Mill Dogs-Let Us Not Forget
Updated: May 5
Raw frustration traveled the long and winding road of my heart as I drove away from a recent dog auction in Knoxville, Iowa. The auction took place at a commercial breeding facility owned by a former HSUS Horrible Hundred Breeder. Pulling out of the driveway, I carried with me a powder keg of emotions.
The videocassette of my mind replayed the imagery that surrounded me while I stood on the breeder’s property. As a dog mom, advocate and a volunteer with Bailing Out Benji, I stepped off into new territory as I walked through the kennels. Carrying a nineteen-page pamphlet with a list of the two hundred and thirty-five dogs being auctioned off, I locked eyes with the many dogs barking and scratching at their kennel door. My emotions swung from one side of the kennel to the other. Dissecting each part of this other world, my senses deciphered each aspect of the new experience. My nose was entrenched in the smell of ammonia and feces mixed with the fear and anxiety shown by many of the dogs. My eyes took in the sight of dogs whose future rested on a system that is poorly regulated. Staring into the eyes of a poodle recently shaved down to the skin, I drew my own conclusion; the hairless dog was previously too matted to put on the auction block. On this day, my mind would need to override my emotions, yet there was one dog whose life will be forever etched in my memory.
Dog #73 was a four-year-old female Cocker Spaniel. Standing on the wire flooring of the kennel attached to the outside of the reefer trailer, the dog stood shaking uncontrollably. Reaching my hand through the wire walls of the kennel, I tried to soothe both our emotions. As the sun cast its rays against her body, I watched as she ran circles trying to chase the shadows on the ground. It was evident the emotional toll of being caged was being paid for by this young dog. Her behavior spoke of the need for change.
As the auction began, I tasted the bitter fruit of the sale. Sitting on the metal bleachers underneath a large white tent, I watched as the bidding began. One by one, the auctioneer gave a brief overview of each dog’s condition. From missing teeth to under bites and cloudy eyes to missing testicles, dogs were placed on the table. For many of the dogs who stood on the table with their feet splayed, I could see this was their first experience on a flat surface. Unfortunately for many, it could also be the last.
Seated in the middle of this profit driven event, I soaked up the offensive language. Like a sponge, I clung to each tidbit of info. I listened as dogs birth years were given in terms of a model car. I caught the auctioneer’s intent as he tried to garner more money for the younger dogs through his words, “Let us not forget that these dogs have their whole lives in front of us.” I witnessed the auctioneer jokingly make fun of a nine-year-old pregnant Shih Tzu, he nicknamed cockeyed. I cringed as I watched an Amish man cinch the winning bid for a dog, knowing the young pup will be treated like livestock. Hanging on each word of the auctioneer, I took notice of those pregnant dogs standing on the table before me, dogs who had given birth just five months earlier. Each of the them, I reasoned, is like a seed that brings forth a new crop every few months.
I chose to attend the event to see a dog auction first hand rather than to buy any dogs. Situated between the breeders and the rescue groups, I observed the varying levels of humanity. I sat there confused by a system that allows a dog, who I view as a family member, to be treated as an agricultural commodity.
At the end of the day, I carried with me one final thought. The noise of the commercial breeding business will not drown out my compassion. For each of those dogs who have their wholes lives in front of them, I will continue to be their voice.