November 10, 2010
Amazing Gracie: An Interview with Author Carol Bradley
In her book “Saving Gracie,” journalist Carol Bradley tracks a rescued puppy mill dog, exposing a cruel industry along the way
All Animals magazine, November/December 2010
View a PDF of this story here. The HSUS
Four-legged muses: Carol Bradley with her rescued dogs, Chachi and Jillie. Cindy Cieluch
by Jim Baker
How do you put a face on the immense suffering caused by puppy mills for people who’ve never heard of these cruel mass breeding operations?
In Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills, Carol Bradley delved beyond the overwhelming statistics by telling the story of a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who’d languished in a cage for years before becoming a cherished pet.
Initially known only as “No. 132,” the animal who would later be called Gracie was one of 337 puppies and breeding dogs rescued in a 2006 raid of Mike-Mar Kennel in Lower Oxford, Pa., by the Chester County SPCA and local lawenforcement. Bradley recounts the raid, the ensuing legal wrangling as the kennel was shut down and its operators were charged with cruelty, and the happy ending for Gracie.
This is the first book for Bradley, a reporter who became aware of dog welfare issues when she covered a major case in Montana in 2002. She went on to study animal law as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
In this edited interview with HSUS writer Jim Baker, Bradley talks about the genesis of her book and what she hopes readers will learn from it.
Q : Why was it important to reconstruct the raid in great detail?
BRADLEY: I wanted the book to read almost like an episode of Law & Order, where you start with the beginning of the case and go all the way through. I wanted to show people that puppy mills and puppy mill busts don’t just affect the dogs; they land on an entire community. Whole towns are sometimes stuck with 300 dogs. I’ve always admired animal control officers, the people who really have to get in there and do the hard work. I wanted to show how difficult it was for them because I think we sometimes forget. I was just looking for any possible way to tell the story in a way that would not make people want to throw the book across the room.
Q: What would make them want to do that?
BRADLEY: Too much graphic detail. I waited until the second half of the book to get into other instances of puppy mills. I hope by the end of the book, people have a real sense of how awful these places are, and how prolific they are. But I didn’t want to hit them over the head with that too early on because I didn’t want to lose readers, to be honest.
Q: So tell me how you found Linda and Gracie.
BRADLEY: I wound up finding Linda because I just stumbled upon a letter she had written to the Lebanon, Pa., newspaper. She said, “I adopted one of the Chester dogs,” and she’s expressing her fury at puppy mills, but this is all very new for her. And then I thought, “How much more interesting would it be to have a book about not just a dog that gets changed, but a person who gets changed because of the dog?”
Q: What do you hope readers come away with?
BRADLEY: The best thing someone can say to me when they read the book is that they finished it; they read it. And they will often say, “I had no idea.” I want them to be astonished and galvanized. To say, “I’m never going to get a dog at a pet store again. I’m going to tell everyone I know never to do that.” I often tell people, “Write your state legislators, and tell them they need to pass a law.” I wanted to get to people who like a good story and like one where there’s a happy ending.
Q: Gracie’s story certainly ends on an optimistic note. Are you equally optimistic about the progress being made to regulate these cruel operations?
BRADLEY: I’m glad to see that people are starting to get galvanized. These things never happen quickly enough, and there’s a difference between passing a bill and enforcing it, and putting the money behind it. Ideally, in this country we wouldn’t have such a patchwork approach. I guess I wouldn’t really be satisfied until the federal government passed a law and funded it and took the whole issue of commercial dog breeding out from under the Department of Agriculture, which always has a bias toward producers.
Vince Staten, the highly popular columnist for my hometown paper, the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News, wrote this column about myself and Saving Gracie. It ran July 28, 2010.
Jo Zimmerman remembers Carol Bradley. “Oh, you couldn’t forget Carol.”
Carol was a student in Jo’s sophomore English class at Central High in the early 1970s. And Carol remembers Jo. “She was definitely my favorite teacher. She was by far the coolest teacher I ever had — the only one ever to drive a turquoise Porsche.
“She also had a way of injecting a contemporary edge into our studies. One of the things she had our sophomore English class do was debate whether Roller Woods ought to be leveled to make way for the Fort Henry Mall.”
Jo says she remembers most all of her students, but Carol stuck out. “You knew she was going places.” Carol, who is in town this week for a book signing, hopes one of those places is the New York Times best-seller list.
