This is the second in a series of guest posts from Elisa Leyva-Guerrero about pet fostering and pet adoption. Read her first story "Nolan Teaches us about Faith"
Marco Polo, the Puppy Mill Chihuahua. We just celebrated a few weeks back the passing of Prop B in Missouri also known as the Puppy Mill Bill. While we are happy that it passed we also had stressful moments on election day. For a while it seemed that it was not going to pass and in the end it barely won with only 51% of Yes votes. I personally was shocked to see it go through by such a small margin.
Perhaps it is because many of those voting against it have not seen what the environment of a puppy mill does to a dog?? Several foster parents from the St. Louis Senior Dog Project have cared for puppy mill survivor dogs and today I would like to share the story of Becky D. and her foster dog Marco Polo, the Chihuahua.
Marco Polo was 6 yrs old when he was rescued from a puppy mill. Similar to many puppy mill dogs he was unsocialized and was not familiar with the everyday dog activities our own pets enjoy. For example, playing with toys, going for walks and interacting with humans. As Becky D. puts it, he was a mentally tortured Chihuahua.
Unfortunately for Marco Polo he had overstayed his welcome at other foster homes. Because he was scared of everything, specially of men, he charged at other dogs and barked constantly. Becky D. chose to give him a chance while at the same time wondered what she was getting herself in to. Her home had all the things Marco Polo seemed to dislike.
The first days Marco Polo was at Becky’s home he ran away from her with extreme fear in his eyes, the kind of fear that tell you the dog thinks you are going to hurt him or worse. The first real contact Marco Polo had with her was to smell her shoes while she was sitting on the sofa. It was a big breakthrough moment for both Becky and Marco Polo and their bonding began from that moment on.
Marco Polo took baby steps but eventually found his way belly side up on Becky’s lap, content to get attention and love. His aggression towards other dogs diminished. He was always fine with her Dachshunds but still charged Duncan her bigger dog. Marco Polo was fine with other dogs just not those bigger than him.
Unfortunately there was one thing Marco Polo did not change his mind about - his fear of men. This fear meant there would be restrictions about the kind of homes that Marco Polo could go in to and the possibility that he might stay with Becky forever increased.
However in what seemed like a miracle for Becky, and everyone in the group, the perfect home was discovered. After a couple of months in foster care, a home was found that fit Marco Polo’s needs along with a permanent loving caregiver.
No men living in the house? check.
The other dogs in the home were smaller than him? check.
A new caregiver with plenty of love and patience? check.
Wow! Yes! Marco Polo had found a home. He left for his new home months ago and Becky receives great updates on him. This is him at his new place peeking from behind the window blinds.
I am so glad Becky shared with me the story of Marco Polo. Becky is a very patient and awesome pet foster mom who recognized that Marco Polo didn’t have as many restrictions as she thought in the beginning. It was a matter of finding what he needed and the best home to fit him - not the other way around.
Marco Polo was a lucky puppy mill survivor. Often when you hear about puppy mills the only thing that comes to mind are the terrible living conditions in many of the facilities. We forget that the puppy mill environment affects not only the physical health but the mental health of the dogs as well. Puppy mill survivors come out in need of a foster home or permanent home that helps them learn how to be a dog again, how to trust and even how to play with a toy. Some make the adjustment quickly and others take years.
It is important to get the word out on the complete lack of human contact in the lives of puppy mill dogs and how their behavior and quality of life is affected by this, often permanently. It is something that I hope people in Missouri and other states learn more about because it is time ALL puppy mills close down!
You can read more about Becky and her own dogs and the foster dogs at her blog “My Life gone to the Dogs”, this is her current pack: