Furever Friends: adopt, don’t shop!

Diane and Tillie

Today, I am sharing a conversation that I had with dog lover Diane Lattimer. She and her husband, John, have five dogs and two cats. One of their dogs, Tillie, was rescued in a dramatic way from a puppy mill in Ohio. Here is their story:

Tell me how it came to be that you rescued Tillie.

I belong to a group called Furever Friends Dog Rescue of
WNY. In the beginning, we had someone who was going to Amish puppy mills in
Ohio and she knew that I liked Frenchies (French bulldogs). She went to a farm, and they had Tillie, who was nine months ol. So he bred her, and she was too young. I would say that, say 99 percent of the
time, bulldogs should have a C-section because their head is big and their pelvis
is very small. They don’t usually let them deliver the regular way. And so this
puppy miller decided that he wasn’t going to pay for a C section. So, when she
delivered her puppies, her uterus basically went outside of her body, and the
puppies died.

He was going to shoot her but, when this was
happening, the person that we know was there to pick up another dog. She said,
“I have somebody who will take her.” He said, “Here, you can have her.” So she
took her to the vet. We had her spayed and then we brought her back to Buffalo.
We were fostering her and we never had the intention of keeping her. We had two
other Frenchies. Someone wanted to adopt her, and then they changed their mind.
A second person wanted to adopt her. They also changed their mind because she
has a lot of puppy mill traits.

Could you talk about puppy mill traits?

Because they never leave the cage, they don’t know about
grass, and they don’t know about stairs. We’ve had Tillie for six years. She still
puts her feet up on the fence to go to the bathroom because, in their cages,
they would try to poop outside their cages so they wouldn’t step in it. She’s
still afraid of loud noises. If she were to be in the car, she’s very nervous.
She loves my husband, but she’s afraid of a lot of other men. 

Is it like PTSD in a dog?

Relaxation time.

Basically. If it’s thundering and lightning, she shakes. I actually bought her a thunder shirt. It’s supposed to keep
them calm. She won’t eat out of a metal bowl because, if her tags touch the
bowl, it scares her and she runs away. So she eats out of a plastic bowl. It
took me about three weeks to get her housebroken because she didn’t know about
houses, beds, or blankets. She didn’t know what a toy was. She was ten months
old. She was still a puppy. But she never knew anything but a cage for her
whole life.

She was pretty well traumatized.

Yes, for sure. We’ve had other dogs that were old that were
in the mill for some time. Sometimes, their traits are really bad.

Do you think that’s why the people changed their minds?

The first people didn’t give her the chance to warm up to
them. She didn’t know them. They came over, and she was just freaking out. The
second people decided that she had too much energy for them. It depends on what
type of dog you’re looking for, too. All of the puppy mill dogs that we’ve
fostered have had some sort of medical issue. The puppy mills don’t do veterinary care.
They don’t take them for dentals. Most of the time, they give the dogs basic
immunizations but, if the dog needed a C-section, we know of cases where they
did it themselves.

That sounds really awful.

That is awful because they should have anesthesia to do
that. Another thing that they do is that they de-bark a lot of their dogs by
shoving a pipe up their throats to break their vocal cords. If you have 300
dogs, you don’t want your dogs barking because people will find out.

So that sounds very abusive.

It is very abusive. They treat their dogs like they are a
commodity. It’s not a pet to them. The dogs don’t go in the house. They are
usually in a barn with no windows and maybe one door. There are four or five
dogs in one cage. You could say, “oh, it’s a big cage.” No, they have four or
five Frenchies in a cage that’s meant for one dog. They never leave that cage
unless they’re having a litter of puppies. Then they take them out but,
normally, they don’t. They go outside but it’s in a wire cage. They have a
little doggie door to go outside. But when it’s really cold outside, some of the
people don’t heat the barns. During the summertime, it’s brutally hot. There
have been cases where we’ve seen dogs dead in the cage because of the heat or
the cold.

My gosh. That’s so horrible. So Tillie has already been through having a litter of puppies who
all passed away because they didn’t do a C-section. It was a painful delivery. She came to you very traumatized. How were you
able to help her adjust and to be a happy dog? It seems that, now, she is a
happy dog.

