He’s an old dog hoping to teach lawmakers some new tricks. At 14 years old, Harley the puppy mill survivor is winning hearts all over the world through his social media activism.
“I hear stories every day,” says Harley’s human, Rudi Taylor. ”Every day I receive an email, a message, or a comment from somebody about how Harley’s story has made a difference to them.”
The story that has impacted so many people is horrific and heartbreaking.
Like so many of the puppies who end up in pet stores, Harley began his life in a puppy mill, but he never ended up in a pet shop window. Instead, he had the misfortune of being chosen as a breeder and was kept in a cage for a decade. He received no exercise, no medical care, no kindness or love. He never saw the sky or felt the comfort of a soft bed.
According to Taylor, the people at Harley’s puppy mill used pressure washers to clean the wire cages while the dogs were still trapped inside. That horrific scenario is how he lost his left eye. Taylor says the puppy-buying public needs to know that the horror Harley lived through really isn’t uncommon.
“Even though this is Harley’s story that we’re sharing, it really is the story of all the puppy mill dogs.”
Thankfully for Harley, the story has a happy ending — but it almost didn’t. After a decade in a tiny cage, Harley was riddled with health problems, from disfigured paws to an arthritic, broken tail. He was in heart failure, and when he developed a cough the puppy mill had no more use for him. Harley was about to be tossed into a bucket when an employee noticed he was still alive, and sought permission from the boss to hand Harley over to a rescue.
“The mill owner apparently agreed,” explains Taylor.
Already an anti-puppy-mill activist and volunteer for National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR), Taylor had an ear to the ground of the rescue world and instantly knew this dog was destined to join her pack. She reached out to the woman running the rescue that saved Harley.
“When I learned of him, I called Barbara and she agreed to give Harley to me, so he could live out his remaining days in a home with a lot of love.”
Taylor and her husband loaded up their car, and along with their two Chihuahuas, Zoie and Cricket, drove from Colorado to Kansas to pick up Harley. During the long ride home Harley cuddled with his two new sisters. He was finally safe.
At last Harley had the kind of loving home and life he deserved, but his vet didn’t think he would get to enjoy it for very long. Taylor was told Harley wouldn’t last three months — but that was more than three years ago. Time after time, Harley has beaten the odds as his family has spent thousands of dollars getting him the veterinary care he needs.
“A year ago he was really bad off, and every day we didn’t think he would live another day,” explains Taylor.
She credits an interdisciplinary team of veterinary specialists with helping Harley make a second comeback. ”They came up with a treatment plan,” she says. “They got him off all the medications he was on.”
These days, Harley is in good health and good spirits, loving life with his family and being a great brother to Cricket, Olive, Riley, and his foster sister, Charo.
“He wants to take care of everybody,” says Taylor. “If one of the other dogs cries — he’s right there.”
Harley’s empathy doesn’t end with his housemates. He’s also taking care of his fellow puppy mill survivors. In early 2013, Harley lent his name, face, and social media savvy to a campaign for National Mill Dog Rescue called “Harley to the Rescue.” It started out as a way to fund the rescue of 25 to 30 puppy mill dogs, with each rescue costing about $2,500, but the campaign quickly surpassed the initial goal and even took on a second spokesdog, another puppy mill survivor named Teddy.
Together, Harley and Teddy traveled across the U.S. as NMDR saved the lives of puppy mill dogs with funds raised through the “Harley to the Rescue” social media campaign. The first rescue mission in May 2013 saved 64 dogs. The second rescue mission happened in August of 2013, when 24 dogs were saved from the same puppy mill where Harley had spent the first 10 years of his life. Among the 24 dogs saved that day were Harley’s own son and daughter.
The campaign continued into this year, and according to the NMDR website has brought in more than $200,000 dollars — enough to fund the rescues of 364 puppy mill dogs.
Harley is a hero to all the dogs he’s helping save and to the more than 58,000 Facebook friends who follow his every adorable move. Taylor is pleased to see so many people connecting with her little survivor. She hopes Harley can help end the cruel practices at puppy mills by bringing attention to the gruesome reality the caged dogs face.
“Harley’s mission is just to spread the word. The more people that know, the better the chance of changing the laws,” explains Taylor. “I would love to see it happen in Harley’s lifetime.”
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.
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