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Spirit Ridge K9 Training & Rescue  

 “from simple beginnings come great dogs”. 


'Jackson' (Rescued October, 2008)

Few Canadians are aware that Québec, famous for its unique and fascinating historical and cultural heritage, has another, less desirable reputation. It is well-known among animal advocates as the worst region in the country for puppy mills.

On Friday, September 26, 2008 an investigation by Humane Society International/Canada, the Montreal SPCA and local law enforcement ended in a raid on what the director of emergency services called "the most horrific conditions of any puppy mill their team has ever encountered."

Scene from a Nightmare
When the team arrived on the scene, the smell of ammonia made it difficult to breathe and almost overpowered them. In one of the rooms, music was playing at unbearably loud levels to drown out the noise of the dogs’ desperate barking. Many of the animals were housed in a dark, cold basement.

In total, the investigation team found 110 living dogs, seven cats, one rabbit, and several dead dogs in the same cages with those who were barely hanging on. Ninety percent of the dogs were emaciated, with open sores and parasites, stacked in wire cages from floor to ceiling, some hidden behind closet doors.  

Out of the Desperation Rises 'Jackson'
Out in the sunshine and fresh air, many for the first time ever, the liberated animals were on their way to temporary shelters until a loving home could be found.  One of the fortunate survivors from this tragic scene was Jackson, a male American Cocker Spaniel who had lived in this dungeon of horrors for four long years.

In early October 2008, Spirit Ridge K9 Training & Rescue was contacted by Toronto Animal Services to assist in finding permanent homes for these innocent souls.  Spirit Ridge once again sprang into action, evaluated some of the dogs and found a perfect match for a couple who had been interested in adopting a homeless, shelter dog and had been in contact with us on and off for nearly a year.  Being 'rookie' handlers and having a very laid back and permissive lifestyle and low energy, we had not come up with a suitable match for them up to that point.  To their credit and unlike others who's enthusiasm is not contained and who rush out and get a dog not suited to their lifestyles only to later realize their horrible mistake, they patiently waited and took guidance from us. 

In assessing these poor dogs, the last people we thought might be suitable for any of them was this couple.  After all, we always recommend that dogs rescued from such horrific conditions NOT be showered immediately with unconditional love - which is the first inclination humans have.  This is almost always detrimental to the future relationship between the rescued dog and the new adoptive family.  Dogs do NOT live in the past - they live in the 'here and now' to borrow a favourite phrase from Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.  Only humans live in the past and that poses the greater obstacle in the rehabilitation of rescued animals.  Living in the past exudes weak energy which leads dogs to misinterpret it as weak leadership in the household, which also in turn is the beginning of all sorts of behavioural problems as dogs seek to fill the perceived (by them) leadership void.

In assessing Jackson, we felt that we had finally found the right match for Catherine & Gerrard of Norval, Ontario!  He had an unusually calm energy and, in spite his four year ordeal, was willing to give his unconditional love to a human household that was prepared to take him in.

When we introduced Jackson to Catherine and Gerrard it was 'love at first sight' ... we saw the twinkle in their eyes, the unmistaken look of a long term commitment to Jackson's needs and a willingness to listen to us on how to properly integrate him into their household that - up to now - only included three cats.  Jackson's furiously wagging stubby tail pretty well told us what was going through his mind and what his instincts told him about Catherine & Gerrard as well!  

Since October, and after a few handling and behavioural sessions (for the humans' benefit and not  Jackson's) we are happy to report that he is doing absolutely great!  He has gained back the weight that he needed to gain and managing to break all the hearts of anyone that meets him.  Jackson, who had never known love, play, good health or proper care, is now enjoying being part of a loving pack - romping around a 50 acre farm and living with a menagerie of friends including numerous barn cats, rabbits, chickens, horses and donkeys.  He is full of curiousity, never having seen other animals before and, reportedly, chasing the first falling snow flakes he has ever seen!

The moral of this rescue story?  That you should NOT support puppy mills by buying pets from ANY pet store no matter what they claim or what they say the origin of these animals is!  By buying dogs in pet stores, flea markets and other shady establishments you are condemning dogs like Jackson to a life of horrible conditions in caged dungeons with no hope of living any kind of normal life.  No sunshine, no medical care, little food, living amidst feces and other dead puppy mill animals.  So, the next time you feel compelled to give into your chilldrens' demands or you are tempted to walk in and buy that cute puppy in the window of a pet store, think of Jackson's story and remember the picture above.  Jackson was condemned to this life by consumers voting for the continuation of conditions like this by spending their money on that 'cute' pet store puppy.  Instead, look for reputable breeders who take the time to properly research breeding lines and carefully raise the puppies in a social and interactive environment.  Not only will you wind up with a healthier dog but you will have much fewer behavioural issues than you will have with a pet store dog!

Help make a difference.  Take action to shut down puppy mills permanently by not buying puppies at pet stores, flea markets and other shady establishments and help end this cycle of cruelty!

As a postscript and an indication of the type of health problems that can occur, about a month into his adoption, Jackson began to visibly limp and start to snap at Catherine and Gerrard.  Upon taking him to the vet and having an examination, it turns out that one of Jackson's dew claws had become 'ingrown' and was about two inches into his leg and had finally become infected!  The poor animal had been living with this pain for years and this had been missed by everyone (including the shelter he had been in, the initial veterinary examination, us, his new family - everyone!).  Jackson has since, recovered and has returned to his happy and fun loving state .....

Jim Tsitanidis,
K9 Trainer & Behavioural Consultant

Prepared: December 4, 2008