Carol got her start on the way to the best-seller list back at Central in the 1970s.
It may have been the 1970s, but for student journalists working on the Paw Print, the student newspaper for the recently opened Central High School, it might as well have been the 1870s.
Carol remembers, “Under our archaic system, students would write stories in longhand, turn them in, and six weeks later either see them in the newspaper or not — it was strictly up to the English teacher who served as our sponsor.”
So Carol decided to challenge the system.
“I wanted to prove to our sponsor that students could handle the whole kit and caboodle and that we should be given freer hand in the paper’s contents.”
It was the era of alternative newspapers, so Carol published her own student newspaper, “The CHS Free Press: An Alternative to Censorship.”
“I came out with four issues of my paper over an eight-week period.”
The administration didn’t see it as a demonstration of student prowess.
“The principal tried to have me expelled but failed. Bowing to pressure, our sponsor reluctantly made me co-editor of the Paw Print my senior year. All of this was way too much fun. I’ve been bitten by the journalism bug ever since.”
Jump ahead 35 years, and Carol, who has been working in newspapers all those years, is back in town with her first book.
“Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills,” published earlier this year by Howell Book House, is an outgrowth of her year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where she studied animal law.
She will be signing copies on Friday at Books-A-Million on Stone Drive at 7 p.m.
Carol defines a “puppy mill” as a commercial kennel “where dogs are treated like livestock, forced to produce puppies in often squalid conditions.”
“Saving Gracie” follows a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a little dog with big eyes, who was rescued from a Pennsylvania puppy mill.
And yes, Tennessee has puppy mills, lots of them.
“The state has 10 dog breeders licensed by the federal government, but that’s a fraction of the real number, and some of these kennels are horrific. Since last fall alone, 90 dogs were taken from dark sheds and makeshift pens in Roane County; 50 inbred and emaciated dogs were seized from a breeder in Lawrence County; 50 dogs suffering parasites and infections were removed from a kennel in Dickson County; more than two dozen dogs caked with urine and feces were taken from a Maury County kennel; and this spring 230 dogs suffering heart problems, eye infection and birth defects were hauled out of a kennel in Sparta. One of the largest puppy mill busts in the country occurred in 2008, when nearly 700 dogs crowded two and three to a hutch in unrelenting summer heat were rescued from a kennel in Lyles, Tennessee, southwest of Nashville.”
Gracie, who was one of more than 300 dogs seized from the Mike-Mar Kennel in Oxford, Pa., was nearly blind and balked at human contact. But she has flourished under the patient, loving care of her adoptive owner, Linda Jackson. For Gracie, at least, there is a happy ending.
Contact Vince Staten at firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at vincestaten.blogspot.com.
People magazine gave Gracie four stars in its March 8 issue.
This review appears in Bark’s April/May issue.
By Carol Bradley
Wiley & Sons, 256 pp., 2010; $21.99
Reviewed by Susan Tasaki
EVEN THE WORDS MAKE those WHO
love dogs cringe: puppy mills, places
where living, breathing creatures are
treated like machines, where adult female
dogs give birth to litter after litter of
pups who will be sold
through pet stores or to
What happens when
their breeding days are
If they’re exceptionally
fortunate, they share Gracie’s
experience: rescue, rehabilitation and
adoption. In Saving Gracie, Bradley
chronicles the story of a tiny Cavalier
King Charles Spaniel who was
removed-along with more than 300
other small-breed dogs, both adults
and puppies-from a ghastly kennel
operation by the Chester
County (Pa.) SPCA in 2006.
Known first as Dog 132, then
Wilma, and finally Gracie, the
six-year-old was born in and
confined to a crate her entire
life. She had multiple and persistent
health problems but, of
more concern, she was emotionally
shut down; rescuers wondered
if she’d ever recover.
Bradley profiles all the players in
this drama, among them, the CCSPCA
humane police officers who initiated
the rescue; the shelter workers and volunteers
who tirelessly fed, bathed and
cared for the dogs; the attorneys who
tried the case against the kennel owners;
and even the kennel owners themselves.
Set within this account is another
touching story, that of Linda Jackson,
the woman who eventually adopted
Gracie. Jackson had always liked animals-
cats more than dogs, truth be
told-but this adoption galvanized
her. She became passionate about not
only saving and improving Gracie’s life,
but also the lives of puppy mill dogs
It’s impossible to read this book without
being moved; the picture it paints of
both puppy mill conditions and what
they do to the dogs who are unfortunate
enough to be confined to them is grim,
though presented in a non-sensational
way. On the other hand, those who
advocate for the dogs are utterly inspiring.
