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Letter: Life in a puppy mill for a Minnesota dog

(Editor's Note: This letter is about a shelter dog being fostered by Nancy Stokes of Ottertail. She wrote the story "as a protest against the 'dirty little secret' industry of horrific puppy mills in Minnesota that are a rampant cancer of greed and ignorance.")

I am Sara and from the beginning, I have always tried to do what I was told.

I don't remember much from the time when I was a baby, only that I was always so cold and hungry. There were loud noises, metal gates clanging, buckets banging, dogs barking and whining, howling and then strange sounds followed by a cracking or thumping and even louder yelping. There was never any quiet or calm. My nerves were constantly untied, but when my gate was opened and I was told to get back while a bowl of food was put down, I did as I was told.

The ground smelled bad. It was always covered with my urine and feces. There was a cold, hard, round tube to give me cover from wind and snow that I slept in and sometimes, especially, when I was ready to have my precious ones it would have wonderful smelling cut straw inside. Oh, I enjoyed my precious ones. They smelled so good and they made me feel like I was the most special creature on Earth. They were warm and they cuddled me but when a strange one entered and told me to stay while he took them from me, I did as I was told.

When the strange ones would come and bark loud at me, I would try to understand what they were saying and I would follow them because I knew I should always do what I was told. It was a sense in me, I just knew. They would mate me with Henry or Tarsus and they were always dirty and rough. Henry was old and often would bite me. Tarsus, younger, would pin me into submission over and over again. Then later, I would be led away, returned to my tube with the gate clanging behind me as the strange ones made whining noises while walking away. I was hurt and alone but I did not whimper, for I knew I had to do as I was told.

I would get extra food during that waiting time for my precious ones. That was always good. But I was always so cold. I knew I would have to wait for that extra straw until it was time for the little ones, so I would curl as tight as I could and hope the sun would shine to warm the cold metal tube. On days when the flies were not biting so bad or the ground cold and wet with snow or rain, I would lie outside in the luxury of the sun enjoying its softness on my skin and bones. I was warm! I waited during that time for the little ones, but something happened. I felt tired and ill. I didn't want to eat. I was so thirsty. I felt something was wrong and that maybe I hadn't done as I was told.

The strange ones came and whined and barked and they led me away. They put me in the back of their loud cart that they used to bring and carry dogs away. I was so scared, I peed. I knew it was wrong to pee on something that wasn't mine but I couldn't help it, I was just so frightened and I didn't feel good. We were going so fast, I felt I was going to fall out. I was being thrown and tumbled from one side to the other. There were cans and sacks of sharp metal spikes, glass bottles, sodden bags of rotten dog food and feces, old straw and blankets. Dust and rocks were flying into the back of the cart, hitting me. Then the cart stopped and the strange ones pulled on my collar and threw me to the ground and they took it off as I slunk, sure, that I would be dealt with severely for marking their cart with my urine. I was told to stay, and I did -- for I always did what I was told, didn't I?

I stayed, I waited, but they never came back with my food or water. I was so hungry and so very cold. I walked and then ran when I could. I ate some grass but my stomach was so sick. I heard quiet noises, the barking of strange ones. They had come back to feed me. Yes, they had! No, they hadn't, these were different strange ones, and I was afraid. What if they killed and ate me? What was I to do? Oh no, they saw me. They barked, "Come," so I did, because I do what I am told. Now I will be killed and eaten.

One of the strange ones had a softer bark, and longer hair. She smiled and it was not scary to me. Her voice was soothing and quiet. She touched me and I was shaking so bad I just could not stand still. She said, "Ticks, poor thing is covered with ticks and she's cold. Look how she is shivering." Then a miracle happened. A soft fluffy fur was brought down all around me and covered me and the strange one hugged me and kissed my head. I was warm! The other strange one came with a bowl of something that smelled so incredible that to this day I have not smelled it again since. He set it down before me to eat and I did, because I do what I am told.

They brought me in their cart to a place where there are many dogs and cats and strange ones, and there is much noise and I was again scared at first, but I soon learned that I can be warm here and clean and have the food that I need. Yes, the strange ones bark and whine but they also soothe and hug, and kiss my head. I hope I will have another strange one come though and carry me to her place where there is quiet and calm. In the meantime, there are many warm fluffy furs and when I am told to lay down on them, I gladly do so, for I always do what I am told.

-- Nancy Stokes, Ottertail