Ten years ago the TLC Canine Center of Newell, Iowa, assisted Hearts United for Animals in Auburn, Nebraska, with the rescue of 15 dogs from a frightful place housing an irresponsible breeding operation. The horror of rescuing these animals is indescribable…If I had not seen it, I would have not believed it. Puppy mills are a true indictment of man’s greed and inhumanity, and I do not understand why they are allowed to operate, but this a tribute to one of the dogs rescued that day. Eddie went from victim to victor and his story is best told by his loving human, Mary LaHay, President of Iowa Voters for Companion Animals.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share some very sad news, the loss of our beloved Eddie. Many of you know that Eddie was the small white poodle whose photo graced many IVCA flyers and signs, and who served as our loyal “spokespup” for many years.

Eddie was a puppy mill survivor. My husband and I went to Hearts United for Animals in 2008 to find a companion for Ruby, a young dog we had gotten the year before. While all the other dogs in his yard were clamoring for attention, Eddie sat quietly in the back.

For some reasons, we left that day without adopting a dog, but back home, we both remembered that quiet little poodle. The next week we were on our way back to adopt Eddie. At home, we began to understand more about Eddie’s quiet nature, which was less about serenity and more about having his natural behavior derailed by life in a puppy mill. He often sat expressionless, disinclined to play with Ruby, or even move freely around the yard, and he was clearly distrustful of people. At first he seemed to just tolerate my holding him, but gradually he welcomed and even initiated it, and eventually all that lap time opened him up enough for a recognizable dog to emerge.

Every month brought a new breakthrough—a face that lit up with enthusiasm, unexpected play gestures, a range of vocalizations, a persistent nudge with his paw if you stopped rubbing his chest, a dance in front of the treat jar, and a hilarious figure-8 romp around the yard when I got home and let him out the back door. What an amazing example of the emotional resilience that dogs possess, and how the right care and support can help undo damage from years of neglect and mistreatment. In our home Eddie was clearly happy and carefree, enjoying 9 years with us until his age and health issues finally took their toll.

I share this story both to celebrate Eddie’s transformed life, and to explain how watching this dear little boy blossom transformed me also. It’s what compelled me to launch an effort to clean up Iowa puppy mills. For me, Eddie’s life offers proof that production-driven commercial breeders don’t give a fig about the mental and emotional health of their animals. Too many of these breeders are indifferent to the pain they inflict, too many never give a thought to the way they deform the lives of the dogs they hold captive. That needs to change, and the fight we are fighting is the only way that can happen, however elusive our progress might seem at times. We are on a justice train that is sometimes slow, but always headed in the right direction, so please stay on board for the trip.

Most of you have dogs at home who brighten your lives like Eddie did mine, and I hope you take time every day to actively cherish them. My sweet little boy is gone, replaced now by a profound sadness but also genuine gratitude. We will miss him for a long, long time, and remember him forever. Eddie deserves a legacy that makes a difference for other dogs like him, and I want to see that he gets it.”

We encourage you to do some research on puppy mils, irresponsible breeders, and pet store puppies. What you learn will shock you, and hopefully motivate you to become actively involved, and if you wish to give a donation in memory of Eddie, please contact Mary LaHay at mlahay@iowacva.org. If you would like to know more about Hearts United for Animals where thousands of puppy mill dogs are rehabilitated and re-homed, contact carol@hua.org.