And the best part is, for Gracie, the
story has a happy ending.
A number of newspapers picked up this April 4 story by John Latimer of the Lebanon Daily News in Pennsylvania:
‘Saving Gracie’ book shows puppy love’
What Jackson couldn’t possibly have imagined is that the pitiful pooch would change her life and both would end up being the subject of a critically acclaimed book.
Jackson’s relationship with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Gracie, drives the story told by author Carol Bradley in “Saving Gracie: How one dog escaped the shadowy world of American puppy mills.”
Released in March, the book was recently hailed by People magazine, and best-selling author Dean Koontz praised it as “wonderfully stirring and empowering.”
Bradley said she used Gracie’s heartbreaking and ultimately heartwarming story—from the spaniel’s torture-filled days as a breeding dog in a Chester County puppy mill, to her rescue by animal inspectors and subsequent adoption by Jackson—”to weave a thread of hope” through an otherwise disturbing tale about the unscrupulous side of the dog-breeding industry.
How Jackson became part of the book is a story in itself. The divorced mother of three teenagers lives in Lebanon and currently works as director of gift planning for Luthercare, an assisted-living provider. As a former president of the Community of Lebanon Association, she is known to many in the local business community. She had never heard of Bradley when the author contacted her out of the blue.
blonde with an easygoing style, Jackson recalled the phone call while discussing the book in her living room recently. In her customary position, on the couch by Jackson’s side, sat Gracie. Her swollen, sightless eye and raspy bark, from a barbaric technique called debarking, serve as permanent reminders of her earlier life.
“I remember distinctly when (Bradley) called,” said Jackson. “It was in the summer about 7 o’clock and I was getting dinner ready when the phone rang. The only people who ever call me on the land line are telemarketers. I wasn’t going to get it. I answered the phone, and she said, ‘Is this Linda Jackson?’ I was so ready to hang up.”
Bradley quickly explained the purpose of her call, and Jackson didn’t hesitate to agree to be interviewed the following day. Many more interviews ensued over the next two years as Bradley painstakingly researched and wrote the book published by Wiley Publishing Co.
An award-winning reporter from Montana, Bradley had been inspired to write about puppy mills after covering the investigation of an area kennel. She had targeted Pennsylvania’s Mike-Mar Kennel and its eccentric owner, Mike Wolf, as the focus of the book after it was raided in February 2006 by inspectors from the Chester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Bradley reached out to Jackson after reading a letter to the editor Jackson had written to the Lebanon Daily News in June 2007. Her letter was in response to the death of 18 dogs in a suspicious fire at a Fredericksburg-area kennel just hours after it had been cited for violations by local animal and zoning officials. In the letter, Jackson called for the kennel owner “to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
An investigation was conducted but the fire was ultimately ruled accidental.
The letter caught Bradley’s attention because Jackson mentioned she was the owner of one of the “infamous Chester 300,” a reference to the scores of abused dogs rescued from Mike-Mar Kennel.
The animals were confiscated from Wolf—a former prize-winning dog handler—after they were found living without fresh food and water in tiny, feces-filled cages stacked four high. The raid set off a legal battle and eventually was an important case in helping Pennsylvania to toughen its puppy mill laws, which Bradley’s book details.
Among Wolf’s dogs was one labeled number 132 for evidence purposes when the inspectors took it into custody. Riddled with ailments, including many rotting teeth that had to be removed, the purebred Cavalier had spent the first six years of its life as an imprisoned breeding machine, forced to deliver a brood of puppies every six months.
After being rescued, the dog was sheltered for several months at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County before Jackson adopted it. Despite its sorrowful condition, Jackson couldn’t bear to turn her back on the dog.
“The kids were less than impressed,” she said. “I had said to them, mostly to appease them, I said if you don’t like the dog, I would take it back. But I thought to myself, how could I return this dog? She sat on my lap the whole ride home. She just connected; there was no way I could ever have gotten rid of her.”
Bradley had been looking for someone like Jackson for her book. Not only was she an enthusiastic participant, but she had no prior experience raising a puppy-mill dog.
