us to some unseen yardstick in his mind. When he looked at me he seemed pleased, but when he lifted poor Runt for inspection his face would cloud and he’d shake his head sadly.
One morning in our fifth week of life , Joey and his father came to the pen having a terrible argument. Joey was crying a pleading with his father but the man remained stern and determined about something. All I heard were snippets of the conversation and Runt’s name a few times. The breeze carried words like “too small” and “looks bad for our breeding program”, but none of the words made any sense to me. We stopped our game of chase and focused all our attention on the argument. Runt seemed particularly disturbed by the exchange. His weak and nervous temperament made him especially vulnerable to any conflicts around him. He was shaking and trembling so I curled my body around him and licked him like Mother had always done until he stopped whimpering and trying to hide under the dog house.

Eventually the argument between the 2 humans seemed to come to a head and they both stomped away in different directions, Joey with his hands deep in his pockets and kicking stones out of his way and his Father grim but determined to stand his ground. Joey spent the rest of the day sitting on the back porch watching our pen, but he never came over to play with us no matter how much we all wagged our tails, play-bowed, or yelped at him to join in our fun. Runt spent the rest of the day glued to my side seeking comfort and reassurance that there would be no more fighting or arguing near his pen.
Late that night as we all settled together on the ground in a heap of puppies and fur Mother came and licked us all as if she would never see us again. She gently took Runt in her mouth and took him into the doghouse to sleep with her all night so he wouldn’t have nightmares from the day’s events that had upset him. At one point during the night I awoke and thought I heard her crying as she slowly licked Runt in his sleep, but by morning I had forgotten all about it and looked forward to another glorious day of playing with my brothers and sisters.
Runt too had forgotten all about the previous day and he seemed calmer and stronger than he ever had before. Although he was tiny with delicate legs and small paws, he was fortified by all the extra attention he had received from Mother the night before and he even joined in some chase games with Grunt and the big boys. I had never seen him so happy and strong and for the first time I spent the day free from worrying about my little brother and took extra naps in the sun with my new freedom.
Late in the day we saw Joey and his Mother getting into the car for a trip to town. He had not been down to play with us all day so I was a little disappointed that he had errands to run but was sure he would be back to play with us soon. Just like Mother, he always came back. Where else was there to go? Joey seemed particularly upset to have to leave us but his mother prodded him into the car and away they went. I saw him looking out the window at us the whole way down the drive but he didn’t seem as happy at the sight of us as he usually did. I assumed it was because he had to go with his mother and couldn’t spend the warm breezy afternoon in our pen playing with us.
A few minutes after Joey and his Mother left his Father came to the pen. In his hand he carried a cloth sack and a short piece of rope. He didn’t seem angry or upset like he had the previous day so we all ran to the gate to greet him and see what wonerful treats he had brought us in the sack. He ignored our gleeful greetings and went straight to the corner where Runt was resting after his first proud day playing with his brothers. Without even glancing at the rest of us he reached down and scooped Runt up in his hands and then turned and left the pen. Runt, frightened by this abrupt move began whining and the whine soon became a full fledged scream!

The man shook poor Runt to silence him but this just made the screaming tun into a wail that sent chills down my spine and made the hair on my back and neck stand on end. We had never heard anything so terrifying or heart-wrenching in our short lives of comfort and play, but instinctually we knew this sound had nothing to do with happiness or comfort. Mother began dancing at the man’s feet and whining too, but she never tried to rescue poor little Runt and only pleaded that he be spared. Spared from what? I kept yapping to Runt not to worry, that humans were here to help and protect us and the man would not hurt him, but Runt just kept winging and wailing for Mother or the rest of us to save him. The man took Runt around the barn where we had never been and before long we heard a splash. Then there was silence. Runt screamed no more. Mother came slinking back into sight, her tail and head held low, crying, but Runt was not with her.
She came to the pen and licked us all in turn but would answer no questions about what had happened to Runt or when he would be coming back to play. She was so sad I tried to reassure her that Runt would be OK. I told her how he had been stronger than ever that day and had even pinned Pokey momentarily in a wrestling game. She was not to be comforted though and before long she told us that Runt had gone to a better place and we should not speak his name again. Everybody loved Runt, but I think I loved him most of all. I was happy to hear he was in a better place and knew that could only mean he was somewhere with Joey in the house living like a king. He would be back sometime. Where else would he be than with his family? A few hours later Joey and his mother returned and I could hardly wait until he got in the house to see that Runt was there waiting for him, but it had been a long day so I fell into a deep sleep while waiting and must have missed his happy laughing when he discovered the surprise his father had left him.2



Over the next few weeks we grew every day. Mother no longer nursed us for all our food, but she did occasionally when there was a storm or someone had a bad dream and needed comforting. We all slept outside almost every night now because a large pile of growing puppies generated a lot of heat. Although we still slept close together, the cool breezes at night kept us from getting too warm.
Joey didn’t come to see us for a few days after Runt went to live in the house, but I knew it was because Runt was still just a baby and needed constant company and attention so he wouldn’t get lonely and miss us too much. But like us, Joey was young and soon was back outside in our pen playing with us every day. Since he loved me the most I knew he and I would spend the rest of our lives together, growing up and playing in the yard with all my brothers and sisters forever.

The yard in the pen was getting too small for us. As we grew and stopped living off of our mother’s milk we had a problem with all of our messes. At first we were shocked that such stinky messes could come out of our bodies but Mother assured us it was quite normal and set to teach us to mess away from where we ate, played, and slept. Except for stupid Pudgy, who ate so much he was always messing whenever the urge hit, we were pretty good at keeping our pen neat and clean. Joey came every day to clean up what we left so I am happy to say I never, well rarely, stepped in anything unsavory.
Before long Joey was letting us out of the pen and we could play in the whole yard from the big Oak that shaded our pen to the barn and all the way to the house. What wonderful days those were. From sunrise til sunset we romped and played all over our expanded territory. The food was plentiful and Mother seemed so proud of how we were growing. We could now do all our messes far from where we ate and slept so we stayed healthy and clean most of the time.
Occasionally I worried about Runt all alone in the house when Joey was spending so much time with us outside, but I thought he must be with Joey’s Mother so I didn’t let worrying about him take too much time away from my fun with Joey and the other puppies. Joey seemed nice and healthy so I knew his mother could take care of Runt just as well as she had Joey. Before long we were 6 weeks old and ready to spend all day playing without the constant supervision of our mother. The yard was safe and free of dangerous debris so even during our roughest wrestling matches we didn’t have to worry about injuries.
The smells and sights of the farm and all our rough and tumble games kept us mentally and physically stimulated and our minds and bodies healthy. With plenty of fresh air and water and all the food we needed life was wonderful. Pokey ran so hard during chase we almost wanted to change his name and even Pudgy lost a little of his roundness. Every day Joey brought us new toys to play tug-of- war with and teethe on and when we had played ourselves out we would collapse under the old Oak and nap until our next meal and play-time.
It was during those days that Mother seemed to get sad again. She would at one moment be watching us play with pride and love in her eyes, and the next sigh heavily and lay her head on her front paws and seem lost. I asked her about this many times, but she just licked me and told me to go back to playing and not to worry.
When we were 8 weeks old, something happened that explained Mother’s sadness. It was at that time the people came to see us. The nights had been getting cooler and some of the leaves on the old Oak had begun to turn colors and fall off the tree. On a bright cool morning cars started arriving soon after sunrise filled with all sorts of people we had never seen, or even imagined existed. They had come and see us in our pen.

Mother was nowhere to be seen and Joey was absent too. The people came and played with us, lifting, weighing, and examining us like Joey’s father often did. All the attention was wonderful and we put on quite a show playing with the visiting children under the critical eyes of the parents. One nice lady spent a long time playing with Brandy and after an hour she went to Joey’s father and gave him some green paper. The man shook his head no and said “These are purebred registered AKC Golden Retrievers and they are worth a lot more than $100. If you want to take that puppy home you need to pay the full $350. Their father was a champion and their mother is the sweetest dog you’d ever like to meet.” After awhile they seemed to come to an agreement and the lady gave Joey’s father a larger pile of green paper before returning to the pen to play with Brandy some more. Then she lifted Brandy out of the pen and began to walk toward her car!
I looked all around for Mother or Joey but nobody seemed to be there to stop the woman from leaving with Brandy. Into the car she went and Brandy went with her. I was stunned. I knew there was world outside our farm but why would Brandy have to go there? Didn’t she belong here with her family? Who would she curl up with at night and play with during the day?
Before I knew it Pudgy, and then Pokey, Belle, and Sunshine were spirited away in cars too. Even Peter seemed to find someone to overlook his ears. In a matter of one afternoon all my brothers and sisters were gone except me and Grunt. I just sat in the pen and whined. Where had they gone? Would they be back? Why hadn’t Mother or Joey stopped them? After dinner had been brought Mother came out of the house to explain things to us.
She told us that we were not like the humans and we belonged to them and could be sold for money. She wasn’t entirely sure what money was, but she knew humans had to have it to eat and live in a house. Her job on the farm was to have puppies that could be traded for money and although it broke her heart to see her family leave every year it was just the way things were. I asked her if Grunt and I would be sold too but she said that Grunt was to be traded for the “stud fee” of our father and Joey had begged his father to keep me for his own. I was shocked at these revaluations but relieved to learn that I would not have to leave my mother and Joey too.
That night Mother slept with us in the pen and even let us nurse a little to clam and comfort us when we cried for our brothers and sisters. When we awoke in the morning I forgot for a moment the events of the previous day and looked around for Brandy to play with or Pudgy to scold for overeating, but they weren’t there. Mother again explained that since we were purebred dogs with papers we were special and many people were willing to give money for us. I felt a little better knowing I was special but still missed my siblings.

Soon, as the young of all species do everywhere, I forgot my sadness and reveled in having all Joey’s attention. Grunt left at the end of the week and although I missed having anyone to play with, I loved the time I spent with Joey. He took me all over the farm and once he even took me in the car to town. When we were there he met with some of his friends and a very pretty girl a little older than Joey said I was the cutest puppy she had ever seen and she would do anything to have me for her own. As I knew he would, Joey told her that I was his and she would have to wait until next year and buy one of my sisters yet to be born. The girl laughed and told Joey that she had lots of money and could have anything she wanted and she wanted me. Joey laughed right back and said I wasn’t for sale at any price! Oh how he loved me! Not even money could make my Joey give me up.
Unfortunately, Joey’s father didn’t share these same sentiments. Later that night I heard Joey and his father yelling and arguing about me and how they could not turn down $1500 for a puppy when Joey was leaving for college next year and couldn’t take me with him anyway. In the end, Joey’s father won out and the next morning the girl arrived in a shiny little car, paid the money, and took me away from my Mother, my home, and Joey.
The night before I left both Joey and my Mother tried to explain things to me so I would understand why I had to leave. My Mother said “Dear Honey, I know you’ll miss us all terribly, but it is your place to go and live with a human family. They will become your Mother, brothers and sisters, and your friends. You will have food and a nice place to sleep and toys and someone to play with. They will always love you and you should always love them and obey them. I know you are still a baby and want to be with your mother3, but that’s not how the world of men works. Do you think this family could keep all the puppies? How would they feed and care for so many dogs? No, this is my family and tomorrow you will have you own. Someday you will have your own puppies too, and then you will understand.”
“I’m going to have puppies like you do?” I asked. “Why?”
“So that you can earn money for your new owners too, like I do. I give my family love and companionship and protection, but they expect me to earn them money to pay for my upkeep. In my life I’ve had 37 puppies and earned my family $1000's of dollars. You were the biggest earner of all and should be proud you are so valuable. You’ll see, and you’ll be proud to have your puppies sold one day too.”
Joey promised that he would never forget me and told me that my new owner was just a “spoiled rich girl who only wanted what she was told she couldn’t have”. He said she would tire of me soon and I could come back and be with him. He also promised that if she didn’t treat me right he’d be there to rescue me and bring me back home with him where I belonged.

When morning came I licked my mother one last time and bravely went off with Susie, my new owner. I took one last look at the farm where I was born as we left the driveway but soon turned my attentions to making friends with Susie and learning what pleased her. We rode for many miles in the little car and finally arrived at the largest house I could have ever imagined. Cars lined both sides of the street and young men and women just like Joey and Susie bustled back and forth unloading bags and luggage from the cars and kissing their parents good-bye. We had arrived at “college” and Susie and I were going to live in a “dorm” with hundreds of other kids and I would have so many people to play with I couldn’t wait to begin my new life as Susie’s dog!
It had been a long day and the long drive had left me exhausted. I hadn’t a thing to eat since morning and no water either. That may have been fortunate since Susie neglected to make any stops and by the time we arrived at the school I had to go to the bathroom something awful! After Susie found a place to park she scooped me up in her arms and started making the rounds of meeting with friends she hadn’t seen since last spring and showing me off to everyone.
As this socializing wore on my need to use the bathroom only intensified, but Susie was oblivious to my whimpers and wiggling trying to get her to put me down so I could do my business. With so may new sights and smells and so many new people petting and making a fuss over me it finally got to be too much and in my excitement I accidently let lose a stream of urine on Susie’s dress and all down her legs. Susie roared in shock and threw me to the ground. I was horrified at what I had done but I kept trying to tell her I hadn’t done it on purpose. She couldn’t understand what I was trying to communicate and then much to my shock and dismay she struck me hard across my sensitive nose! “Bad puppy!” She yelled at me, as if I was deaf as well as senseless to pain. “Look what you did! You ruined my new dress!” I just plopped on the ground where I was and watched her carefully in case she decided to hit me for no reason again.
After a few more minutes yelling and ranting Susie composed herself and lifted me up again and hugged me tightly. “I’m sorry little Honey-pie, I guess you had to go really bad, Huh?” Indeed I had, but I still had to go and now she was holding me again! We could have avoided the first accident if she had put me down and now she seemed determined to squeeze a second, much more horrific mess right out of me. Luckily, just in the nick of time she set me down again and I ran to the nearest bushes so that I might Mess in somewhat private circumstances. This seemed to please Susie as she praised me the whole time and I quickly learned that Susie liked it when I went mess and didn’t like it at all when I only urinated. Although this fascination Susie held for my baser bodily functions made little sense to me, I made a mental note to be an “obedient” little puppy and oblige her whenever I could.



Susie5 took me up a long flight of stairs to my new home in her dorm room. Our room was at the end of the hall on the third floor–a long way from the yard. I hoped Susie got up early because I sure wasn’t going to have access to the great outdoors without her!
After Susie had made a pile of towels on the bathroom floor for me she finally gave me a bowl of water to drink. I was starving for some food to go with my water but Susie didn’t seem to know puppies must eat every few hours so I drank extra water to fill my aching belly. Soon after Susie’s room-mate, Karen, arrived. She immediately started yelling at Susie for getting a puppy.
“What the hell is that?” She screamed while pointing at me.
“That’s Honey! Isn’t she cute? She’s my new puppy.” Susie answered indifferent to Karen’s anger.
“A puppy? How are you going to take care of a puppy? Between classes and parties and vacations you’re never even here!” Karen scolded.
“Oh, it’ll be fine.” Susie replied.
“Yeah, right. I can just see you taking her out in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning. Have you even fed her?” Karen asked.
“No. We just got here. I’m going to get some dog food after the party tonight. She’ll be fine. She’s tired from the trip anyway and I doubt she wants anything but a nice nap.”
Wrong! I wanted dinner. And all the water I had just gulped up was already pressing against my bladder. I couldn’t wait until after ‘the party’, whatever that was. I needed food and outside now! I had to try and let Susie know so I started whining to get her attention. Susie didn’t understand my message and just got angry with me again. She smacked my nose and yelled at me to be quiet. Then she closed the door to the bathroom and left me alone. Alone! I’d never been alone in my life. I was just a baby. How could she think I would be Ok alone? I should have been with my Mother and brothers and sisters, but instead I was locked in a small dark room, hungry and scared, all alone for the first time in my life!
As scared as I was of making Susie mad and earning another beating, I needed to get out of the prison she had locked me in, so I opened my mouth and yelped for all I was worth. Even having Susie yell at me and hit me was better than being locked in that strange place alone.
“Oh damn it!” I heard Susie yell from the other side of the door. “Shut up Honey!”
“Well, what do you expect,” Karen chimed in “She’s just a baby and she’s scared and hungry. Was this your great plan? Just lock her in the bathroom every time you didn’t feel like dealing with her?”

