My name is Susie the Survivor. I’m a little Coton De Tulear. Most people have never heard of my breed, but those who have know that my brothers and sisters and I are expensive dogs to purchase. We usually can only be found by contacting a specialized breeder. Maybe in my case the word “breeder” is a misnomer (see, I can use big words because we are intelligent dogs). I was born and raised in a “puppy mill”, definitely a dirty word in my limited vocabulary.

We Coton De Tulears are favored for our happy, playful, clownish, loving, gentle and friendly demeanor. We never tire of giving and receiving love, and we want to be an important part of a family, and always – the center of attention. We become very attached to our owners and love to be cuddled. We are fairly easy to train, quick to learn and eager to work, although occasionally we can be a bit stubborn.

I’m covered with fluffy white and black hair which only needs an occasional brushing. My coat is quite long and feels cottony. In fact, my name is derived from the French word for “cotton.”

My forebears came from Madagascar and I am related to other French Bichon dogs like the Havanese and the Bolognese. My ancestors arrived in Madagascar during the 15th century, apparently brought by either sailors or French troops, no one knows for sure. Eventually we became the favored pet of wealthy families in the city of Tulear, and our breed became known as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar”.

I should be a happy and proud dog with a background like that. But I’m not. You see, I was born in, and grew up in a puppy mill. A puppy mill is a horrible place that no animal should be subjected to. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about dog breeders. I’m referring to puppy mills where greedy people keep hundreds of dogs and make them have puppies over and over again.

We had no dog houses, no blankets or pillows to sleep on, not even bowls for our food and water. Some of us were kept in cages all the time. The food they fed us was rotten and smelled terrible – raw chickens, cow udders and pig intestines – stuff that tasted terrible.

Nobody ever paid any attention to us, we were never cuddled or loved by anyone. Every day was a fight for survival. In the winter it was freezing cold, and in summer it would get very hot and humid and the rain would soak the ground beneath our cages. Some of the dogs died from lack of decent care. Nobody ever cleaned the place and we had to live in all that filth. We were always scared and I often felt threatened by everything.

Some of the dogs were at the puppy mill for years, especially the female dogs who had to give birth to many litters. A lot of them were very sick with open sores and cancerous growths on their bodies. It was a horrible and scary place.

One day a group of strangers arrived at the puppy mill. They were accompanied by a television crew with cameras and everybody acted angry and upset. They started inspecting all of us dogs and then carried away the ones who were sickest. All the mothers who had a litter of new puppies were also carried away. I was one of the lucky puppies, still healthy enough to be considered a survivor. We were all removed from that horrible place and taken to a clean and spacious shelter where we all were examined by the doctor, and those who needed it were given medications and watched over by a loving staff of young men and women.

Some of my friends from the puppy mill needed surgery, and unfortunately some were just too sick to be saved. But I was feeling much better, and for the first time in my life I was clean, free of fleas, and hunkered down in a warm and safe place with clean blankets and fresh food and water.

After a few weeks at the shelter, most of my brothers and sisters were rescued from the puppy mill and were adopted by families looking for a nice puppy for their children. I was beginning to worry that I would soon be left all alone here while all my friends would be gone, living in happiness with the family they had only dreamed about when they lived at the puppy mill. Then the next day, a nice smelling, older lady arrived, wrapped me in a warm, clean blanket and took me home with her. She spoke softly to me and petted me every time she had to wait at a stoplight.

At my new home I was taken out of the car and put on the freshly mowed lawn. It smelled so good I could have fallen asleep on it right then. A few minutes later a whole pack of dogs came tearing out of the woman’s house. They all seemed very happy to see me. Then we all went inside and the nice lady gave me fresh water. Later I had special food, just like all the other dogs – I counted 6 more, all of them apparently older than me. No raw chickens and nothing green and smelly.

It took some time for me to get used to this new life. Ever since birth I was surrounded by ailing, scared, and distressed dogs and puppies. Now suddenly, everything was new and strange. There were so many new sounds, different tastes and things to learn, like potty training. I wasn’t house trained obviously and no one had ever fed me a treat, given me a bath or groomed me.

After a lifetime of sleeping on cold, hard surfaces and fighting for my share of the food, it took a while to realize that it was okay to eat when I was hungry, sleep when I was tired, and learn to share my food and toys with the other dogs, all of whom I had become fast friends with. I soon became house trained just by watching what all the other dogs did.

My new home has a big garden that we all play in. There are lots and lots of toys to share and many soft, warm and clean places to sleep all over the house. My life is so much different from what it had been at the puppy mill. I heard the nice lady talking on the phone yesterday, telling someone that most of my rescued friends had also been adopted by new owners. I hope all of them are as happy as I am and that all the other dogs still in puppy mills will soon be rescued. I also hope that more people become aware of the intolerable cruelty that so many innocent animals suffer at the hands of some very bad humans. I am ever so happy that I was rescued from a puppy mill.

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