“I had found some dyed-in-the-wool dog lovers who had rescued dogs before and knew what it was like to have a puppy-mill dog in the house,” Bradley said. “One of the agents I spoke to said the best kind of story would be one where the person that adopts the dog changes, so not just the dog gets transformed but the person changes, too.”
Jackson fit the bill. Before adopting Gracie, she was more of a cat person than a dog lover. But because of the dog’s ailments and distrust for people, Gracie and Jackson formed a rapid and remarkably intense bond. It’s a relationship Bradley explores in her book as she describes how the dog’s personality gradually blossomed.
In the process of working with Bradley, Jackson said she learned gruesome details about Gracie’s past.
“When I went down to the (Berks) animal rescue league they were telling me all about her physical problems as a result of where she had been, so I knew it was pretty bad, but I didn’t have the details until Carol came to visit,” Jackson recalled. “I had no idea that these animal crates were stacked like they were, and that there were no floors in the crates. I didn’t know anything like that when I got Gracie. I just knew that she was not treated very well, and that she was just forced to produce litter after litter.”
Although Bradley kept Jackson informed about the progress she was making with her book, she didn’t let her read it until it was printed earlier this year. Jackson admits to being nervous about how she would be portrayed.
“I really put a lot of trust in her, not knowing what was going to be said or how my family was going to be portrayed,” said Jackson. “There were some points along the way where I thought, do I really want people reading about so much personal stuff about my life? But at that point it was too far along to go back. I trusted her.”
Jackson was pleased with the final result.
“I really liked it,” she said. “I thought (Bradley) did a wonderful job with the book. … That kind of immortalizes Gracie, which is pretty cool.”
Jackson’s love for Gracie—whom she calls her “canine soul mate”—and Cavalier spaniels has continued to grow. She has purchased two other Cavaliers that make better playmates for her kids—Ryan, Erika and Julia. She’s also become an advocate for tougher puppy laws and has advice for anyone considering purchasing a dog from a kennel or pet shop.
“You really need to be careful when you are buying a dog from a pet store because you have no idea where it came from,” she said.
‘Saving Gracie’: Reporter’s first book looks like a hit
Updated: 04/05/2010 09:26:17 AM EDT
Although she lives in Montana, when award-winning reporter Carol Bradley decided to do an exposé on the puppy mill industry she set her sights on Pennsylvania.With its rural expanse and substantial population of farmers who raise puppies as an alternate source of income, the state has long had a reputation as being a hub for puppy mills – the large breeding kennels where hundreds of thousands of dogs are produced each year for sale in places like pet shops and on the Internet.
The 243-page book, Bradley’s first, is written with the attention to detail one would expect from a writer with more than 25 years of reporting experience. That means there is no sugarcoating the truth when she describes the squalid conditions at Wolf’s kennels and the suffering of the animals there.
It is Bradley’s literary talents, however, that makes the telling of the investigation of Wolf and his subsequent trial a compelling tale.
The story comes to life as she relates the stories of the drama’s uplifting heroes – from the animal inspector who initiated the investigation of Mike-Mar Kennel, to the attorney that prosecuted the case, and the shelter employees who nursed hundreds of dogs back to health. Even Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell makes a cameo appearance as he pushes for tougher puppy mill legislation.
But the story’s real stars are Lebanon’s own Linda Jackson and Gracie, the purebred Cavalier King Charles spaniel she adopted, who spent the first five years of her life in one of Mike-Mar’s tiny, feces-filled cages cranking out litters of puppies every six months.
Bradley lets us watch as Gracie’s personality changes from listless to loving under Jackson’s care, demonstrating the resiliency of canines and the power of love.
Bradley’s book is available at bookstores, online and from her Web site, www.carolbradley.com.
email@example.com; 272-5611, ext. 149
USA Today pet blogger Janice Lloyd gives Gracie a thumbs up!
Mar 30, 2010
Carol Bradley’s new book about one dog’s rescue from a puppy mill is powerful writing, combining the painstaking care of a journalist trained in good storytelling with the compassion of an animal lover opposed to the humiliation of any living creature.
Saving Gracie (Wiley Publishing, Inc.) doesn’t spare us any grim details about dog 132 — as this Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is labeled at the puppy mill where she is a breeding machine. But don’t shy away from the book for that reason. Reading about her pathetic condition made this reader admire her resilience even more. Gracie has a spark in her no one should be allowed to extinguish. The author points out in the preface hundreds of thousands of animals live out their lives in “barbaric conditions.”