“If you’re so worried about her, you deal with her.” I heard Susie tell Karen. And then I heard the door slam and nothing more.
I screamed even louder hoping Susie would hear me from wherever she had gone to. She said she loved me so I knew she couldn’t let me suffer like that and if I yelled loud enough she would come and rescue me. She didn’t. She was long gone. But Karen did.
“Its Ok little Honey.” Karen said as she came into the bathroom to get me. “I’ll get you something to eat and keep you company. Susie is the most selfish person on earth and I have no idea what she was thinking of when she got you. Poor little girl.”
As Karen took me in her arms I felt much safer and stopped screaming. She took me outside and let me do my business and then we rode to the store in her car where she got some wonderful puppy food and a nice chew toy for me to play with. I wished Karen was my new owner, but at least she lived with us so I would have two new mommies to love me and care for me.
We went back to the dorm room and Karen fed me and played with me until she took me outside one more time before bed. As she carried me toward the bathroom I started whining again afraid she was going to lock me in there alone all night, but she just grabbed the towels and made a little nest on her bed for me so I wouldn’t have to spend my first night away from my mother alone.
Susie arrived home sometime in the middle of the night acting very strangely. She was wobbling around and all her words were slurred and garbled. I was so tired I could barely stay awake for more than a few seconds at a time, but I remember Susie and Karen fighting about me again.
“What are you doing with my puppy!” Susie screamed.
“We’re sleeping, you drunk bitch!’ Karen yelled back. “You just left her here with no food or company. What did you think I’d do? Just listen to her cry her little heart out until it was convenient for you to pay her some attention?!”
“She’s my puppy and you can’t have her!” Susie slurred back. “You’ll spoil her. Put her back in the bathroom so she gets used to it. She’s a dog, for god’s sake! She doesn’t need to sleep in the bed with you.”
She grabbed me out of Karen’s arms and threw me back in the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. I was too scared of all the yelling to complain so I just curled up on the hard, cold tile floor and went to sleep whining for my mother. I knew my mother would want me to be a well behaved and obedient little girl so I mustered up what courage I could and tried to be brave in the dark.

When I woke in the morning I had to go, but nobody was there to let me out of the bathroom and take me outside. I could hear Susie and Karen snoring through the door, but although the sun had been up for an hour neither one of them seemed to be waking up anytime soon. I was used to being able to go whenever the need arose, but now I had to try and hold it. All my instincts screamed aginst going where I slept, but if someone didn’t come to let me out soon it would be too late!
I started whining and scratching on the door, but all that earned me was Susie yelling at me to shut up and go back to sleep. Was she planning on sleeping all day? I assumed she hadn’t totally woken up or surely she would have understood what I needed, so I whined louder and really put all my efforts into scratching on the door. That woke Karen up, but instead of letting me out she and Susie just got into another fight about me.
“Wake up Susie, your puppy needs to go out!” Karen growled.
“No! I’m tired. She can wait. I’m not ready to get up yet and my first class doesn’t start until 11:00” Susie mumbled back.
“She can’t wait until 11:00. She has to go out now. She’s your puppy and I’m not taking her out so get your hung-over ass out of bed and take her out! You can come back and go back to sleep.” Karen reasoned.
“I can’t go out without make-up on! What if someone sees me? Just let her out into the hall. She can go there.”
“In the hall? Whose going to clean that up? We’ll get kicked out of the dorm!” Karen said.
“Kicked out? Whose name is on this dorm? My Daddy’s! I’m not getting kicked out of the dorms and I’m not getting out of bed. The janitors can clean it up. That’s what they are for---to clean things up. I’m going back to sleep. You can do whatever you want.”
“Fine.” Karen snapped back. “Its your problem.”
But Karen at least came and let me out of the bathroom and into the hallway. Although it wasn’t technically outside, it wasn’t where I lived either so I went to the end of the hall and did my business while Karen snoozed against the door jam. When I finished she let me back in and gave me a bowl of food before climbing back into bed.
After I ate breakfast I surveyed the rest of my new home. The floor was littered with all kinds of new chew toys that came in matching pairs and smelled wonderfully of feet! I chewed a few of those for awhile and then found some marvelously tasty leather ropes that I could drag around the room as I chewed them to pieces. Susie would be so proud of me when she woke up! I was sure I chewed through the leather of all my new toys faster than any other dog she’d ever seen. After I played for an hour or so I curled up next to Susie’s bed to take a well deserved nap. Even though I was tired it was hard to fall asleep. I couldn’t wait until Susie woke up to see how well I had chewed up all the toys.

When she did wake up she wasn’t quite as proud of me as I had expected. I woke to yet another slap on the face and Susie screaming at me for chewing up all her shoes and belts. She yanked me up by my neck and threw me back in the bathroom. I wasn’t going to whine to get out this time. I was no longer sure I wanted to spend much time with Susie after all. She seemed rather unpredictable and she hurt me every time she paid any attention to me. Why did she leave all those toys on the floor if she didn’t want me to chew on them? Why was she always mad at me?
As Susie and Karen got dressed for school and used the bathroom I crouched down in the corner. I didn’t want to risk making Susie mad again so I stayed out of her way. I hoped after she was ready we would go outside to the nice lawn and I could play in the sun, but when she finished painting her face and making her fur all puffy she just said goodbye and left me there by myself. I wasn’t sure what to do so I curled up and went to sleep.
I awoke several hours later but Susie hadn’t returned. I had to go and was hungry, but nobody was there to feed me or let me out. Luckily, Susie hadn’t shut the door all the way so I could get out and do my business in the small room off to the side of the bedroom. I’m sure that’s what it was for. Why else would there be a room in a room? They had their bathroom and I had mine. There were more chew toys in there on the floor, but I wasn’t sure whether to play with them or not. Susie sure had been mad about the last time, but maybe it was because she had meant to save those toys or chew on them herself.
I was hungry so I ripped open the bag of dog food and ate until my tummy almost burst! I just couldn’t seem to stop eating and I’d never had all the food I could eat before. Even after I drank some water my belly still ached and I had to throw up several times before I felt better. But then all the strange food made my guts boil and before I knew it I had to go over and over again until I felt like I had pooped my intestines out. Eventually I felt better and went back to sleep until Susie came home again.
When Susie came back I was so happy to see her! I had been so lonely and sick when she was gone and now she had come back everything would be Ok! But Susie was mad again and before I knew it I was being beaten and dragged all over the room. She kept shoving my nose into the piles of mess and yelling at me I was a bad dog. Why was I bad? Didn’t humans mess? It was just something I had to do, and after being sick all day, I’d had to do it a lot. She had been so happy when I messed the day before I thought she’d be pleased. Maybe she was just mad because I did when she was gone so she couldn’t watch? I had so much to learn and Susie never told me what she wanted me to do, she just hit and yelled at me when I did something she didn’t like. I wanted to be a good dog but what did she want?

The days went by pretty much the same as my first. Susie left me alone all day with no one to play with and no way to get outside and then she came home and hit me and yelled at me for messing and chewing things. Eventually I realized she didn’t want me to go in the room at all, but she was never there to let me out! Karen helped some by coming home at lunch and letting me out. Before long I was old enough to hold it until Karen got there and Susie beat me less and less when she returned in the early evening.
That was the best time. Susie wasn’t hitting me or yelling at me and she would play with me and tell me how much she loved me and take me outside to show me to all her friends. I could run and play and all the other kids would pet me and say how beautiful I was. On the weekends Susie might take me to a park or let me ride around in the car with her. Now that I was older it was easier to be alone and hold my mess so I wasn’t in trouble all the time and Susie actually seemed to love me and was proud of me.
It was still hard to wait all day for Susie to finish with classes, and as soon as she’d spent a little time with me she’d run off to this party or that, but more and more kids came by our room to take me for walks and play with me so I wasn’t alone or bored and most of the time I was happy and loved. Then came Christmas vacation and everything was bad again.

One day after the world had turned cold I came back from a walk with one of the kids and heard Susie and Karen fighting in the dorm room. Karen was yelling at Susie that she couldn’t go away for three weeks without making arrangements for my care. Susie was yelling back that the kennel was full and besides, it was too expensive. Karen gave up long before Susie slamming, the door behind her as she left. I didn’t see her for a long time after that.
The next morning Susie gave me lots of extra hugs and some special toys wrapped in shiny red and green paper. She told me I was a good girl and I would be fine while she was gone. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about, and even when she laid down several layers of newspaper all over the bathroom floor I still had no idea what she had in mind. Before the sun had sunk for the night Susie had filled by dog bowl with an entire 50lb bag of food and gave me one last hug before she went out the door.
I waited for her to return all night. She never came back. She had stayed out late before, but usually her or Karen would be back before the sun rose. This time it was almost noon before I heard any footsteps in the hall. It wasn’t Susie. I heard the door knob turn and ran for the door with my tail wagging and my bladder bursting. Instead of Susie, Karen, or any of the students I was familiar with, there was an old woman I had never seen before standing there in a blue uniform. She opened the door, saw me running for her, and slammed the door shut again, screaming the whole time.
“Damn students!” She yelled. “They left another damn dog in their room over Christmas vacation again! Well I’ll be damned if I’m taking care of it. They can just deal with the mess when they get back”

That was the last human voice I heard for many, many days. I couldn’t wait to be let outside anymore, so although I had been beaten for messing inside for the past several months, I made due with the papers on the bathroom floor and curled up to wait for Susie’s return.
I had no idea she wasn’t planning on returning6. Every time the wind blew and rattled the windows or puffed open the entrance door I would jump up expecting to hear Susie’s voice soon and her hand on the door. After a few days the smell from the bathroom was beginning to become suffocating. My eyes burned from the ammonia soaked papers on the floor and the messes had overpowered whatever sweat air there was left from the last time the door opened. But that wasn’t the worst. Although I had all the food I needed and water I could drink, I was totally unprepared for the heart wrenching loneliness of being completely cut off from any contact with other living creatures. I cried through the nights and stared out the window all day hoping to catch even a glimpse of a human on the now brown, dead lawn.
One morning while pressing my face to the window to catch the slight bit of fresh air working in through the crack where Susie had neglected to close the window completely, I caught a glimpse of something small, grey, and furry crawling outside the window! I had no idea what it was, but after being alone for so long anything alive was worth my attention. Hour after hour I watched hoping to see it agin. Finally, I fell asleep with my chin on the window sill only to wake up face to face with a strange little creature staring back at me through the window glass.
The animal just glared at me with huge reflective eyes while rubbing its arched body back and forth against the window. I went nuts. I hadn’t talked to anything in so long I just wanted get outside to play with it–whatever it was. I threw my body at the window scratching and whining for it not to leave me alone! Before long I had opened the window a little more and I could hear the thing talking to me. The sound of another voice was music to my ears!
“That’s it puppy. Pry the window open a little more” It instructed me.
I pushed and shoved and clawed until the window was open enough for both the visitor and blessed fresh air to enter the room. The little grey creature came in with its whiskered nose wrinkling at the smell from the bathroom.
“Whew! It stinks in here! How can you stand that smell?” it asked.
“I can’t.” I answered. “But there’s not much I can do about it. I’m locked in here and I didn’t know I could open the window. Who are you? What are you? Will you stay for awhile? Please?” I begged.
“I’m a cat, and yes, I can stay. I’ve been pretty bored the last few days. Got any food?” It asked as it surveyed the room looking for my bowl.

“Oh. I’m a puppy. I live here. I have lots of food! Please, help yourself. I’ve got water too, and toys and a warm bed for you. Can you stay? Can you please stay?” I knew I was whining and needy, but it wasn’t my nature to be alone.
“Sure kid. I can stay for awhile. I have things to do and other friends to see, but I’ll make sure I come by and see you everyday. OK?”
“Oh! Thank you so much. I don’t know where my owner went, but until she comes back I can’t stand being alone all the time!” I tried licking its face but it just growled at me.
“I know kid. They do it ever year. Some spoiled little college kid’s too cheap or lazy to care for their pet so they just leave it here. Susie, is that your owners name? Anyway, Susie will be back in a few weeks when classes start again. Don’t worry. Christmas break doesn’t last forever. It just seems like it to dogs.”
“Where you left by your owner too?” I asked.
“Yeah,” It chuckled, “about two years ago!”
“Two years! Oh my. How horrible!” I yelped.
“Naw, its not so bad for cats. We’re a little more independent than dogs so it doesn’t hurt us so much to be alone. You’re a social animal. That’s why you need and love humans so much and they love you. We cats just hang around as long as we feel like it, but we can live on our own too. Not like you dogs at all. Just don’t tell anyone I made friends with a dog!”
After the cat showed up I wasn’t as miserable being all alone. I had something to look forward to every day and every night it slept in my room with me. With the window open it was cold, but at least the air wasn’t as toxic and I could breath. Sometimes when the wind blew I could play a game where I jumped up on the desk in front of the window with a toy and if I threw into the breeze just right it would fly across the room and I could chase it just like Susie was there playing with me. With the help of the cat I made it until Susie returned for school a little after the new year began.
Although Susie was horrified at the mess I had made of the room, she seemed genuinely happy to see me and gave me lots of extra attention and hugs for many days after her return. I spent the rest of the winter and all of my glorious first spring playing with all my friends at the school. On warm days when the window was left open my friend the cat would come and visit me while all the humans were in class. Life was good.
One day in late spring, soon after my first birthday, Susie put me in the car and told me we were going to a wonderful place where I would make lots of new friends. She had been packing for days and all the other students were going new places too. I was so excited! I loved Susie and she loved me and we were heading out a new adventure together.

We drove for a little while and arrived at a small cinder block building. Susie slipped my leash on and we went inside where she talked to a lady behind a long counter in a brightly lit lobby. I thought maybe I was at the vet’s because the place smelled like dogs and antiseptic, just like the doctor’s office did.
Susie filled out some papers and handed my leash to the woman. Then, with one last hug and kiss, she turned and left! Where was she going? My Susie was leaving me with a stranger in a strange place. Something seemed so final about it. She didn’t look like she was coming back soon, but she had to, didn’t she?



