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Puppy Love
May 5, 2010

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Laurie Hagey of the North Central Iowa Humane Society has seen kindness from the community in generous measures in the past few weeks. Laurie received a phone call from the Executive Director of the Humane Society in Sioux City asking if they could help rescue a number of dogs from a puppy mill near Nashua. A commercial breeder was prepared to voluntarily close down his operation and relinquish about 300 dogs.

Laurie and a team of 7 jumped in vans and headed west. It was the first recue for the team and they were given advice about participating in the rescue. No crying, no facial expressions of any kind, treat the owners with respect, don't make any comments about the conditions of the facility or of the dogs, just go in, do the job, get the dogs out and go home. After an exhausting day, the crew from the Fort Dodge area rescued 40 dogs!

In the past few weeks there have been some emotional highs and lows. I asked Laurie about the kindness she has seen through this experience. She wrote:

It is not unusual for Iowans to respond to calls for help from neighbors. How many times have we seen legions of farmers turn out to plant or harvest fields owned by a fallen friend? How many soup suppers have we all attended to benefit a neighbor who is ill, how many raffle tickets have we purchased for a cause that needed support?

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at the remarkable response by local individuals, businesses and families when our Humane Society was asked to participate in a Puppy Mill rescue. I wasn't surprised, but in the days since, I've been humbled, honored and extremely moved by the wealth of that response.

I answered yes to that call for help without giving it any thought at all. I knew that our employees and local volunteers would respond, and we did. In less than two hours after receiving the call, we had seven volunteers and six SUV's and vans on the way to the Nashua area, and eight hours later we were home with forty-one frightened, but lucky, puppy mill survivors.

The next morning, Dr. Cully Holm, DVM, was there bright and early doing health checks on the dogs. The Messenger sent a reporter and a photographer to tell our story. Then, our community sprang to action.

By the next day, someone sent pizza for all the rescue workers, and gifts of dog food, treats, newspapers, beds, blankets, toys, bowls, and money began arriving.

By the week-end, professional groomers were on hand to give baths and haircuts to our new furry friends. Volunteers came to help (and still come every day), cleaning cages and offering gentle hands and soft words to frightened and confused dogs. And, by the way, we had two new puppies, born two days after we rescued their mother!

By the time a week had gone by, seven of the dogs were in foster homes, four had been adopted, and all were clean, well-fed, warm, dry, and safe. And, amazingly, more than $10,000.00 had been contributed to help care for them.

Our animal shelter has survived for over thirty years, and is now thriving, because of the kindness of north central Iowans. Because we all understand that companion animals have no voice, they have no choice, that they exist to provide us with unconditional love and we owe them the same.

One of the puppy mill survivors is a brindle Boxer we've named Liberty. She's still very unsure, but today she refused to get back in her kennel, and instead licked my face and leaned against me, letting me know that she'd rather be with me than be alone.

That's a big step for Liberty, and a big moment for me.

Kindness certainly has it's rewards.

The rescue and the story about Liberty and the other dogs is a heart-warming story that has touched many lives. Laurie and the others work tirelessly to treat these animals with kindness. She sums it up best in an email she wrote just days after the rescue about the rewards of their efforts:

"They'll learn that humans can provide love instead of pain; that the world has sunshine and fresh air just for them, that toys are meant to be played with, and that a human touch can be enjoyed, not feared. Whatever it takes, it will be worth it. Tomorrow will be a better day for every one of these dogs. There is hope for them, finally. They get a new life. We get the satisfaction of knowing we made a real difference."

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