“I just wanted her to be safe and secure and happy,” Pamela Bair of Shillington said about her experience adopting a Cavalier King Charles spaniel that had been rescued from a nearby puppy mill.
Bair, an employee of the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Cumru Township, is featured in the book “Saving Gracie,” which chronicles an Oxford puppy mill bust by the Chester County SPCA and the journey of one of the rescued dogs. The book was published in March by Howell Book House.
The puppy mill was raided about five years ago when officials rescued more than 330 Cavalier King Charles spaniels. The dogs were being kept for breeding purposes and were housed in wire cages located in three small, modular houses.
“They (the dogs) have no idea what it’s like to be out in the yard,” Bair said. “That’s how they live for their entire lives.”
Bair said the Oxford mill was one of the largest puppy mills in the area at the time it was raided.
The mill had existed for a number of years, and many of the dogs there were ill and inbred.
Seven animals shelters in surrounding counties ended up taking in the rescued dogs. The Berks County ARL housed 12 of the spaniels.
“Physically, they were a mess; mentally, they were a mess,” Bair said. “They had no idea what toys were or what a blanket was. They just were little statues.”
Bair said the dogs had developed complex health problems, including rotten teeth and skin infections. ARL staff cared for the dogs, giving them medicated baths and other treatments.
All 12 dogs remained at the shelter for the duration of the court case regarding the puppy mill. The case lasted about six months, during which time the dogs recuperated.
After that time, they went up for adoption.
“We probably had well over 100 applications,” she explained. “It was very hard pick.”
One of the applicants, Linda Jackson of Lebanon, applied after hearing about the rescued dogs.
Bair said Jackson was chosen by ARL as a good adoption candidate and soon received one of the rescued dogs.
Jackson then contacted a newspaper in the Lebanon area about her experience with the rescued dog. Carol Bradley, author of “Saving Gracie,” heard about Jackson’s story and became interested in writing about the realities and conditions of puppy mills and what happens to dogs after they are rescued.
In the book, Bradley describes the important role of ARL and its staff in restoring the dogs’ health.
Jolie, the dog Bair adopted after it had been rescued from the same mill, arrived at the ARL pregnant. Jolie had her litter a few weeks after being rescued.
All of the puppies died shortly after birth because of health problems.
“She was the worst of the 12,” Bair said. “I was thinking nobody is going to want her.”
Jolie needed to be housebroken and required a lot of patience while adjusting to her new life.
“Puppy mill dogs have no idea what normal life is; they only know that wire cage,” she said. “They’re amazed that they get fed every day.
“They just have no idea how to be social with people and how to be loved.”
About two years ago, Jolie died from heart problems. Though this was Bair’s first time adopting a dog from a puppy mill, she said she would consider doing it again in a heartbeat.
“They were the pets of a lifetime,” Bair said of the rescued dogs.
Contact Jill E. Sheetz: 610-371-5077