I didn’t know where Susie was going or why she was leaving me. Hadn’t I learned all she had asked? Hadn’t I been an obedient Dog? She couldn’t be leaving me. I decided that was the fact of the matter and sat down in the lobby to wait for her return. The woman from behind the counter gave a tug on my leash but I refused to move. I had to wait for Susie. The tugs on my leash became more insistent and finally I was actually being dragged by my neck across the smooth floor toward a pair of double swinging doors at the back of the room.
As I was pulled through these doors everything I had ever known in life was about to change. On the other side of the doors was a long concrete hallway lined with steel cages on each side where dogs, dozens of them, all began barking at once at my indignant arrival. There were dogs of all sizes and shapes, some barking encouragements, some plain obscenities, but all barking at the top of their lungs that a new dog was arriving. I had never seen such dogs! These were certainly not purebred AKC Golden Retrievers! There were short scruffy dogs, long tall dogs, and huge muscular dogs with flashing white teeth and spittle flying in all directions as they lunged at me from the other side of steel mesh walls and doors. What was this place?

I immediately tried to run back toward the double doors and my beloved Susie, but the woman on the other side of my leash was stronger and even more determined than I was to get me down the stinking, slimy hallway toward what fate I could only guess. So cringing from the assaults on my nose, ears and eyes, quivering with fear at what my fate was to be, I arrived at my final destination. It was the cage furthest from the doors where I had entered and as far from safety and Susie as possible. The door was opened and I was shoved through to find myself face to face with the biggest, meanest looking, oldest dog on Earth. He looked me up and down and then simply turned his back on me and ignored my presence completely.
“In you go, girl” My captor said, “Don’t worry, Learned wont bother you”. I could only assume that Learned was to be my kennel mate and I was ecstatic to be assured he wouldn’t hurt me. He certainly seemed capable of snapping me in two, but at the moment he didn’t even acknowledge my presence, much less threaten or harass me. This was a great relief as I soon discovered all the other dogs had nothing better to do than yell taunts and torments in my direction.
One large snarling beast kept yelling “Hey graduate, are ya spayed?!” Another freakish looking fellow with long matted fur and red rimmed eyes kept saying he couldn’t wait to meet me in the play-yard later. Some of the other female dogs just kept yelling “New bitch! Hey, new bitch! This is MY cage. Stay away!” Then there was a group of small dogs with long ears and huge glassy brown eyes that just kept singing in unison “Graduate! Gra-du-ate, hey g-r-ad-u-ate. .” But the most disturbing sight of all was directly in the kennel across from me. The dogs in that cage didn’t even resemble dogs at all. They completely ignored my arrival and just lay like statues on the kennel floor as if expecting nothing from life and not being surprised when nothing showed up.
Eventually things calmed down and most of the dogs curled up for naps or quietly talked in the far reaches of the kennel. I couldn’t make out what was being said but would only occasionally her a snicker or small, quiet sobbing. What horrible crime had all these dogs committed to be locked up in this place. What crime had I committed!

I still rested my hopes that Susie was coming back for me so I settled down in front of the door to wait. Learned continued to completely ignore me and the other dogs seemed to have forgotten about my arrival too. As the afternoon wore on I began to feel sick to my stomach from the overpowering odors of too many filthy dogs and too much urine. Most of the dogs didn’t seem to care where they went to the bathroom and many of the kennels had piles of mess and pools of urine that were unavoidable to the occupants inside. Some of the dogs looked mortified at having to mess where they lived but tried to stay in the furthest corner from the offending matter. Others just tromped through it like it wasn’t even there.
In a few hours the woman came down the isle with a cart full of dog food in tin buckets which she then scooped into each kennel where the occupants had to gobble up as much as they could as fast as they could before they were out eaten by their cell mates or outright attacked for any remainders. Very few kibbles went to waste. When she arrived at my kennel she tossed a few cups of food into us and Learned soon began a slow dignified attack on all the kibbles he could reach without actually touching or making any eye contact with me.

Eventually he had eaten all but about half a cup of food and he went back to ignoring me. I told him he could eat the rest of the food since I was clearly there by mistake and my owner would soon come to fetch me and feed me real food. To this he just grunted and settled down for a nap. Although the food was making my mouth water the smell of the place was making my stomach turn and I was too queasy and nervous to eat.
After all the dogs had eaten the woman returned again and began hosing down the runs with the dogs in them! She would use the water to push all the messes into a drainage ditch in the hallway and then little by little the foul smelling sludge would make its way down the trench toward a hole in the floor and disappear. After she had finished “cleaning” the kennels she then used the hose to fill up water buckets that were clipped to each wall. The dogs all took turns drinking thirstily until all had had their fill and the buckets were mostly empty again. Then the woman left and locked the double doors behind her. Soon the lights went out and the dogs were left alone for the night with no humans in sight.
It was at this time that Learned deemed it appropriate to speak to me. “I’m sure your owner will be back to get you, but not tonight. The place is closed up until the morning so why don’t you go ahead and eat something and have a drink?”
I sniffed the remaining food and pushed it around with my nose a little, but the thought of eating was just too hard to swallow. I did take a small drink of water though, just to be polite and then began to worry about where I would go to the bathroom if nobody was coming to let us out for the night? After a year of having house training beat into my psyche it seemed almost impossible for me to deliberately go inside, much less to go where I slept and ate!
Learned seemed to understand my dilemma and demonstrated his solution without being asked. He simply walked up to the front of the kennel and hoisted his leg letting his urine flow straight onto the concrete walkway where most of it then ran into the drainage ditch. “A big guy like me has to make due” He said, “Otherwise we’d all drown!”
I know he was trying to help, but it wasn’t anatomically possible for me to mimic his antics, so I just backed up as far toward the door as I could and did my best to aim for the walkway. It was better then nothing and more than most of the other dogs even tried.
As the evening wore on the sun faded, leaving the kennels dark and quiet. Slowly the dogs began to stir. Most, with full bellies and bladders had to deal with finding an appropriate place to make their messes, but some began to talk in low hushed voices about times gone by and owners gone away.

Learned took his time, but eventually warmed up enough to my presence to begin and long conversation that explained where I was and what I was doing there. “How you doing, kid?” He asked in a somewhat sympathetic tone. This small touch of kindness was all the opening I needed.
“I’m cold and hungry and I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing here. Where is Susie? Who are all these dogs? Why do they call me a Graduate? When can I go home?” I fired at him in one long breath.
“Easy now, I can only answer one question at a time.” He took a deep breath and began in the beginning.
“You’re at the Bathbridge County Animal Shelter and you’ll be here about 5 days. Your owner, Susie you called her? She left you here because she was finished with school and didn’t want to keep you anymore. That’s why they call you a ‘Graduate’7. At this time of year a lot of students just like your Susie finish school and go off to new jobs and new lives and don’t want the responsibility or expense of having a dog anymore. So they leave you here and go on to new lives without you. They graduate and their dogs become this year’s cast-offs, or graduates as we call them around here.’
“This is an animal shelter, which is a place people can take used and unwanted animals and forget about them. Most of these dogs had owners, just like you, who no longer wanted to keep them and left them here. A few are strays who took their freedom and ran, but ended up here anyway. Some have been through here several times, but most will never leave. If a new human comes in and wants to take you home, they just pay a few dollars and you belong to them. If they like you, you might live with them forever, but if they don’t, or you’re too much trouble, they just dump you back here again and move on.”
“No!” I yelped. “I’m not left here. Susie loves me. She said so! And I’m worth way more than a few dollars. I’m a pure-bred AKC Golden Retriever and I cost Susie $1500!”8 I was so relieved to find out there had been some sort of mistake.
“You’re still a pup, huh? Didn’t get out much at that school you lived at? You’re worth $35, the price of the adoption fee, just like every other dog in here pure-bred or not.” He said, with infinite patience. Most of these dogs are pure-breds just like you and cost a pretty penny themselves when they were young and cute, but now they are just refuge like 10 million other dogs that come through places like this every year.”
“Those dogs are pure-bred AKC Golden Retrievers?” I asked, incredulous that they were just like me.
“No” He replied, “they are pure breds of many different breeds and they all have papers from the American Kill-em Club just like you. As long as humans are willing to pay good money for pure-bred dogs the AKC is more than willing to take their cut and send out some meaningless papers. If you were really a well bred valuable dog your breeder never would have sold you to Susie or let you end up here. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you kid, but that’s the way it is”.
“But that’s not right” I exclaimed, shocked by all he had said.

“It’s all perfectly legal” He explained.
“What’s legal?” I asked.
“What’s right. If its wrong they make laws against it and its illegal, like the rules you’re used to. The rule that you shouldn’t chew shoes is what a law is to humans. They make things illegal if they think its wrong and should be against the rules, but until they do that its right and no matter how bad the behavior, they don’t feel at all bad doing it. I know all about it. My owner was lawyer and I learned all about the laws.”
“Oh,.” I said, disheartened and confused. “So now I’m illegal?”
“No” He sighed. “Now you’re just unlucky. You’ll be okay, a young pretty dog like you has a good chance of finding a new family soon.”
“What if I don’t?” I asked.
“We’ll talk about that tomorrow.” He replied with finality. “Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow’s Friday and that’s the worst day around here. You’ll understand then.”
With that he circled several times and lay down on the cold concrete floor to get some sleep. I stayed awake for a long time thinking about what he had said, but it was too much to take in all at once. Susie wasn’t coming back for me? I wasn’t so special after all and I could just be thrown away like yesterday’s newspaper? Why had Joey and his father made me if this was all there was in life for a dog like me? Was it just for the money? Joey had warned me that Susie would soon tire of me, but he had also promised to come and get me when that happened. Joey! I had almost forgotten! I was a special dog. Joey had promised to take me home to the farm when Susie no longer wanted me! How could have forgotten that? It was all going to be OK. Joey would be here soon to take me back to the farm and my Mother. With this firmly in mind I too curled up on the hard floor and went to sleep.

When I awoke in the morning I didn’t know where I was. For a moment I thought I was home in the dorm with Susie, but then the smell of the kennel hit me and it all came rushing back into my memory. Susie had left me here. She didn’t love me anymore. But then I remembered Joey and how he’d said he’d come and take be back to the farm when Susie tired of me. Joey would come and get me, it was just a matter of time.
Learned woke soon after me and heaved his massive body off the floor in a series of stiff, awkward thrusts. “I’m too old for these hard floors” He said. I could see how rigid and painful his joints seemed, but he bravely went to the front of the kennel and did his business even though I could see the gymnastics hurt him to the core. We both drank a little water and shook the sleep out of our heads.

All around us I could here the other dogs waking up. Before long I heard the woman return and soon she unlocked the door to a cacophony of barks, yelps, and singing. Starting at the far end near the double doors she opened the kennel and let the 5 occupants out to run down the hallway toward the door to the right of my kennel. She quickly caught up to the squigling mass of dogs and let them out the door.
“Is she letting them go? “ I asked Learned.
“No, that’s the door to the exercise run. We all get to go out there for a few minutes each morning while our kennels are cleaned.” He answered.
As the woman let the dogs out she noticed Learned’s and my mess on the isle floor. “Oh Learned, you nasty dog! Why can’t you pee in the run like all the other dogs do! I swear you’re the stupidest dog on earth. No wonder nobody wants you.” She turned away in disgust.
Stupid? Learned? He was the smartest dog I’d ever met! Where did she expect him to go? In the kennel so he could lay in it all night? Learned didn’t seem to mind the criticism. He just looked at her with droopy old eyes and panted nonchalantly. “Stupid woman” he murmured. “There’s no law against keeping my run decent, but there should be a law against making me wait 24 hours to use the proper facilities.”
“You mean they could make laws about that?” I asked.
“They can make laws about anything, but the right people have to ask.” He answered, ever proud of his superior education in the matters of laws.
“Then why don’t the right people ask?” I queried
“The right people, or even enough of the wrong people, either don’t know, or don’t care what we dogs go through in life. Each dog here has a story but nobody listens or cares. See that pretty little cocker spaniel over on the left? The one with the long ears and no hair? When she arrived here her coat was so matted and tangled they had to shave it all off right next to the skin. When they got the hair off they realized she had so many fleas she was anemic and the foul tangles had caused open sores in her skin to fester. There were maggots living in the sores. Her ears were so infected every time she shook her head to relieve the itching puss splattered all over her run and it made us all sick to smell it.”
I looked at the sad-eyed, short legged, pudgy little dog he was referring to. She seemed naked with all her hair removed but happy to be free of vermin and pain.
“Why did her owners let her get that bad?” I wanted to know.
“They were too lazy to brush her coat and too cheap the pay a groomer to do it for them. When things got too bad they just dumped her here and decided dogs were too much trouble and not all that fun.”
Money again. Did everything in a dog’s life revolve around money? “What about those dogs over there, the one’s that sing? Why are they here?” I wondered out loud.

“Those are Beagles. They breed like rabbits and although they are adorable when they’re puppies, if you don’t let them run and hunt they make horrible pets. Their owners had the mother, father, and the whole litter living in the house with them, but all that howling and singing was too much for the neighbors, so here they are, just like the rest of us.” Taking my interest as an invitation to continue Learned proceeded to tell me the stories of all the dogs in the kennel.
“In the kennel with the Cocker are Jack, Ruby, Chester, Pugsly, and Heidi. Jack is a Jack Russell. He was bred to hunt foxes and chase them down into their dens for mortal combat, but when his owners tried to civilize him and locked him in an apartment all day he just tore the place up. He attacked anything that moved and some things that didn’t. When he ate the drapes off the windows his owners gave up and left him here. Drapes are expensive. Ruby is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and really shouldn’t be here at all. The folks who run that breed registry try very hard to keep all their dogs happy and safe. They even forbid members of the club from selling dogs to pet shops, but somehow Ruby ended up here anyway. I think there was a fatal car wreck and no one’s thought to see where the deceased’s dog ended up. The Cavalier King Charles rescue club will probably save him before its too late. Chester is a Labrador retriever that just grew too big and kept knocking down his owner. Training would have solved the problem but that takes time and most humans don’t like to spend valuable time and money cleaning up their messes. They just blame the dog and move on. Pugsly is a Bull dog. His owners had to have an exotic pet to get them attention so they bought Pugsly because he was white and therefore rare. They both worked full time and left poor Pugs locked up in a crate for 12 hours at a time from his sixth week in life til his sixth month. Poor Pugsly is deaf and he never really learned to run and play or think. On top of all that he is so poorly bred that he can hardly breath and would die if he were left outside for very long. When his owners found out he was worthless as a stud dog because of his health problems and stunted mental development, they got rid of him and bought something else to amuse them. Heidi is a Schnauzer. She’s just here because she became inconvenient. She has no health problems, never misbehaved in her life, loved and obeyed her owners, did everything that a dog could do to protect and comfort the children, but ended up here when here owners decided to move to an apartment that didn’t allow dogs. She’s heartbroken and thinks they are coming back to get here any day.”
Learned went on cage by cage telling me the tragic stories of each and every dog. Some were new and he didn’t know all the details, but the stories all started sounding the same. These dogs were just not wanted anymore. Most of their owners had never thought through what having a dog meant and just impulsively took home a puppy that caught their eye. Just like Susie had. I wondered what had become of my brothers and sisters. Were they, at this very moment, in a shelter somewhere hoping their owners would be coming back?