Probably because we had Stewie, another Frenchie, and my
other dog, Lola, who is now passed away. Lola was very motherly to her. I would
say, “let’s go outside,” and Tillie would be like, “‘what?” She learned how to
go up and down the stairs by following the other dogs.

She was with these other dogs. Tell me more about that.

Paws for Love dog at the
Taste of Grand Island.

Dogs are pack animals so they learn from each other like a
mother dog teaches puppies things. Lola had had a litter of puppies so she kind
of took Tillie under her wing, so to speak. She was always licking her or
sleeping with her, and Tillie seemed to like the comfort of that. She still has
one toy… as soon as we got her, she had that toy. She picks it up and carries
it in her mouth, as if it were a puppy. I think that she knew that she had
puppies, but she never had to take care of them. She’ll take a toy and put it on
a bed and lay on top of it.

So she still had that maternal instinct.

Yes. We do foster care for puppies and, sometimes, she’ll
want to lick them or lay with them. She’s gentle with them. Who knows what goes
through a dog’s mind when they have been traumatized like that?

That’s so horrible to treat dogs like that.

Making a new friend.

Yes, it is. There’s no real law against (running puppy
mills), and we’re trying to change that so that millers can’t have 100, 200,
300 dogs and breed them over and over because that’s what they do. And, when a
dog gets to be a certain age, and they don’t have any puppies or if they have
only one or two dogs. They are of no use so they either shoot them, drown them,
give them away, or sell them.

Tell me about your dog family and then tell me about your
human family.

My dog family is five French bulldogs. There is Stewie, who
is going to be ten, Gabbie is eight, Tillie is going to be seven, Edison’s
three, and Fiona’s a year and a half. I live with my husband, John, who is a
vet tech with the Erie County SPCA.

One of the many rescued
dogs from puppy mills.

So our rescue group gets dogs from the dog rescue. We bring
the dogs in and surrender them to the SPCA, where they get their shots and they
get spayed or neutered. Then they get put up for adoption. People who know us
are very aware of what a puppy mill dog is. I have three daughters. They all
have puppy mill dogs. Most of my friends have puppy mill dogs. So people are
aware of what a puppy mill dog is. Those are the ones that need a new home
because they need love. They are the most receptive dogs to giving you more
than you could ever give them. When we put them in the car to bring them back
from Ohio, they know that they are going to a better place. They appreciate it.
They’ve never seen a toy and they’ve never had decent food or a blanket or a
bed to sleep in. All of those things are new to them but they sure take to them
right away.

They’d never been in a car before, and you’d think
that they’d be really upset. I swear, and everyone else who does transports
swears, that the dogs know that they are going someplace better. They know that
we are kind, we are going to comfort them, and we are going to help them.

How many people usually go to collect these dogs?

It depends on how many there, are and how many places we have
to go to pick them up. There could be two people or four people. They are doing
a transport this Thursday and Friday. There are twelve dogs from Ohio. We have
to take them to the vet there because we have to have a health certificate to
transport the dogs across the New York State line. If they are old enough, they
will get a rabies shot. Any other vetting they need gets done at the SPCA. We
used to get some dogs that were in really bad shape. They would need a lot of
work, like surgeries and amputations, eye removals, eyelid surgery. The dog
that my daughter has is a shar pei mixed with a basset hound. That’s a really
weird combination. He had something called teary eye, which is when the inside
eyelids flip out. It’s very painful. He was a puppy. The miller took him to the
vet to put him to sleep. We got to the vet. They said, ‘Do you want this puppy
because we’re going to put him to sleep.’ So we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take him.’
So he had his eyes fixed at the SPCA, and my daughter adopted him. He’s the
greatest dog ever. Beautiful dog. They call him Mr. Handsome.

So tell me what got you into the business of rescuing dogs?