Her narrative exposes various villains, showing readers how grim the puppy mills are, and praises officials and care takers who ultimately help out along the way and how they set the dogs on paths to new lives. She closes the circle by showing how Linda Jackson, who adopts Gracie, gets back as much as she gives. Jackson was not a dog lover. Gracie ended up sleeping in her bed on her pillow.
Bradley has two rescue dogs. She started covering puppy mill busts in 2002 when she was a reporter for the Great Falls Tribune. She was chosen in 2003 to spend a year as a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. This book has been four years in the making.
READERS: based on what I’ve written, don’t you think it should be required reading by all state governors and officials who regulate puppy mills? I’m not a rescuer but this book opened my eyes to the possibility of getting shelter dogs and could encourage you to do the same.
From the Great Falls Tribune
Feb. 26, 2010
Great Falls author’s debut book reveals horrors of puppy mills | greatfallstribune.com
She spent the first six years of her life in a cage, breeding litter after litter of puppies.
When authorities raided the kennel where she lived, the dog with short dry hair, one bulged out eye and drooping nipples found her way to an adoptive home.
Gracie turned out to be the perfect dog to help expose the horrific world of commercial dog breeding, or puppy mills.
Carol Bradley’s new book, “Saving Gracie, How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills,” chronicles Gracie’s life from her time as a breeding dog through her eventual adoption by a loving family and transformation into a healthy, happy animal.
“Saving Gracie” is the first book for Bradley, a Great Falls resident and former Great
“Saving Gracie” is the first book for Bradley, a Great Falls resident and former Great Falls Tribune reporter. The book officially publishes Monday but is already available on Amazon.com.
Bradley hasn’t always been a dog lover. In 2002 while working for the Tribune, she covered a case in which collie breeder Athena Lethcoe-Harman and her husband were charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty when they tried to transport their kennel of 180 dogs from Alaska to Arizona and were stopped at the border north of Shelby. For nine months, while the Harmans faced prosecution, the collies stayed in Shelby and later in Great Falls under the care of dozens of volunteers.
“It opened my eyes to the widespread existence of puppy mills and to the cost, both in real dollars and human effort, required to salvage their victims,” Bradley writes in the introduction to “Saving Gracie.”
After the case ended, Bradley studied animal law during a fellowship at Harvard. All the while she kept thinking about Camp Collie and the widespread problem of puppy mills.
“I just couldn’t get this out of my mind,” Bradley said in a recent interview. “I was struck by the fact that there was this whole underbelly of dog breeders that I was not aware of.”
Her original idea was an expose filled with the gut-wrenching details about the large puppy mills that operate across the country.
“I started off thinking I would write your basic angry manifesto,” Bradley said.
When she pitched that plan to agents at a 2007 writing workshop in New York, she got the same feedback from each agent — good topic, but too grim. They told her she would need a character or a plotline, something the reader could follow as they learned about the problem of commercial dog breading along the way.
That’s where Gracie came in.
Of the book’s 20 chapters, 17 follow Gracie, the raid on her kennel, the prosecution of the breeder and Gracie’s transition to normal dog life after her adoption. The other three chapters focus on the broader issue of puppy mills.
Bradley chose to focus on a puppy mill in Pennsylvania, where the state recently changed its laws to prevent unhealthy kennels.
“At the time, Pennsylvania was kind of the perfect storm for this issue,” she said.
She chose Gracie because she wanted to profile a dog that had spent much of its life as a victim of a puppy mill. She also wanted an owner who wasn’t the perfect dog lover, but instead was changed by adopting a dog.
Gracie’s owner was reluctant to get a dog, giving in because her children begged and pleaded for the pet.
“Gracie really wound up changing her life,” Bradley said.
Bradley spent four years writing and researching the book, along with learning how to be successful in the world of publishing.
She traveled to Pennsylvania twice and spent time with Gracie and her family, the Humane Society officer who raided Gracie’s kennel, the attorney who prosecuted the case and the woman who ran the shelter where Gracie stayed during her breeder’s trial.
Bradley hopes her book raises awareness of a problem that few people realize exist.
Dogs have become such an important part of many families and people spend millions on their dogs every year, she said.
“But yet behind the scenes this unbelievable squalor exists and people need to know about that.”
|From the Reading (Penn.) Eagle:
Slices of life: ARL employee plays part in puppy rescue
By Jill E. Sheetz
Shillington, PA -
“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