One dog in particular caught my attention as she was led past our run to the yard. She never looked left or right, and unlike the others she never wagged her tail or barked at the other dogs. She seemed dazed and in a trance. Her long white coat was covered in mess and soaked in urine but she didn’t seem to notice or care. She just followed the woman like a little robot and went outside and plopped on the ground avoiding the other dogs.
“What’s her story?” I asked my sage.
“She’s a pet shop dog. She was born in a puppy mill where she and her 5 siblings were crammed in a rabbit hutch along with their mother. She never left the hutch until she was taken from her mother and shipped across the country to a pet shop here in Virginia. She’s not a pure bred, but a mix of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle. That didn’t stop the pet shop from selling her for $800 though. Because she never left a cage until she was 4 months old she never learned to avoid her own messes or relate to other dogs. Her brain isn’t even wired up right because she never really got to run and play and use her muscles until it was too late for them to develop. Her new owners tried to return her to the pet shop when they realized she could never be housetrained, but the pet shop only took sick dogs back so she ended up here. Nobody will adopt her since she doesn’t even try and look cute when the visitors come. She’ll never leave.”
“And this is all legal?” I asked him. Surely it couldn’t be right for so many dogs to be wronged.
“Every bit of it. There are Federal and state laws that say we shouldn’t be tortured, that we need a certain amount of space in our crates and cages, and that we are required to have food and water, but to an intelligent and social animal like us dogs all those laws do is prolong our misery and make it profitable to make as many more dogs as humans are willing to buy. In fact, I’ve been here 2 years and I’ve only seen a handful of dogs that were taken away from their masters for being mistreated or neglected.”
I thought back to my happy puppy-hood on the farm and was grateful I hadn’t been born in a puppy mill, but what good did it do me? I was still born to be sold for someone else’s profit and ended up here just like all the other dogs. I was pondering this when the woman arrived at our run. It was our turn to go out for exercise.
Much to my horror, the animals across from us were to be let out at the same time. They looked something like dogs, all their legs and tails and ears were in the right places, but there the resemblance ended. These creatures were almost as two dimensional and as thin as paper dolls. Each one’s ribs showed through their skin and I could count each vertebra on their boney backs. Their long, needle nosed faces were topped with bulging eyes that rolled around in their skulls flashing the whites at every noise and sight.
As we all entered the yard I whispered to Learned “Are those dogs?”

He chuckled and answered “Yes, believe it or not, they are dogs. They’re Greyhounds. They are bred for racing and when they stop winning they are either killed or abandoned by the thousands. These guys were left to die in a parking lot by an owner who was too cheap to buy the bullets to kill them9. There’s still a track here in Virginia where the dogs race so we always have a few coming through here10.”
I watched the stick like dogs trot around the yard. They were all business. Each dog quickly found a place to mess and immediately ran back to huddle by the door. I could here some of them muttering to themselves “I will run faster. I will run faster. . .” Another dog, looking thoroughly defeated kept whispering to himself “I ran as fast as I could. I was a champion”. They seemed completely disconnected from the world around them and just wanted to go back to their run and replay the races of the past in their minds.
“What’s wrong with them?” I asked.
“They are not like us. They are born and bred to race and never even knew the kindness of an owner who loved them or the joys of just playing in the sun with other dogs. They have lived in crates their whole lives and don’t feel safe out in the open unless they are racing. They race as fast as they can but the moment they begin to slow they are forgotten and discarded. It doesn’t even really bother them that they were never loved. They only cry for the races they lost and the races they will never run again.11”
I didn’t even bother to ask if it was legal. It seemed anything was legal that was short of a horrible death and even that was OK until someone got caught, a rather rare event.
“And they will all be killed?” I didn’t really want to know the answer but had to ask.
“Most of them. A few go on to breed the next generation of racers, but most end up here or in research labs to be experimented on by humans. Some, and those are the very lucky ones, get adopted to loving families and learn what it is to be a dog with a home and people who love them even if they don’t win races.”
“Why don’t they all get adopted?” I asked hopefully.
“There just aren’t that many homes. Every year about 30,000 racers retire and there are only a few thousand people12 willing to take them on as pets. There’s just never enough good homes for all the dogs humans make each year.” He answered.
I looked around at all the dogs in our kennel and realized how many homes would be needed to place so many animals.
“I guess when all of us are placed in homes then more dogs will come here? Will it ever end? There are so many of us.” I wondered out loud.
“You still don’t understand at all do you? This isn’t all the dogs that need homes. This is just the dogs in this county that need homes this week!13 And that’s not even counting the dogs that never make it here and are abandoned on the side of the road or simply left to fend for themselves when their owners move on. Most of the dogs you see here today will be gone by next week and new dogs will take their places.” He seemed angry but I couldn’t blame him.

“Where will these dogs all go? To new homes?” I asked hopefully.
“We’ll talk about that later” He cryptically replied.
We went back to our kennel but I couldn’t nap thinking about all Learned had told me. The kennel was cleaner than it had been before, but to my sensitive nose the stench of urine was still overpowering and my eyes and lungs burned from it. I was hungry and lonely and scared, but I knew Joey would come and rescue me soon so with that thought in mind I drifted off to sleep.



I was so tired from all that had happened to me in the last few days I slept right through the afternoon. It wasn’t until the woman came to make her rounds that I woke up with my stomach growling. I knew I would be last to be fed but couldn’t wait until the cart arrived at my end of the isle. No matter what they tried to feed me I was planning on eating every bite!
I shook the sleep from my head and surveyed the kennel with an eye on the cart’s progress toward my feeding time. The kennel seemed strangely quiet. All the barking and yelling for food that I had heard yesterday was absent. Slowly I came to realize most of the dogs were gone! Only Ruby, the beagles, and Learned remained. Even the Greyhounds were gone.
“Where did everybody go!” I yelped to Learned. “Did they all get adopted to new homes? How wonderful!”
“No. Not new homes. They’ve all gone to a better place.” He stoically replied.
“A better place? That’s where my brother Runt went when we were puppies. He went to live in the house with Joey and his family. Mother said it was a better place too. I miss him but I know Joey’s looking out for him.” Learned just sighed and declined to comment.
The beagles, not as tactful as the sagacious Learned began to sing “Better place, better place, better off dead! Ha!” Only the arrival of the food cart shut up their horrifying song. Learned refused to even look at me and I was afraid to ask him what the Beagles meant. Ruby wasn’t as kind and told me everything I never wanted to hear.

“They’re all dead. It’s Friday. They kill the dogs on Friday to make room for all the new dogs like you. Happens every week. If I hadn’t been claimed by the rescue folks I’d be dead too. I wish those damn Beagles had been here for a week so we wouldn’t have to listen to their stupid songs anymore!”14 Ruby’s sweet face disguised a cruel heart.
“Ruby! That’s enough!” Learned growled menacingly
“Dead Dead Dead” the Beagles sang.
“They’re all dead? How did that happen. Were they sick?” I asked Learned, fearing his answer but needing to know.
“The man came. He always comes on Fridays unless its an emergency. You get 5 days here, so if you’re lucky you arrive on Saturday, but if not you only get your week and then its all over. He puts the dogs to sleep to make room for new dogs, and there’s always new dogs.” Learned seemed calm about the whole thing, but then he had been there a long time.
Dead. Did that mean I would die too? Where was Joey?!
“Even the Greyhounds?” I asked, disbelieving they could be treated as mere common dogs.
“No, not them. The lab man came by and took them. He comes every Friday to pick out the dogs he wants before they go to sleep.15”
“Oh, thank goodness!” I said. “At least they are OK.”
“Not OK, worse than dead. They will be tortured until they either die or are destroyed in the name of science.”
“What?! You said torture was illegal!” I couldn’t believe humans would do that to their faithful friends.
“Its not illegal for labs to torture dogs as long as it serves the needs of humans. In the old days all the shelters were required by law to turn over all the dogs to labs and the men who sold dogs to them16. At least now the shelters can say no, if they wanted to. But at $35 dollars a dog they just can’t afford to turn the lab men away.”
Suddenly the term ‘better off dead’ began to make sense to me. What use was it to live and love humans when they so obviously cared so little for us? Learned had said there were millions of us in places like this every year and only a few of us were ever adopted. That meant 6 million17 dogs died each year while people like Joey and his father kept making more to take their places and all the good homes. And all this suffering was for piles of green paper? I lost my appetite and sighing heavily just curled up an the floor and cried. In my sleep that night I dreamed I was still at the farm playing with Joey and sleeping close to my siblings at night never knowing what horrible fates would await us all. When I awoke it was dark and I was nursing on my own tongue for comfort. Learned was laying close to me and slowly licking the tears from my eyes until I fell back to sleep desperately hoping it would not be forever.

In the morning I awoke to much activity in the kennel. Learned was already awake and warming his old bones for another day. There were new dogs arriving every few minutes as college students left for the year or for good and no longer wanted the pets that had kept them company throughout their academic careers. The Beagles kept sing-songing “Graduates. . gr-ad-uates. .grad-u-ates.” Ruby was gone but Learned told me he had been picked up by the rescue people so I knew he’d be OK.
After breakfast and a quick trip to the yard I began to wonder what Learned was doing here and why he had survived so long when all the others were lucky to survive a single week. He was more than happy to tell me his story and began shortly after the kennel closed for the morning and the new arrivals had settled into their surroundings.
“I’m a Mastiff and I was born right here in Bathbridge County, Virginia, 9 years ago. My breed dates back to the Roman empire when we were the dogs of Generals and Nobles. My owner was a law student back then but even though he worked 14-16 hours a day at his studies he always made time for me and took care of me as well as any young dog could wish for. He discussed everything he learned with me and practiced his oral arguments on me long into the nights. That’s why I know so much about the law. When he graduated we moved to the city, but my owner made sure we had a small yard and a nearby park so I wouldn’t suffer my life away locked in an apartment alone.
On weekends we went to the countryside and took long walks in the fields and woods while he used me as a willing audience for his theories and arguments on many different cases. I loved my owner with all my heart and I know he loved me just as much. He was the smartest, kindest human on earth and I was the luckiest dog in the world to have him.
Then tragedy struck. One night he came home later then usual and we had to go out for my walk in the cold dark of the city. As we entered an alley, a short- cut to the park, a man jumped out and demanded all my owner’s money. I instantly jumped to my owners defense but he pulled me back and told me to sit. There was a shiny metallic object in the robber’s hand but I knew I could stop him and wasn’t afraid to die in defense of my beloved owner. That’s what I was bred to do and I had no qualms about protecting my human with my life. But I also was well trained so when he told me to hold back I did as he asked.
He told the man he had no money and had just run out to walk to dog, but the man didn’t believe him and kept yelling that he wanted all the money and my owners watch too. My owner willingly handed over the watch but it didn’t seem to satisfy the other human. I saw the bad man raise the metal object toward my owner and felt my adored human’s fear at the gesture. Without a thought to my own safety I went for the man and threw myself between him and my owner. Before I could understand what had happened there was a horrible thundering sound and I felt a searing pain in my chest. Then it happened two more times in rapid succession.

‘Run!’ I yelled. ‘I’ll stop him. Get to safety!’ But my owner wouldn’t leave me there to defend him alone and lunged at the bad man. The noise happened again three more times but I felt no pain. The bad man turned and fled and as I looked behind me to tell my owner the bad man was gone I saw him crumple to the ground.
I was badly hurt and bleeding from several wounds but I dragged myself over and lay down next to my owner to try and clean his wounds and keep him warm until help could arrive. I lay my head across his chest and kept telling him everything would be okay and help would arrive soon but he was fading fast. He just kept petting my head and telling me I was a brave boy and had tried valiantly to save his life but the bad man had been determined to leave no witnesses. He told me not to worry and that I would be taken care of and as I lost consciousness I remember him patting my head as the last breath left his body.
When I came to, there were many men in uniforms and flashing lights all around. I lay across my owners body and tried to keep the other humans away so he could rest, but deep inside I knew he would never wake up. Finally, the dog warden arrived and I allowed myself to be lifted into his van and brought to a vet. I had no will to live and just wanted to lie with my owner until I too took my final breath but I was young and strong and knew my owner would want me to live. I had three bullet holes that ran all the way through my body but nothing too important had been damaged so after a month I could stand and walk on my own and the Vet proclaimed me out of danger.
My owner had been a very good lawyer and also very successful so there were many people who cared about what happened to his possessions. Because of his education my owner knew I was nothing more than another possession, like a couch or a watch, in the eyes of the law and had worked very hard to make sure I would be provided for if anything were to happen to him. He had stipulated in his will that the people who would benefit from his estate would also be charged with taking care of me until I died of natural causes, but being a moral and kind man he had no idea of the treachery his relatives were capable of.
There was no law that said he could leave money to me for my care and upkeep so he could only trust his heirs to follow his wishes and that trust was sorely misplaced. Nobody wanted me. I was too big, too much work, or too expensive to care for. Although the will clearly stated that I should be looked after, there was no one to go to court for me or take up my cause and no judge that could enforce the will under the law18. Finally, the executor of the will convinced the heirs that I must be provided for out of respect for the dead, but since nobody wanted to take me home they took me here and pay a small fee every month for my upkeep but never give a thought to me otherwise. I get my own private run most of the time and I’m closest to the door and the windows, but I can never be adopted or put to sleep because of the will and have to stay here until I die.

I wish I had died that night with my owner. I know he’d never want me here, living like this, but all I can do now is wait until I die of old age and can see him again in the better place.” With his tale finished Learned sighed heavily and laid his massive head on his front paws and became silent.
Poor Learned! Why were humans so selfish and greedy? They would kill for money and let a good man die in the streets for a simple piece of jewelry. Yet even for huge piles of money they wouldn’t open their hearts and homes to a noble and brave dog like Learned. If such a smart man and lawyer to boot couldn’t find a way to provide for his pet after death what hope was there for any of us? Learned lived here for two years just wishing to die yet all he could do was live while those around him moved on to better places.

Later that afternoon the people began to arrive to look for dogs to adopt. Where were they yesterday? Why didn’t they put dogs to sleep after the weekend so the people could have adopted poor Heidi or Chester? Since the kennels were almost full again it became clear to me there just wasn’t enough room for the old and new dogs at once. Last week’s dogs had to go to make room for this week’s cast-offs.
The families looked at all the dogs judging each one on the important criteria of cuteness and enthusiasm. One of the Beagles was chosen for a new home and sang good-bye to his liter mates as he left through the double doors. A few more dogs were chosen to live another week but many more were not. Nobody showed any interest in me at all because I was too big and I think they were scared to get too close to Learned’s run, but that was okay since I knew Joey would find me here easier than having to track me down to yet another new owner.
After the kennel closed to visitors that afternoon, one last dog was led in and put in the empty kennel directly across from us. He was a medium sized muscular dog with a short shiny coat and the biggest grin I’d ever seen on his huge round head. He was wagging his tail at everyone and constantly trying to kiss the woman as she led him to his new home.
“Hi!” He yapped at everyone. “Hi there! Oh hi hi! I sure am happy to be here and meet you all! Is this the boarding kennel? How long are you staying? And you? I’m not sure about me but my owners usually leave me for a week or two when they go away. I LOVE the kennel and meeting so many new friends!”
Learned and I just stared at him. The other dogs stopped their conversations and just stood dumbfounded at how damn happy and friendly this new dog was. Boarding kennel? Didn’t he know where he was?
“When’s dinner?” He asked in our general direction. “Did I miss dinner? I just LOVE dinner! Did I miss play time? I LOVE playtime too! Play play play, Oh my I could just play all day!”

“Dinner hasn’t started yet so you didn’t miss anything. We don’t get play time here, just a few minutes in the yard in the morning.” I informed him.
Boomer just wagged his tail and said he’d be just as happy to hang out with his new friends and chat as play anyway. “I just LOVE chatting! My oh my how I LOVE to chat and make new friends!”