My husband John is a vet tech at the SPCA, and we’ve always
done foster care. And someone who works at the SPCA said that she knew of this
person named Deborah who went to the puppy mills to get dogs, and she was always
looking for a place to see where she could take these dogs. She asked me to go
to Ohio with her, and we went to a puppy mill, basically. There are hundreds of
dogs that they auction off, sometimes for five dollars a piece. They would say,
‘this is an ’02 model,’ meaning that the dog was born in 2002. If it was a
male, they would say that it produced many litters of puppies, or if it was a
female, they would say that it is still good for breeding. Mostly, they were
all purebreds. There is a website which features all dogs from Ohio and they
sell them for hundreds and thousands of dollars. The buyers are thinking that
they are getting this really great puppy. But if they knew where the mother and
father lived, they wouldn’t want to buy a dog from there.

That’s pretty horrifying.

Yeah, it is.

So it’s really about lots of money because people pay them
cash. Who’s going to know that they could make $100,000 a year selling dogs?

Tell me how you feel about your rescue work.

The world is a big place
for a dog, but a cozy place
for a dog who has been
adopted into a loving home.

I wish that more people were aware of what happens in a
puppy mill. You could go to the SPCA in Niagara or Erie
counties. You could go to the Buffalo animal shelter. There are always
adoptable dogs there. But people think “I’ve got to have a purebred.” I would
never buy a dog off the internet. If you’re a reputable breeder (she got Fiona from a dog breeder friend), you don’t sell dogs that way. Any dog can have a genetic defect. Both of Fiona’s parents
were grand champions. They were health tested. She happened to have this back problem.
But the millers don’t do health testing. They
don’t care that they’re breeding something that could cause a defect. They
breed strange combinations, like a Pomeranian to a Husky and call it a Pomsky.
It’s like a designer dog. But it’s not a very interesting combination.

So you would say, Adopt, don’t shop.

That’s right! That’s what we always say.

So tell me what you like to do when you’re not rescuing

I actually work at John Oishei Children’s Hospital as a
nurse, and I’m going to the Niagara Culinary Institute for baking and pastry

That sounds like fun.

It is fun. I do baking anyway, but I’ve always wanted to do
it the right way. I went back to school in January, and I’m just having the
best time. And then I take care of my grandchildren, and I take care of my
husband and my dogs. I have a busy life. But it’s enjoyably busy. I’ve always
loved dogs. I’ve always loved animals.

Did you grow up with dogs?

Cats, dogs. We had a goat. We had chickens.

Where did you grow up?

When I was really little, we lived in Barker, N.Y., on a
farm and, then, after that, we lived in Tonawanda.

I don’t have any more questions. Is there anything that
you’d like to add?

If people are looking for a dog, it shouldn’t be a
whim purchase. They’ll see a puppy, and they’ll say, “Oh, I’m saving it.” Or
they’ll go to a pet store. Don’t go there. Chances are that it came from a
puppy mill. If you really want a dog, you should research breeds and what your
life style is. Little kids shouldn’t be getting a 100-pound Great Dane, unless
they know what they’re getting into. On the other hand, people say, “I want a
really little dog.” Well, is it going to fit into your lifestyle?

A mutt is for anybody. Mutts are great. It doesn’t have to
be a purebred dog. I’ve had mutts for most of my life. I happened to get into
Frenchies because I was at a show and I saw one and I wanted one.

I think that mutts tend to be pretty healthy.

Yeah, they do. A lot of time, purebreds tend to have defects
and a lot of problems. I think that all kids should grow up with a dog. You
should have more than one because they are pack animals. They like to be
together. We used to call ours the dog army because they were always together.

If you are in Grand Island, take a look at my article about Furever Friends in Friday’s Island Dispatch!

7 thoughts on “Furever Friends: adopt, don’t shop!”

  1. Cerebrations.biz

    This is why one should always consider obtaining a rescue dog. To help turn around the trauma with which they are left

  2. How terrible for the puppies to go through all the trauma and being terrorized. Diane Lattimer is a super person for all she does!

  3. this is so sad for the dogs.. my kids have been wanting us to adopt one but at this point, we are not ready yet. Hats off to all who Paws for Love!and Diane Lattimer too!

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