After dinner Boomer spent an hour talking to the Boarder Collie in the next run and I turned to Learned for more education.
“Well, “ I said “Boomer will certainly find a new home! That’s the happiest, cutest dog I’ve ever seen. I’m worried someone will take him instead of me, but I need to wait for Joey anyway.”
“Boomer’s never leaving here. He’ll be gone to a better place by sunset tomorrow.” Learned said sadly.
“But why?!” I asked with shock.
“Boomers a Pit bull and they’re illegal in Bathbridge County.” He told me without emotion.
“What? Boomer’s wrong? How could anyone want to hurt Boomer? He’s the friendliest dog in the world!” Boomer was illegal but killing all those other dogs wasn’t. Nothing made any sense anymore.
“It’s a breed specific ban. If some dogs belong to bad people somewhere and those dogs hurt a human then other counties sometimes decide to ban the whole breed, regardless of how sweet any individual is. When that happens the dog’s owners must either move, or give up the dog. The ban in Bathbridge has been around for awhile, so I guess Boomer’s owners moved here and just didn’t know. Its sad, but what can they do? Move back where they came from? Even the companies that insure humans’s houses won’t insure a house with a Pit Bull in it. So no, Boomer won’t be leaving here with a new family. Even the woman is scared of Pit Bulls, so this is an emergency and the man will come soon to put Boomer down.” Learned was so jaded he just recited the facts without anger. He’d been here a long time.
I looked at Boomer’s loving face and generous smile and almost cried. He was wrong and would have to die. His poor family must have been crushed to move to a new town and be welcomed by the dog warden to take their dog away.19

A few minutes later the woman came into the kennel with a leash and some dog treats. She went straight to Boomer’s run acting like he was a vicious dog that needed to be coaxed into cooperation and lured him out with the kibbles, down the wretched isle, and through the double doors. Boomer went willingly, wagging his tail the whole time and saying “Treats! Oh my yes I LOVE treats! Where we going? We gonna play? Oh my oh my I LOVE to play!” The last we saw of him was his wagging tail as the doors swung shut.
Less than 10 minutes went by before the lights went out for the night and we heard the woman leave. Boomer was gone. Such a wrong and illegal dog didn’t even deserve one night once he entered our world. Even though I was a well bred, well raised young bitch, for just a moment I wished Boomer had been dangerous and fought back before they killed him. At least he might have had a chance that way. But no, he trustingly and lovingly followed the woman to his doom wagging his tail the whole time and thinking it was all one big game.

As the sound of the woman’s car faded into the distance the dogs began to talk again. The Boarder collie said he’d better be getting home soon since his idiot owner wouldn’t know how to bring the cows in without him.
“Home?” I asked. “What do you mean go home? We’re locked in here. You can’t just leave.”
“I’m locked in here all the time. The idiot always loses me or forgets where he put me and if I didn’t find my way home he’d forget to come and get me before its was too late. This time he lost me out of the back of his stupid pick-up truck again. The idiot never secures me back there and when he gets drunk enough he starts squerriln’ around and I go flying out the back20. Again. If I don’t know where I am I just let the dog catcher get me and I can find my way home from here. Humans and their stupid laws. Its illegal to be a Pit Bull but its OK to let your dog ride in the back of a pick-up. Idiots. Couldn’t even have a damn cooler in the back of the pick-up without properly securing it, but me? Learn to fly, baby, learn to fly. They only worry about things that can hurt them if they catapult out of a pick-up and don’t worry about the things that get hurt for a second. Don’t get me started about laws. Idiots.”
“Yeah laws” said the mix- breed in the run with the Boarder Collie. “The laws around here suck for dogs. That’s why I’m going to California. They have the best dog laws in the whole darn County. Cali Dude. Cali.” He sighed longingly and looked off into the distance as if he could see California from there.
“Oh yeah?” Said the Boarder Collie. “What’s so great about California?”
“Dude” He started. “Cali rocks! In Cali its illegal to even sell dogs! There are more homes than dogs and people have to wait just to have the privilege of giving every dog a good home. And in Cali, in Cali they don’t put dogs to sleep in shelters cause someone always wants you. And . . . . and they don’t sell dogs to labs, and there’s no Greyhound racing, and they even put people in jail if they mistreat or neglect an animal.21” He was getting all excited just talking about this place and his tail was wagging furiously.

“No way!” said the boarder Collie. “Here they don’t punish anybody unless there have been a lot of complaints from humans and enough animals have died. Even then it often just a little fine. One time my owner was beating me over the head and stuffing my face in a hole full of water, damn near drowning me, and the dog warden came and my idiot owner had to go to court. The idiot Judge decided it was A-Okay because he had a good reason to do it. He was trying to “teach” me not to dig holes!22 I spent 3 weeks at the vet and he went home without even a slap on the wrist. Laws. Judges. Idiots. Then my owner came home and beat me again for making him have to go to court.”
“Not in Cali, Dude. Nope, not there.” The mix said shaking his head no.
“There’s nowhere like that.” Said Learned. “My owner would have heard about it. You’re making it all up. Humans would never stand for losing all the money they can make by breeding our kind, nor would they stand for having the government tell them what to do with their property. No pet shops? No breeders? Homes for every dog? You’re just dreaming.”
“Now hold on a minute,” piped a Boston Terrier, “where I came from they didn’t make it illegal to sell dogs but it was considered uncivilized to do so. There were so few dogs up for adoption they had to ship puppies up from other places just to fill the demand. Maybe he’s telling the truth?”
“That’s not the same as an outright ban.” Learned argued. “If humans chose to do the right thing than its different from being forced to do it.”
“Humans don’t chose to do the right things when there’s money involved. They’re all greedy idiots!” The Boarder Collie interjected. “Screw my idiot owner. Let’s go to Cali. Which way is it?” He asked the mixed breed.
“On the other side of this cage and 3,000 miles west.” The mix said sadly.
“Not a problem, follow me.” He answered and climbed right up the six foot fence and over the other side!
“Dude!” Said the mix. “Awesome! I didn’t know we could do that.” And with that he followed suit and both were standing in the isle.
They looked around and asked if anyone else wanted join them. “We’re off to Cali! Whose with us?” Said The Collie.
There were no takers. We had been too well bred and too well trained to ever think of rebelling.
“Oh well,” He said. “Your loss.” See you in a better place!” and with that they jumped out the window and were gone. We heard one last “Idiots!” and not another sound.
“Will they really get to California?” I asked Learned.
“I doubt it,” he replied cynically “but if they do, they won’t find the land of glory they think is there.”

I couldn’t sleep. I just lay on the concrete floor with my mind reeling from all I seen and heard since Susie had abandoned me. None of it made any sense. Was I just a toy to be thrown away like one of Susie’s old cell phones? Or was I something more, yet something less than a real living animal?
After what seemed to be an eternity of mental agony I finally had to speak.
“Learned? Are you still awake?” I asked sheepishly knowing he wasn’t. But I was wrong.
“Yes little one, I’m awake. I’ve been waiting for you to be ready to ask why things are the way they are.” He said in a calming, wise voice,. “I know its hard to learn all this at once, but no matter what happens in the next few days you have a right to know what forces rule your fate.”
With that he began at the beginning.



“It all started a long time ago,” Learned began. “We dogs didn’t exist in the real world. The humans made us. We came from our ancestors the Wolves. The humans needed our superior physical abilities because although they are smart, they are also weak and frightened of the real world. They can’t run, smell, hear, see, or sense the world like we can. They needed us and we, being loyal and loving creatures like the Wolves before us, needed to be needed and loved. The humans changed us from the Wolves.”
They made us forever puppies like the humans themselves were permanently children.” He continued. “We bark, while in Wolves only the puppies bark. We breed anytime we can, while the wolves mature and pick only their leaders as the breeding pair. We kill for fun and even attack when we aren’t hungry. The wolves only kill for food and even then they manage their prey herds to make them strong and healthy by eliminating the weak, old, ill and over populations of new young. We became like our creators, the humans, and within a few generations we were even used to kill our reverent ancestors as wolf hounds.”
“As we became more like the humans they became more dependant on us. For thousands of years we helped them protect themselves, secure food, and kept them from being lonely in the long dark nights of endless winters. There were others too, like the cattle, horses, and cats, but we have all outlived our usefulness to the humans so they have forgotten what they owe us. Now, to most humans, we are nothing more than pieces of property to be owned or fancy living toys to be played with and tossed aside when a better toy arrives.”

“In some places in this country dogs are still very much needed, but in most places we are just wanted. Its not all bad. Many owners treat as like their own children and love and protect us from birth to death. But humans have made it too easy for the others to abuse and abandon us at will. When they replaced us with technology they forgot the debt they owed us as our creators. We can never be without our humans. We breed too much and carry in our bodies the need to chase24 and kill even when its not necessary. We have even been made to kill humans, something wolves never do. Now we are at their mercy by the laws and our own history. We will always live to love and serve humans, but they are not so loyal as our kind.”
“Why don’t their pack leaders tell them to respect us and cherish us like they should!” I yelped, interrupting him.
“Humans aren’t like us in many ways, and their leaders are not like ours. Their real leaders are made up. They can’t ever decide who should lead and who should follow so to avoid the endless bickering and arguments each pack of humans makes up an imaginary leader to make the rules. Then they argue and bicker about what the imaginary leader wants them to do but at least they don’t have to follow real orders from real pack leaders. They call these leaders ‘Gods’ and then they make up rules that control them in some ways but always favors what’s good for the humans and bad for the real world.”
“I had imaginary puppies to play with when I was very young, but aren’t most humans too old for imaginary friends?” I asked.
“Well, some humans feel that way. That’s why they made ‘Laws’ to tell them right from wrong and act as leaders. But unfortunately, the laws are enforced by humans and once again, usually favor humans over all else. Some laws protect animals, and some gods protect animals, but nothing is ever black and white or right and wrong. It usually comes down to some humans trying to get away with as much as they can and some humans trying to make them feel bad about it and saying the gods wouldn’t approve.”
“Humans will never consider dogs their equals. It is only in very recent times they considered all humans as equals. They used to own each other like they own us. In this county cream colored humans owned humans of all other colors and the male humans owned the females. They are still sorting all that out so there’s not a whole lot of interest left over for non-human rights. If they could pretend that other humans rights and feelings didn’t matter its not that hard for them to completely ignore our needs. They are very good at believing what they want and pretending not to see what they don’t want”

“It was only a few hundred years ago that the dominant belief was that animals had no feelings or emotions. A human named Descartes said we were only unthinking automans like machines.25 He was an idiot, but it made humans feel better about using and abusing us without having to feel bad. Other humans argued we weren’t just plants with legs. Jeremy Bentham tried to tell the other humans we could feel. He even hoped the day would come when the rest of animal creation might ‘acquire those rights which could never have been withholden from them but for the hand of tyranny,’ but nobody listened.26
“While we were busy saving their heros like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Lewis and Clark, and Abraham Lincoln there were no laws to protect us from them! For each infant we rescued from harm a hundred sackfuls of unwanted puppies sank to the bottom of some dark cold pond. For every sheep we protected with our lives a thousand of our kind were killed for trying to share in the bounty of the slaughter harvest.”
“While it is true they don’t know we can think, or that we can reason and converse like you and I are now, no human can honestly believe we cannot suffer from pain, or feel the emotional harm that they can, or that when cut we do not bleed, or when separated from our families and all that is familiar we do not cry. Yet to make their minds rest easy at night they believe their scientists and experts when they are told we do not think, feel, or suffer. Of course these same scientists gather most of their data about human emotion and behavior by studying non-human animals, but that only applies when humans are the beneficiaries of experiments that savagely torture and abuse animals.”
“Why do we allow it!” I wailed. “Let them live without us! Why don’t we leave them like the two who went to California? I never want to love a human again.” I whined.
“We just can’t. Some dogs do. Some dogs are born in the wild and live there all their lives. Others go to the wild when they have had enough. Some learn to survive there after being left by their owners on the side of the road or lost and never found. But those dogs are few and far between. They are hunted down and killed or brought to places like this. There’s never enough room in the real world for humans and other animals and nobody cries for the wild dogs like they do for a spotted owl or a bald eagle. We’re refuse. Discarded trash that must be collected and deposed of.27”
“Why don’t we turn on them?! You said millions of us are killed every year and that millions more are made. There are enough of us to rip the throats out of every cruel human and make things right!” I growled.
“I’ve wondered the same thing myself many times. But we are dogs. We are born followers and we were made even more docile by the years of selective breeding. If every dog that was beaten and abused fought back we would be exterminated like the wolves before us. The horrors of abuse are common in the human world but he courage of revolution if rare. Dogs don’t want the world. They just want their humans to love them.”
“I know.” I sighed. “Even though part of me wants to kill all humans most of me just wants Joey get here fast and take me home.”

“That is the essence of being a dog. One night when my owner still lived we went out late at night to fetch some files he had forgotten at his office in the city. As we pulled off a rural road there was an old gas station with a pool of light spilling into the darkness. In the parking lot, dragging herself toward the light of the human’s building, was an old injured bitch. My owner pulled in to see if he could help and we both gasped at what we observed. She had been hit by a car and could only drag her paralyzed body an inch at a time toward the light. She must have been trying reach the building for hours, yet no human stopped to help her. Her fur was crawling with biting ants trying to eat her alive, impatient to beat the fleas and ticks that infested her out for the last few red blood cells still in her tired body. She had long misshapen teats from countless litters of puppies and her ribs stuck out like the rungs of a ladder. How she provided milk for any young is beyond me, but she must have done her best.
Her ears had been cropped badly by a home job and the scar tissue surrounded the flesh where her protective flaps should have been. Her tail was also cropped and melted globs of proud flesh had healed badly and still oozed from the original infection when a rubber band had been placed there to kill her tail and make it fall off. She wore and old leather collar and although the unknown owners that had placed it there certainly were making no effort to find their missing dog suffering in plain sight, she still crawled toward the light and the comfort she stubbornly believed the humans inside would offer her. She could have laid down and died anywhere, but had dragged herself for days to find humans and get home.
We took her to an emergency vet in the city where the doctor put her to sleep with the kind hand of my owner stroking her head and telling her it would all be over soon and she would be at peace in a better place. I often console myself knowing my owner has her to look after him in the better place until I can get there and take care of him.”
“Its just the way things are.” He finished. “Now I’m an old dog and I need my sleep. We’ll talk more in the morning.”



The next day was Sunday and the shelter wasn’t open. We waited hours for the woman to show up and feed us and let us out to do our pressing business, but the sun was high in the sky and she still hadn’t shown her face.
“Where is she?” I asked Learned.
“We’re closed on Sundays. The woman comes in late. Sometimes there are volunteers to feed us, sometimes there aren’t. She’s a god-fearing woman and this is “the Lord’s Day” so she has to go to church to pray and be told how bad or good she’s been this week.” He answered.

“But isn’t it bad that she’s forgotten about us? Wouldn’t her god be angry with her for being so mean?” I implored in my ignorance.
“Not this god. He would have along time ago but now they don’t pay much attention to what he says if it requires actions instead of just words. Besides, if he were real, he probably would get mad, but in this world only the law is real and if nobody cares to enforce it nothing ever changes.”
“Then tell me about the law.” I was ready to learn the rest of the story and it would take my mind off my growling stomach and painful bladder.
“Ah, the law.” Said Learned. “That’s the story I like best.” And he told me all he knew before we heard the woman’s truck arrive a long, long time later.
“The law.” He began, “is complicated.”
“First I have to explain whose law we live by. Our laws come from England and our country. Although different places treat us dogs differently, it’s the laws here and now we need to obey. I wish it was different. Once there was a Shogun in Japan, a far off land with fierce dogs, that loved dogs and treated them with the respect we deserve. He made something called “The Laws of Compassion” that made it illegal to not only mistreat or kill a dog but even ignoring your dog might be punishable by death. In his 36 years of power more than 200,000 people were either put to death or exiled for violating those laws.” He paused, as if savoring the possibilities before continuing. “Things have always been quite different on our side of the world.”
“Here dog laws have almost been exclusively for the benefit of humans and not about us dogs having our own rights at all. First off, you must understand that animals have no rights of their own. If an entire species of animal that is protected under some other law like The Endangered species Act is threatened, they might have the standing to be plaintiffs in a law suit brought by humans against humans29, but although there are many laws to protect dogs, there are none that allow dogs to sue humans.”
“In the past, when the law was still separating from the rules of gods, animals were prosecuted in courts for crimes. There were animal courts where dogs might be tried for chasing livestock, or horses might be tried for not pulling a plow hard enough. Rats were tried under anti-vermin laws and even bed-bugs were tried for violations against humans. Solicitors were appointed to defend the animals and for awhile animals had better legal representation than most humans were afforded!30 But those were only trials of animals for crimes against humans. Humans were never tried for crimes against animals. Well, there was one exception. If a human had sexual contact with an animal both the human and the animals were tried side by side. Then they were executed together, even though it wasn’t the animals fault.”

“Finally things began to change just a few hundred years ago. Most of the laws were anti-cruelty laws enacted by the various state legislatures so by 1922 all states had some form of these laws. The laws protected animals but were meant to serve the needs of humans. Most laws were established to protect the moral principals and sensibilities of humans instead of the animals themselves. It was considered immoral and a nuisance to beat an animal in public and thereby expose other humans to the event. Judges repeatedly only enforced anti-cruelty laws because they saw those laws as a way to teach humans how they should treat each other. The act of harming an animal for no useful reason was seen to lead to the moral decay of all humans.”
“The only Federal laws that apply to dogs are the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)31 and a few rules and regulations from the USDA relating to the breeding, sales, and transportation of dogs by licensed dealers. The AWA covers dogs used in research but not the average pet dog like you and I. The USDA rules cover breeding farms called “Puppy Mills” and the sales and transportation of those dogs in pet shops around the county. It seems strange that the USDA should govern such things since it was that very agency that gave farmers the money to start their breeding operations and still subsidizes those same farms. I told you the law was complicated, but maybe since it was the USDA’s fault they should be the ones to watch over the industry they created.”
“The first laws that even treated dogs as more then property were modeled after the ones Henry Bergh32 helped write in 1867 for the State of New York that made it illegal to harm animals for the sake of the animals, and not just their owners. Most other states then followed New York’s lead.33 Although the laws now protected animals even from their owners, they were still grounded in the disapproval of public violence against animals because it upset humans and undermined their good characters. Most laws in the beginning were under state codes for moral decency and public order. The fines were non-existent or very low and jail time was unheard of.”
“In recent years most states have moved their anti-cruelty laws into the criminal code, but although the punishments are increased, proving a violation is even harder than it was under the moral codes. For criminal prosecution the abuser’s state of mind when the crime occurred must be shown to be malicious, intentional, and deliberate. Also, as long as there is some justification or need for the abuse, it is not covered by the law.34 That’s what happened to the boarder collie. His owner was “justified” in beating and trying to drown him so there was no violation. Of course some judges see things differently, but it depends on their love for their own dogs, I guess”
“Even though cruelty to dogs is now considered a crime, the penalties are often light and the laws are rarely enforced. Only about one percent of reported abusers are ever convicted and most abusers are never even reported due to the frustration of those trying to deal with enforcement agencies or the lack of compassion for the animals seen abused.35 “

“I remember when my owner heard about some dead dogs being dumped on his friend’s property he went to check out the place where they had come from. He saw starving, sick, and abused dogs and called the local animal control but they refused to go and check it out in clear violation of their own operating manual and state law. When forced to do so after repeated calls from several irate citizens they claimed all the animals were healthy and in good shape. My owner didn’t give up and went to see the city manager with pictures of the dogs and complaints about the abusive treatment he had received from the animal control officers. He told the manager that he had been yelled at, cussed at, hung up on, and told to mind his own business on several occasions over the course of the event. My owner said as a tax payer he deserved respect and action from public employees. The Manager told him that personnel problems were none of my owners business and if he didn’t like the way things were done he could have “his damn nickel back!” and if he continued to complain the police would be called–on him! My owner, in his shock and frustration threw the pictures he had taken of the obviously starving dogs down the table in front of the manager and went to leave. The pictures changed everything. Although the city manager had refused to look at them before, once he saw the starved dogs and deformed, mal-nourished puppies he knew he had a problem that couldn’t be intimidated away.”
“At this time a vet was required to examine the animals. The vet proclaimed them in excellent health and said he saw no problems whatsoever with their care. This vet had no office, no other clients but a few puppy mills like the one under investigation and the several animal control officers themselves, and had had his licence suspended in the past several times. On my owner’s demand a well respected vet was allowed to examine the animals. All showed signs of starvation and mal-nutrition. It was recommended that two of the animals be put down. These allegations were backed up by laboratory analysis of the dogs blood as well as a physical examination.”
“That night my owner received threatening phone calls from the abused dogs’ owner. Confused as to how his identity was revealed, he found out in the morning that Animal Control had given his name and number out claiming it was necessary under “the freedom of information act.” Being a law student, he knew this was a lie, or at least a gross mis-understanding of the act.”
“He then went and spoke before the county council. Many council members agreed that animal control was useless and had each had altercations with them personally. They were shocked at the “damn nickel” comment and promised to resolve the issue as soon as possible before any more dogs starved to death. In the mean time my owner was threatened with losing his part-time job for causing trouble down at city hall and he got several more threatening call from the negligent owner.”

“In the end, the dogs were monitored for a month and no criminal charges were ever filed against the owner nor any disciplinary charges against anyone from the county involved in the dispute. My owner gave up and although he was as strong and brave as any human on earth, he couldn’t take the disappointment of knowing his best efforts fell short of any meaningful action. He knew when he was a real lawyer things would be different but he never looked for trouble again and thus never found it.”
“The laws of today are the best they have ever been. With the exception of Shogun Tsunayoshi in sixteenth century Japan! Punishments are getting tougher. Some states have even moved animal abuse to a felony status with fines of more than $5,000 and a year in jail36, but most still give offenders a slap on the wrist and allow them to go on abusing.”
“Some notable exceptions are still on the books in some states. If a human has sexual contact with an animal they can be imprisoned for up to 20 years and pay fines up to $50,000!37 However, bashing a puppies brains in will still only get you 6 months in those same states. Clearly, the laws are not for the protection of the animals but for the humans’ moral good.”
“Things are getting better every year though. Some day there might be a place like “California” but for today I’m just glad there are laws requiring shelters like this one to hold us for 5 days before we are sent to a better place. Under federal law all dogs must have a cage that measures at least the height and length of the dog + 6 inches squared and then divided by the square route of 144.38 I have no idea what that means but I guess what they want is a cage big enough for the dog to stand up in, turn around, and lie down.”
“Where do they do their business?” I asked, puzzled that humans smart enough to figure out the space equation couldn’t figure out a dog has to do its’ business somewhere.
“That’s not addressed. The cages must be cleaned ‘as often as necessary to comport with normal practices’ so I guess you do it where you are. We are entitled to food once a day and access to clean water for at least an hour a day. We are to be kept in temperate areas of 45-85 degrees but if left outside there are no such restrictions. If we are kept from the companionship of other dogs it is required that we receive ‘meaningful human contact once a day’ whatever that means. Of course none of these rules apply to home raised puppies like you and me. They are only for mass breeders and research facilities.”
“So Honey, although there are many more laws I could tell you about I’m tired, hungry, and need to get outside and just can’t talk about it anymore for now. Hopefully you’ll find a good home soon and never have to think about such troubling things again. There’s no place like the California they talked of last night but maybe some day there will be”

“You’re right.” I agreed. “It’s a lot to take in. Where is the woman?” All the dogs were whining and barking now and if she didn’t come soon I worried the air in the kennel would soon become fouler than the usual ammonia laden stench. Then I heard the truck arrive.
The woman threw a fit when she saw two of the dogs had escaped. She really didn’t care what happened to them, she was just worried she’d get in trouble when the Boarder Collies’ owner sobered up enough to come and claim him. She closed the little window so it wouldn’t happen again and although we would never do what they had done. Now what little fresh air there had been was shut out as we were shut in.
After we all had a chance to go into the yard and eat our belated breakfasts we all began to settle down for our naps. Just as I had carefully circled 8 times before laying down, I heard the door to the kennel open and the woman walked straight to my cage. “Oh Honey, you lucky dog! A man’s coming to get you and take you to a farm!” She said enthusiastically
A man? A farm? It was Joey! I knew he’d come just like he’d promised and take me back to the farm and my mother!! Oh! I was so excited and happy. Joey was coming to get me!
“Did you hear that Learned?” I yapped. “Joey’s coming to take me home!”
“That’s’ wonderful he replied with his huge old eyes lighting up with joy for the first time since I’d met him what seemed like a lifetime ago. “I never would have believed it, but you’re going home. I guess an old dog can learn new things!” He licked my face all over and even did a little happy dance with his massive front paws.
A little while later the woman returned in the company of an old man. “That’s not Joey, or his father.” I whispered to Learned.
“Maybe you’re a long way from home so they sent someone else to get you until they could get here themselves?” He whispered back.
The man examined my from head to toe and then turned to the woman to ask her some questions about me.
“You sure she ain’t spade? He asked. “And you’re sure she’s got papers? I ain’t taking no bitch is spayed or ain’t got papers. Don’t do me no good. Otherwise, she do jus’ fine.”
“Yes, I’m sure. She’s only a year old and there’s no scar from any operations. And I have her papers right here. The owner that left her here also left her papers with her so she’d have a better chance of finding a good home. An AKC registered Golden Retriever--100% guaranteed.” They both laughed at that comment.
I didn’t understand so I looked to Learned for direction. He was looking back at me with shear terror on his long face. “You have papers!” He bellowed.
“Yes. I told you I was a registered purebred dog.” I replied, a little indignant he’d forgotten so fast.

“I didn’t know your stupid bitch of an owner had left them here with you! That’s not Joey. He doesn’t even know Joey! You have to make a run for it Honey!” he yelled at me.
“I. . . . I don’t understand Learned. What are you so upset about?” I stammered.
The man turned to the woman and told her to shut the damn mutts up so he could hear himself think. She yelled at us to be quiet and then turned her back on both of us but forgot to completely shut the door.
“Here’s the ‘doption fee like I’s promised you and the extra $20 s’ for you calln’ me to tell me she’s here. She’s a fine one and I sure do ‘preciate your business.” He handed her some green paper.
“Any time Mr. Bush. Its not like I make enough money around here cleaning up after these dogs.” Again they both laughed, but he laughter was cut short by the fur raising sound of Learned in full growl!
He leaped at the cage door screaming at me the whole flight “Run Honey!! He’s not taking you home. He’s taking you to a puppy mill!!!” He slammed into the cage door which in turn slammed into the woman. She went flying onto the concreted isle landing squarely in Learned’s urine pool. I pushed past her and made a run for the front kennel door as I finally understood what Learned had been trying to tell me. Learned lunged for the man to knock him down while I made my escape but before he even made contact the man slowly and calmly reached in his coat and brought out a shiny metal object. All the dogs were barking and leaping at the fronts of their cages. The beagles were singing “Puppy Mill, Puppy mill run Honey Puppy Mill.” Other dogs were encouraging either me, or Learned, or both “Run Honey! Kill him Learned!”
Suddenly there was a loud booming crack and then silence. Learned slumped to the floor inches from the man’s feet.
“Shoot that fucking crazy dog again!” The woman yelled. “I hate his pissing in the isle and his stupid looks and its time he was out of here!”
The man pointed the metal object at Learned’s head and made the loud sound two more times. The last thing Learned said was “Run Honey. I’m going to see my master now.” And he laid his massive head with his amazing brain down on the cold, hard concrete floor and closed his eyes for the last time.
I tried to run, but here was nowhere to go. The kennel door was closed. I though of fighting, but it would do no good. The man would just kill me too. Although at that moment I would have welcomed going to the better place, I was just too well bred to fight back. I slowly inched backwards toward a corner and crouched down shivering in fear until I let lose some urine.

The man and the woman cornered me and slipped a nose around my neck. The last thing I saw as I was dragged out the kennel door was the woman looking down and Learned’s body and laughing.
“Bye Mr. Bush,” She called to the man as he dragged me through the lobby. “Sorry about all the trouble but I ain’t sorry ‘bout the result!”
“Its Ok.” He replied. “My buddies Old Smith and Wesson know how to take care of dogs wut don’ know they place.” he laughed as we left the building and approached a broken down old truck. He shoved me into a metal crate on the back and although it was stifling in the summer sun I welcomed the pain because it took my mind off the far worse thought of what had just happened and what was yet to come.



We arrived at my new home after dark. Although I couldn’t see where I was, there were no such restrictions on what I could smell. There was the now familiar orders of urine and mess, but magnified 100 times as awful as at the shelter. I smelled rotting flesh and stale, stagnant water. There were smells unknown and smells I remembered from a long time ago. I smelled something dark and sinister I couldn’t identify and something else that made me shiver and feel all funny inside. And most off all, I smelled puppies. The smell was overwhelming and mixed in with all the other smells until the whole place seemed be swimming in puppies and death.
I was taken from the truck and lifted into a small cramped cage that leaned unsteadily on tall stilt legs up against a large old wooden building. The walls and floor were made of some sort of wire that hurt my feet and trapped my toes. At one end I could make out a small platform of wood that was covered on the top and both sides. I went for this hiding place and barely fit inside it. I didn’t know if the total space equaled my height and length+6 squared divided by 12, but I knew I could barely stand or turn around. Barely-- but still able. So turn around I did.
As my eyes became accustomed to the dark I saw rows and rows of cages just like mine going down the side of the building in to the darkness. There was no sound, no barking and taunting like when I arrived at the shelter, but each cage contained a dog. Some had not only a dog, but also a litter of puppies, all staring back at me with vacant, flat eyes.

Under each cage was a pile of mess that reached to the wire floor. It seemed that the dogs must mess in their cages and then it was eventually pushed through the wire floors and onto the ground beneath. That was the cleaning system.
Attached to the walls of the cages were feed bowls and water bowls–all empty. By the looks of the dogs in the cages without puppies those bowls were rarely filled. The Mothers of the puppies looked better fed, but still had huge bald patches where their fur was missing and loose , grey-black wrinkled skin that hung off them with no underlying muscle to support it. I soon understood why.
Within moments of my arrival I felt my skin begin to crawl and itch as a thousand fleas sought nourishment on my tender, well-fed flesh. I yelped and turned to bite and scratch at them, but the cage was too small for such contortions so I had to suffer the bites with no relief possible. There wasn’t much I could have done anyway. No matter how bad Susie had been, she had never allowed me to become infested with bugs. The thought of insects living on and feeding off my body made my stomach turn. I had heard of fleas, but I thought they were a barbaric reminder of another age. Even the shelter had been relatively flea free. For a few dollars and a second of their precious time any human could buy flea control that lasted effectively for moths. Not here. Even in the dark I could tell nobody was going to spend a penny more than they had to for the dogs.
I just huddled in the small covered area of my cage itching from the fleas and waiting for sunrise when even more horrors would be revealed. Throughout the night I heard puppies nursing but never happy grunts of play or the comforting and reassuring sounds of a mother with her young. There was more feeding and more sleep in an endless cycle of bodily growth with no sounds of emotional or spiritual growth at all. I remembered the little white dog at the shelter Learned had said was a puppy mill dog. Now I understood. Learned! I felt so ashamed that I had forgotten about what he had tried to do for me and the price he had paid. If only I could have escaped before it was too late. But in that place I knew with certainty it was already too late for any hope.
Joey wouldn’t come for me here. No one would. I was to live my life out in the little cage spitting out puppies until the day I went on to a better place. I had no hope and no future. I now understood why the other dogs acted as if they were already dead. In a way they were. They ate and eliminated and made more puppies for the humans but they were little more than plants and a cash crop for the owner to harvest every six months. I was so exhausted from the day’s events I fell asleep shortly before sunrise and dreamed of laying with my mother in the pen of my youth.

There’s not much more I can say about those times. I ate, I drank, I slept. All else was the same day in and day out. There was no play, no exercise, and no hope of anything better. We never sat and talked like I had at the shelter. There was nothing to talk about. Our pasts didn’t matter and out futures were just like our presents. The puppies were born and eight weeks later they were taken away to be replaced by another litter as soon as possible. I had two litters of my own, but I never loved them. I knew I should have but it seemed useless. I hoped some of them would have grand lives with loving owners, and that was true, but mostly I resented them for keeping me alive and taking from me my health and spirit. If I had been spayed I never would have ended up there. It wasn’t the puppies fault, but I just had no love or life to give them. I was just a puppy making machine with no feelings or dreams to tell them about.
I lost most of my golden coat and the few hairs that remained were dull and brittle. My muscles wasted away and before long my skin too had the black-grey appearance of all the others. It was from an infection the fleas carried from cage to cage as they ate our blood. I no longer felt the itch or burn from the parasites. I had become numb and insensitive to anything but hunger, thirst, and the need to breed when the time was right. My teats hung loosely from my body, stretched and deformed from puppies I could not wean nor escape. I was the perfect puppy mill bitch. Papered, well behaved, and fertile.
I can’t dwell on this time of my life. I ashamed of the indignities I was forced to commit and my inability to love my own puppies. I watched as one dog after another finally gave up the ghost and went on to a better place and envied their release. The dead bodies were dumped in an open pit, left to rot as new fresh bitches took the cages in an endless cycle of death and rebirth that was only a parody of the outside world.
In time my joints stiffened and ached with every waking moment. My ears became infected and my eyes and nose ran constantly from the myriad diseases brought in with the new dogs and not kept at bay from vaccinations or healthcare. It was all about money and keeping costs down and profits high. As long as we dogs could survive and produce puppies our needs were being met in the eyes of the owners and the law. I tried to remember all Learned had taught me about the law, but I couldn’t think of a thing being done to us that any law forbad. I was outside so temperature didn’t matter. My cage met the minimum size standards. I had visual contact with other dogs so didn’t need my ‘daily human contact’ and there was food and water supplied daily that served its purpose of keeping me alive. I hated humans and never wanted to be near one again. I knew that I might bite.
One night, during a particularly bad storm, I huddled in the small sheltered area of my cage and waited to die. The winds were high and kept buffeting my cage back and forth until I vomited from the rolling motion. Suddenly a huge gust of wind pushed my cage all the way over and it came crashing down from its wobbly legs and smashed on the ground in the pile of a years worth of my messes. The wrenching motion broke the door free and it swung open. I was free. I could leave! But I just lay there trembling, unsure of what to do.

My muscles were weak. Could I still run? Where would I go? Was there anywhere better than this, or could things get worse? And then I realized, No, things could never be worse. At best I could escape and hide until I starved to death and was released from my torturous existence. I could go to a better place and see Runt, and Learned, and Boomer, and all the good dogs who had gone before me.
I took my chance and ran. At first I had trouble making my legs move correctly, but little by little as when I was a puppy, I learned to walk again and even managed a small, staggering trot. I had no thoughts of helping the other dogs who watched me go in hopeless silence. What right had I to make them starve along side me? I would crawl off and die alone, but free, with no owner and no friends to tie me to this miserable life.
So I ran. All night I ran until my weak and quivering legs gave out. I found a place for my final rest under a soft pine tree next to a wide shallow river. I crawled under the low hanging boughs and hid beneath the tree in the shelter of the needles and the surrounding rocks. I wondered if this was what it was like for my distant ancestors the wolves when they were old and left the pack to die. I decided it was and felt proud to die as a wolf before the humans made us their slaves. In the soft bed of fragrant pine needles I feel asleep for what I hoped would be the last time, free at last.



In the morning a awoke to the smells of fresh air and clean water. I hadn’t smelled anything but death, mess, and puppies in so long at first I was startled by the clean air. I hadn’t the strength to rise, but I was glad I was still alive to have one last chance to smell the real world and see the bright clear sunshine rise over the late spring river. And strangest of all the fleas had left my body! I still itched like mad but at least I could finally scratch and roll in the pine needles for some relief,
I was hungry but there was nothing I could do about that. My thirst however, could be satisfied quite nicely from the river. I rose with aching bones and raw, sore pads but managed to make it to the shore and quench my thirst. My legs were trembling from the previous nights exertion and at the most inopportune moment they gave out and I crashed in the water too weak to rise. I lay in the river with my head barely above the current and wondered if drowning was better than starving to death. As things turned out it was something I would never learn.

As I felt my consciousness begin to drift off I heard the sounds of footsteps running through the nearby woods. I tried to rise and get back to my hiding place but I had no strength left in body and could only lay there and see what might come next. Suddenly a man appeared from the woods and almost ran by me without seeing me. At the last moment he did a double take and saw me laying in the river unable to move. I wished him gone. I didn’t want him near me. He would take me back to the puppy mill or sell me to some other place like a research laboratory. I had learned that humans were only interested in me if I made them money and I wanted no part of him or his world. I just wanted to die peacefully in freedom.
He approached me cautiously. I’m sure he thought I was a dead dog washed up on the River’s shore. When only a few inches separated us he still hadn’t made up his mind whether I was alive or dead. Holding his breath and tensed to bolt he poked his foot out and gently nudged me. If I’d had the strength I would have sunk my teeth into his leg to the bone, but alas, all I could do was growl and lie there giving him dirty looks.
When the sound of my growl reached him jumped back and yelled “Oh shit! I’m sorry old dog. I thought you were dead. Are you OK? Are you hurt boy? Here, let me help you.” And he dragged me from the river into the warm sun. “I don’t know what to do for you, but I’ll go get help and be right back.” He told me. I just kept growling at him to leave me alone, but he seemed oblivious to my threats. Then, much to my relief he turned and ran back into the woods faster than he had appeared. ‘Good riddance’, I though. He didn’t even know a boy dog from a girl, a lot of help he would have been! Besides, I didn’t want any help from humans or anything else. The sun felt warm on my aching muscles and bones and before long I fell asleep as my coat dried in light breeze.
Some time later I heard the unmistakable sound of a car coming close to where I lay. Before long it came into sight from a small dirt track exiting the woods the man had run off into. The man and a woman were in it and they pulled up right next to me. Both jumped out of the car and ran to my side.39 I just growled.
“See?” The man said. “I told you he was hurt and groaning.”
“He’s a she and she isn’t groaning, she’s growling at us. She certainly doesn’t look well though. We have to get her in the car and to a vet as soon as possible.” She said while observing me from a safe distance.
“OK, I’ll pick her up and put her in the car.” He made a move toward me.
“Don! Wait. She’s growling at you. She might bite!”
“No. She wont bite me. She’s just hurt and doesn’t know me. Besides, what choice do I have? Just leave her here to die?”
‘Yes!’ I thought. ‘Just leave me here. I hate you humans. All of you, even if you seem nice, I know better.’

But the man reached down and scooped me up in his strong arms before gently placing me in the back of his station wagon.
“You’re the big animal lover.” He said sarcastically to the woman. “I can’t believe you’d just leave this poor dog here.”
“I didn’t say we should leave her. I just thought you should be careful so you don’t get bit. I’m not thrilled about bringing a strange sick animal into my house where she could infect my dog, but I’m willing to do it. I just don’t want to get bit for my efforts.”
“She didn’t bite me.” He said as he jumped into the driver’s seat. “Come on! You said we had to hurry.”
“I said as soon as possible. Its Sunday morning and I doubt we’ll find a vet that can see her until tomorrow. I don’t want to seem heartless, but are you going to pay for it? I can’t afford it. I’ll do what I can to help but I’m broke and Vets need cash on delivery.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll pay. Just make her OK.” He drove as fast as he could but kept on eye on my comfort in the rear view mirror so as not to jolt me too much.
We arrived at a house on the river just a few minutes later and they both came to the back of the car to get a closer look at me.
“Go into my room and get me the dog thermometer out of the small white chest of drawers. Don’t let the dog out! I don’t want him in contact with her until we know more about what ails her. He went one way and she came closer to have a good look at me.
“Are you going to bite me?” She asked in a reasonable voice. I hadn’t decided yet. So I just fixed her with a blank stare and keep up a low growling.”Uh huh. I see. Well, if I have to get up at 9:00am on a Sunday morning to look after your sorry ass you will just have to keep your teeth to yourself young lady.” And she deftly pulled a soft piece of rope out of her pocket and had my mouth tied shut before I knew what happened. At least she knew I was young and a lady, but damn she was fast with that rope! I decided not to growl anymore as she seemed to have my tricks well in hand while I had no idea what to expect of her.
“Here it is” The man said as he ran back from the house with the thermometer in his outstretched hand.
“The woman put it in the appropriate place and then began to check my body all over in minute detail, flexing every joint and pressing down on my now empty belly.

“Well, she doesn’t seem to have any broken bones or be in a lot of pain. Her temperature is normal. Her heart rate is a little high but that’s understandable under the circumstances. I don’t see any discharge that’s too bad or any signs of rabies. I don’t know. She might be Ok. Only the vet can tell for sure, but in the mean time she is filthy and infested with fleas and fungal infections. Even if it stresses her out I think I need to give her a medicated bath while we wait to see if a vet can be tracked down for an emergency. Can you lift her up and carry into my bathroom?”
“Yeah, sure, but a bath? She’s hurt. Does it really matter if she’s clean and smells good?” he asked doubtfully.
“You know the law. I know the dogs. Besides, she’s sleeping in your room. Do you want to smell her and share her bugs? Don’t argue with and just get the dog inside.” She snapped back a little nastily. “I’m sorry. I’m just tired and grouchy and worried about what we’re supposed to do with her if she gets better.”
“Maybe she’s lost and her owners are looking for her?” He asked hopefully.
“This dog is in rotten shape. She’s been bred at least two times in the last year and looks 10 years older than she is. Her skin is rotting off and her ears are clogged with pus. She’s half starved and so weak I doubt she’s seen the outside of a cage in the last year either. Whomever owns her is not getting her back!” She snapped back at him, disgusted with his ignorance but already feeling guilty about being mean again.
“Ok” he replied quietly, keeping a low profile like the males of all species quickly learn to do when faced with an irritated female.
He lifted me out of the car and carried me up the steps and into the house where he gently slid me into a large bathtub. I was actually warming up to these humans. They seemed to really care and I no longer feared they would bring me back to Mr. Bush and his dog horror show. I stiffened my resolve to remain aloof though. I didn’t want to trust them.
The woman began to bath me in soothing warm water and tingly shampoo that made the itching and crawling of my skin feel better almost instantly.
“Here, you hold her while I go and get something for her to eat. She needs to soak in that medicated shampoo for at least 20 minutes and I don’t want her jumping out. She doesn’t have as many fleas as I thought. She did though. I wonder where they went? Maybe she slept under a Cedar tree and they all jumped off and ran away. Ha! Smart dog!”
The man gently massaged the shampoo in to my skin and talked to me in calm low voice until the woman got back with something that smelled wonderful in a dog bowl.
“What’s that?” he asked the woman trying to peer into the bowl.
“Its your organic free range chicken broth with a little rice mixed in. I don’t know when the last time she ate was so this should give her some strength without upsetting her stomach.”
“My what? That stuff costs $3 a pint! Can’t you just feed her dog food?” He gasped.

“No. I just told you why. You found her, you feed her. Look, I’m sorry I’m being so bitchy but this is a real problem you found this morning. I’m glad you cared enough to come and get me, but a dog is a huge responsibility and this one has been through hell. Its going to take a lot of work and money to make her right, and then the hardest part, trying to find her a good home, starts.”
“Can’t you keep her?” he asked.
“No. I can’t afford the dog I have and I know two dogs is just one dog too many for me. What about you?”
“I can’t keep her! I live in the city and work and have to travel and stuff.” He said defensively.
“So? Lots of people have dogs and jobs. It helps them train for having children and jobs, I guess. You can afford her, you run almost every day, and you could use the company when you’re up all night working alone in your office.”
“I just can’t have a dog.”40 He answered, although he couldn’t really say why. “You can just keep her until I find her a home then?” He asked hopefully.
“Nope. That dog in the other room was a keep-til-he finds-a-home-dog. That was 10 years and many thousands of dollars ago. I’m not keeping her. I feel bad for her, but I can’t take in every dog some other idiot brings into the world and I don’t know anyone in the market for a Golden Retriever.”
“Is that what she is? A Golden Retriever. I like that. Can we call her Goldie?” He asked.
“Sure. You can call her whatever you want. She’s a purebred Golden all right. I’ll bet she’s escaped from a puppy mill or something. Must be close because she’s too weak to run far.”
“What’s a puppy mill?” He asked. So she told him. Since I already knew, I just drifted off in to the luxurious feelings of the warm bath , gentle massaging, and fragrant broth I was lapping up now that they had removed my muzzle. I hated to admit it, but I liked these two humans. He was kind and she was knowledgeable. She was also clever. I could see how she was trying to move him toward keeping me. First she let him name me. That’s always a mistake if you don’t want to get attached to something. Then, every time he said we, she changed it to you. Without him noticing he was starting to think of me as ‘his dog’.

It was working on me too. Without noticing it my tail had begun to betray me and was wagging slowly and traitorously behind me in the water. As the medicated shampoo was worked deep into my ears I could hear clearly for the first time in months. At last they rinsed me off and vigorously towel dried me until I no longer felt the need to shake myself dry. As a final touch the woman gave the man a hair dryer and told him to blow all my coat dry so I didn’t get a chill. He let the warm air dry my fur until I fell asleep with my head in his lap. Right before my eyes closed I saw the woman peeking in with a satisfied look on her face, knowing he couldn’t abandon me now. But you never know with humans.
I woke up some time later lying on a soft bed with a bowl of fresh water and more broth nearby. I could hear the two humans downstairs arguing over me again. He wanted to take me to the shelter and she was telling him that was the worst place for me. She kept explaining to him I might end up in a puppy mill again, or that I would be put to sleep because nobody would want a dog that looked as rough as I did.
“I’ll keep her here then!” He yelled.
“Here? You only live here a few days a week. Soon you won’t even be doing that. I’m not saying you have to keep her at all, but I just want you realize that any decisions you make have consequences–all bad. I can’t keep her. Whether you call it’ you keeping her here’ or not–its still me doing all the work and having to pay for her when you forget about us.” She said honestly.
“But I’ll pay you. How much to keep her a month? $100?” He asked, as if money could solve everything.
“It will cost you at least $300 a month plus vet expenses. That’s the going rate with a steep discount for a sick dog and even then I don’t really have the time to give her what she needs.”
“Fine.” He said.
“Fine? You’ll pay her board and expenses forever? She’s a young dog.” She cautioned.
“No, I’ll pay for her until we find her a home. A couple of months to a year at most” He countered.
“No. I’m not going to be able to make these hard decisions any better after knowing her for a year them I can now. In the end I get stuck with the dog for life and you move on. You take her with you when you leave on Tuesday and do whatever you want, but leave me out of it. You found her, you keep her.”
“Damn it Jane! I’m not taking her with me. You can’t make me keep her.”
“I’m not making you keep her. I’m just refusing to keep her. Its your decision.” She said with a tone that meant there would be no more discussion.
“Look, I have to go to work for awhile. We’ll talk about this later. Did you find a vet?”
“No.’ She answered. “I called but the soonest I can get some one to see her is tomorrow afternoon. I think she’s Ok and its not an emergency so that will work.”
“Then why can’t she walk or anything?” He asked with skepticism.
“I think she is just weak and exhausted. If she doesn’t seem any better when you get home tonight and take her out to go to the bathroom I’ll take her in the morning as an emergency visit. Ok?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. We’ll see what happens.”
And then I heard the door shut. I fell back to sleep for a few more hours only to be awakened by the man’s return sometime after dark. He saw I was awake and encouraged me to drink all the broth and some water. Then he coaxed me up and carried me outside. I was feeling much better, but my legs were still sore and I could barely stand or walk. I wobbled around until I found a spot to do my business and although I still didn’t trust the man, I had no choice but to return to him for a ride back up to my bed. I couldn’t out run him and I had nowhere to run to.
I curled back up on my bed and watched him carefully. He didn’t seem like a bad man. He was lawyer, like Learned’s owner had been. Did that make him a good man I could trust? Were all lawyers kind and honest and pure? Maybe, but Joey and Susie had seemed kind too. As I watched him lie in bed reading I fell asleep.
I awoke with a start sometime much later to the sounds of moaning and screaming. The man was asleep, but not peacefully. He was tossing and turning and wailing in his sleep like monsters were chasing him and he couldn’t seem to wake up. I had to help him. I couldn’t stop myself–I was a dog. I lifted myself up from my bed and limped over to his. Although it made every bone and muscle in my body scream in protest louder then he was screaming in sleep, I managed to pull myself up onto the bed and lay down next to him and put my head on his chest. He woke with a start, but when he saw he wasn’t alone in the dark to defend himself against his personal demons he put his arm around me and fell back to sleep. I drifted in and out of sleep myself most of the night but he didn’t awaken again and seemed to rest easy until morning. He needed me and I needed him, but would he dump me at the shelter like the others had?
In the morning he took me outside again after feeding me more broth–this time with some soft dog food mixed in. The woman came out and talked to him as he patiently walked me slowly around the yard.
“I thought of somewhere else she could go.” She said. “There are rescue organizations for Golden Retrievers. You can look some up on the internet at work and see if they can take her.”
“Yeah. I’ll do that. Will they take good care of her?” He seemed a little less anxious to get rid of me.
“I don’t know. It’s a much better fate than our other choices though. We will have to check them out before we turn her over though. And you’ll have to write some sort of contract that can be enforced in case we have to rescue her again.”
“Ok. What time are we taking her to the vet?” He asked.
“I got an appointment for 5:30. Meet me at the vet up near the light next to Wal-mart. I’ll come home and pick her up.”

I walked back to my room all by myself and although I felt much better, I still slept all day until the woman came and got me for my doctors appointment that afternoon.
When it was our turn to see the vet I was a little nervous. I hated getting shots and all the other intrusive indignities, but I was curious about my health too. Was it just the day before I tried to lay down and die? Would it have worked?
The man and the woman both came into the office with me. They told the vet where they had found me and how weak I had been. The vet just kept making sympathetic sounds and shaking his head no as he examined me from nose to tail.
“I know where this dog came from” He said. “The man that runs the local puppy mill called this morning saying he lost a young bitch during the storm the other night.”
“Really?” My man said brightly. “So we know who she belongs to and we can take her back to her real owners?”
The other two humans just glared at him.
“You don’t want to take her back there.” The vet said. “Its like a POW camp for dogs. If it wasn’t legal, and mean barely legal, I would have had that place shut down long ago. Mr. Bush, the owner, follows all the legal rules and regulations in the cheapest manner he can. This dog if a good example of the tragedy of puppy mills. Her skin is in horrible shape, her teeth and infected, her body condition is unbelievable, and its amazing she can even walk. I wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t placed a foot on the ground in years until a few nights ago. That’s why its so hard for her to walk. But she’s a good strong dog and I think she’ll be Ok. I don’t think she has any contagious diseases so its Ok if she plays with your dog and I wouldn’t be surprised if she made a full recovery.”
“But if she belongs to Mr. Bush, we have to give her back. She’s his property” My man said.
“She’s not going back there!” The woman yelled.
“Calm down” said the vet. “He’s right. The law says she has to go back, but I think if you saw the place you might find a way to pretend you don’t know that. I’ll give you the address and you go look around. If you still want to take her back I can’t stop you.”
I knew humans couldn’t be trusted! He wanted to take me back to Mr. Bush. The woman didn’t want to do that, but she refused to keep me because I was too much work and too much trouble. All they had done was make me better so I could go back to hell for another year or two before I died anyway. As they left the vet with me I refused to make any eye contact with either of them and wouldn’t eat my dinner when we got back to the house. The man dropped the woman and I off and drove away. I went back to my bed and waited to find out when they would return me to my personal prison.

About an hour after the man had left, he returned. He ran upstairs and threw his arms around me and cried into my neck.
“I’m so sorry.” He sobbed. “I didn’t know. I just didn’t know. How could you live like that? How could a human being treat a dog, or any living animal like that?! I’ll keep you. I’ll make sure you never go into a place like that again. Poor, poor Goldie.”
“What’s wrong?” The woman asked as she climbed the stairs.
“I went to the puppy mill. I can’t believe I suggested we bring her back there. It was awful. Dogs in tiny little cages, piles of shit all over the place, puppies everywhere, and even some dead dogs laying in a ditch.”
“I’m sorry you had to see that, but now you understand why we couldn’t give her back?” The woman asked.
“Give her back!?” He snapped. “I want to shut that place down! I can’t believe that’s legal. And if it is, it shouldn’t be. I’m calling my friend at the USDA and getting that place inspected now. If they pass it I’m going to. . . . I don’t know, but I have to do something!”
“I know. Its frustrating. The easiest way to shut down puppy mills is to get people to stop buying dogs from pet shops, but although its been public knowledge what those places are like for decades, people keep buying puppies so they keep operating those places to meet the demand.”
“Well, I’m not letting anything like that happen to Goldie again. She’s coming home with me. I’ll learn to adjust.”
He sounded resolute, but would he change his mind the next day? Or the one after that?



My man didn’t change his mind. Now I live in the city with him and I know I can trust him. He always takes me for a run, even when he’s tired from working late and he never talks of getting rid of me even when I bug him for more attention then he has time for.
He’s a lawyer, so like Learned I am learning a lot about the law. So is he! He’s still trying to get the laws changed to make puppy mills illegal and he donates a lot of his free time to helping animal welfare organizations get the laws changed everywhere. Sometimes I worry that he hasn’t thought about what would happen to me if he died, but he’s a very good lawyer and his friends and family all love me too so I don’t think I will end up like poor old Learned did.

One day we were hanging out at a park playing frisbee before our run and a young man came over to talk to my man.
“Hi,” He said. “That’s a beautiful dog you have there. My family breeds Golden Retrievers. I can’t wait til I graduate from college and get another dog”
“Yes, she’s a great dog.” My man said as he stroked my head affectionately and looked at me with love in his eyes. “I rescued her a couple of years ago and I’ve never regretted it for a moment. Sometimes I think she rescued me too!”
“I had one just like her” The young man said.
He reached toward my head to pet me and as his hand came within inches of my face I lunged and sunk my teeth as deep into his flesh as I could! I heard bones crunch and tasted the warm blood on my tongue.
“Goldie!” My man yelled at me and jerked me away. “Oh my god! She’s never done that before! I’m so sorry!”
“Ow! Yelled the young man “That dog is vicious! She should be put to sleep! I’ll sue you. You just wait. What’s your name!’ He demanded.
But already new the young man’s name. It was Joey. I owed him one. He’d never find a lawyer who could win in court against my man. Besides, we lived in a one free bite state so it was perfectly legal!41

The End42

. Part of the problem is over breeding of dogs for profit.
2. (closed captioning for the fiction impaired. Runt is not in the house.) It is perfectly legal to do this, as long as it is the “custom and practice” in the area.
3. Unlike wild canidids, dogs form family based packs and never leave their mothers.

4. Or another name for this chapter is “Just Because you can Afford a Dog Doesn’t Mean you Should Have One”
5. Susie is a fictional character that may bare a strong relation to a soulless bastard undergraduate at W&L but is just made up. Really.
6. Based on anecdotal reports from locals and staff that this happens all the time at W&L.
7. Really happens every year.
8. The AKC registers nearly a million puppies a year and collects fees of over $26 million. These papers only suggest that both parents were registered and make no other claims as to quality, health, or even purity of breeding. The AKC does not blood type or investigate whether the puppies are actually the offspring of the registered parents. Curnutt, Jordan. 2001. Animals and the Law p. 37. ABC CLIO.
9. In 1992, 143 dead Greyhounds were found outside a track in Arizona, each with a bullet hole in its temple. Id , p.72.
10. I lied. Due to bad publicity most Greyhound tracks have closed in the last decade and many states have outlawed dog racing. 15 states still allow it and 49 tracks remain open .Id., p. 71.
11. A racing dogs career lasts about 2 years. In 1999 33,000 puppies were born on the Nation’s 2,000 breeding farms. There are no federal or state regulations that cover racing dogs. They are only regulated by state racing commissions mostly concerned with the handling of money and the National Greyhound Association’s guidelines. No criminal or legal penalties are apply to racing dogs. The NGA employs one full time inspector. Id., p. 70
12. Due to good publicity the numbers are up to about 12,000 adopted a year, but some are not suitable as pets and get returned, abandoned, or euthanized by the adoptive owners. Id.
13. There are about 60 million pet dogs in the US. In 2000, about 4-6 million were left at shelters, with over half euthanized. Another 100,000 went to labs for research. There are no accurate numbers on strays–abandoned and feral dogs–but it is estimated to be in the 100's of thousands. Id., p. 14.
14. States vary on their holding times from 2 days(Twenty Eight Hour Law of 1994, 49 U.S.C. § 80502.) to 2 weeks. The average holding time is 5 days to allow owners to claim lost dogs. Some shelters are no kill shelters and keep dogs until homes can be found, but must limit the number of dogs they can take in..
15. About 10,000 a year. Id.
16. In the post-war science boom the rise of animal shelters created a steady supply of healthy dogs for research uses. Due to successful lobbying by the National Society for medical Research, many states, cites, and counties passed legislation requiring shelters to turn over animals at the request of labs. Counter lobbying by animal welfare and protection organizations helped repeal these laws. Now, most states allow releasing dogs to labs but do not require it. Some states (blue ones) actually forbid the practice entirely. Id., p. 67.
17. Shameful subliminal reference to the holocaust. Real numbers may vary from year to year anywhere from 4-10 million. More if you add cats–but that’s another paper.
18. Dogs have no standing. Several states have enacted provisions for trusts for the care of pets, but there is no way to enforce a dishonest trustees bad acts unless some kind human steps in on behalf of the animals. Some judges will enforce such clauses but no states as of yet actually require enforcement. See: Frasch, Pamala D., Waisman, Sonia S., Wagman, Bruce a. and Scott Bectstead. 2000. Animal Law. pp. 715-745. Carolina Academic Press.
19. Pitt Bulls are the most common dogs for breed specific bans. Partly because of their reputations as dangerous dogs, but also because of their use in the illegal drug trade and dog fighting (which for some inexcusable reason didn’t make it into this paper). Some might argue that this is a taking, but none have argued it successfully. If a ban becomes law, there is usually no grand-fathering of existing dogs. Because of media attention to the rare cases of fatal or serious dog attacks, more and more municipalities are enacting these bans. Curnutt, Jordan. 2001. Animals and the Law p. 117. ABC CLIO.
20. Many jurisdictions require dogs be secured if allowed to ride in the open back of a pick-up, but as many as 100,000 dogs a year are killed when thrown from a pick up’s bed while only a handful of owners have ever been prosecuted for putting the dogs there in the first place. Id., 112.
21. Lies. All lies. I’m making it up. But if it were true it would be in Cali.
22. State v. Fowler, 205 S.E.2nd 740 (N.C. Ct. App. 1974).
23. Most of this chapter is me philosophizing on the law and the non-human animals place in it, but all the other stuff is reasonably true. However, this is a law paper and not an animal science, biology, history, or anthropology paper so I do not feel compelled to cite irrelevant trivia. But since I already paid my $100,000 for that knowledge, I’m not wasting it!
24. In all states the one consistent law is that a dog may be killed if it is caught worrying (chasing) a domestic animal (livestock). This is one of the few laws relating to dogs which dates back to English common law. See Katsaris v. Cook, 180 Cal. App. 3d 256 (1986).
25. I’m not looking this up.
26. Nope. Not this one either. Maybe someday.
27. In New York before animal welfare became fashionable dogs were rounded up in the streets, put in large crates, lowered into the river and drowned by the thousands. Not making this up.
28. Ah. She finally gets to the law.

29. Examples: Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544, Bald Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 668-668d, Northern Spotted Owl v. Hodel, 716 F. Supp. 479 (W.D. Wash. 1988), Mt. Graham Squirrel v. Yeutter, 930 F.2d 703 (9th Cir. 1991), American Bald Eagle v.. Bhatti, 9 F.3d 163 (1st Cir. 1993).
30. See: Evans, E.P. (1987 republ.) The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals. Faber and Faber Ltd.
31. Animal Welfare Act of 1970, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2131-2157, Federal law Enforcement Animal Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1368. Animal Welfare Regulations: Exercise for Dogs, 9 C.F.R. § 3.8, Handling of Animal, 9 C.F.R. § 2.131, Standards for Humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of dogs, 9 C.F.R. § 3.1-3.19.
32. Founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
33. Favre, David and Vivien Tsang. 1993. “The Development of Anti-Cruelty Laws during the 1800's”. Detroit College Law Review 1: 1-35.
34. State v. Fowler, 205 S.E.2nd 740 (N.C. Ct. App. 1974).
35. Curnutt, Jordan. 2001. Animals and the Law pp. 74-75. ABC CLIO.
36. Michigan, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.158, see also State v. Rodriguez, 8 P.3d 712 (Kan. 2000).
37. Louisiana, La. Rev. Stat. Ann.§ 89, Montana, Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-505.
38. Standards for Humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of dogs, 9 C.F.R. § 3.1-3.19.
39. Just another coincidence. No real people involved. Its fiction. Really.
40. In case you are still confused, I do not think this person is you and I do NOT think you should have a dog! No hidden massages here.
41. Virginia is a one bite state. It operates like a negligence standard where the owner isn’t liable and the dog isn’t seized unless there was a reason the owner knew, or should have known that the dog would bite. A few states, notably Hawaii and Louisiana, have strict liability for dog bites and attacks. Owners are liable for injuries their dogs cause even without an actual bite or contact (2 weeks of research last summer).
42. Just wanted to get another end note in.