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How We Rescued an Abused Puppy
Puppy was bald and had suffered injuries
When Millie arrived at our house, she was just skin and bone.
A pathetic, seven-month-old puppy, she weighed only as much as a dog half her age should.
Her dull tan coat was speckled with bald patches and scars where mites had burrowed into her skin, while she had red, runny eyes and her tongue was split.
Perhaps worst of all - the end of her tail had been burned and was bald, looking as if it had maybe been held forcibly to an electric fire.
It was as if she had endured many beatings
She was a nervous wreck and when she first met our other dogs - a fairly friendly bunch - she urinated with fear and sat in the corner, looking at the wall, dithering uncontrollably and crying to herself.
She didn't respond to kind words and sat with her back to us all, flinching if anyone raised a hand to stroke her, as if she had endured plenty of beatings.
Millie, barely recognisable as a Sharpei, was the victim of an unscrupulous owner who cared nothing about the dog's welfare, but instead wanted to make a fast buck.
He had been hawking her around and trying to make money to line his own pockets, aiming to sell her for several hundred pounds.
He had let her fall into such a pitiful state, he was lucky she was still alive.
Millie had malnutrition and many other health issues
We ended up taking her in through a "friend of a friend" - who intervened because he was sick of seeing the pup being kicked downstairs.
We bought her for one-sixth the original asking price, because her owner decided he wasn't going to make any more money out of her and he was sick of hawking her around.
We just said, "We're taking her," and that was that. There was to be no debate. Had he not surrendered her willingly, we would have gone through other channels to gain ownership.
I could not believe anyone could perpetrate these terrible acts of cruelty on a defenceless pup. She was a nervous wreck.
The first thing we had to do was take her to the vet's, where we were told she was suffering from malnutrition, among many other health problems, all caused by neglect. She had worms, fleas, ticks, sore ears and a dry skin condition that had never been treated.
The vet said he couldn't tell for sure how her tail was damaged, though said it might have been burned. He said her tongue had most likely been split in a fight. There was no way of telling what had happened to her to cause the injuries.
The physical scars healed but the mental ones linger on
After a course of antibiotics, eye drops, ear drops, steroids for her skin, flea and tick treatments, worming tablets and medicated baths, the physical problems cleared up over a period of a few weeks.
But the mental scars remained and the first time she had an "accident" and urinated in the house, she crawled behind the settee on her belly, obviously scared she would endure a beating. Of course, she didn't. We just encouraged her to go outside when necessary and she was soon fully house-trained.
We had her spayed as soon as we could.
A year later, Millie was truly settled in our happy, animal-filled home, a picture of health and happiness and unrecognisable from the scrappy little puppy who had scurried through our front door that first day.
It was not easy, however, as she was still terrified of most people, especially men, barking uncontrollably if anyone came to the house, sometimes shaking and appearing very distressed.
But she is the most loving dog you could ever meet and is great with children and our cats.
She has to sleep in the bed, under the covers, with her own pillow and is very much a creature of habit, enjoying her treats in a specific place in the hall and liking nothing better than to lounge on the settee or in front of the halogen heater.
She loves long walks and runs non-stop, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with our collie, Blue, who chases a football, with Millie running along behind barking because she cannot catch him!
The animals' well being is all that matters
Millie is fascinated by the cats and thinks she is "mum" to all four of them. In particular, she loves Salt, our youngest kitten. Every morning it's a time of great excitement as Millie thunders downstairs, has her treats and then runs back upstairs again when she hears Salt getting up and greets her warmly.
If any of the younger dogs are unwell, she will go and lick their face, or sit with them. She is even "mum" to the guinea pig!
I am so happy we were able to save her and give her such a happy life, as I believe the animals' welfare is all that matters and they all deserve to have a wonderful existence.
Millie enjoying her walk
Horrific cases of animal cruelty in the news
Millie is one of the lucky ones, saved from a life of neglect and abuse. But what about the ones who weren't so lucky?
In my 18 years working in the local newspaper industry, I heard and reported on many true horror stories relating to animals.
I don't mean cases of "accidental" cruelty, where some well-meaning, but ultimately incapable person has taken on a house full of pets and realised they can't look after them all properly.
I mean truly horrific cases of deliberate acts of violence toward our four-legged friends that beggar belief.
The ones that have stuck in my mind include the four-month-old Jack Russell who was "annoying" his drug addict owner. So the owner beat the pup with a spade until he appeared
dead and buried him in a field near his home.
A neighbour saw the burial and called police.
When the helpless pup's body was dug up, he was found to have died not from the beating, but from suffocation on soil, having come round and tried to dig his way out.
Thug killed dog by rupturing his spleen
In another case, a woman's boyfriend had kicked her elderly dog several times in the side, for no apparent reason.
Neighbours reported to police hearing a dog screaming, but when the officers arrived at the house, the 12-year-old dog was already dead.
Even worse, the owner claimed her lifelong pet had died of old age in an inexplicable bid to save her boyfriend's skin.
A postmortem examination revealed the collie had died a lingering and painful death from a ruptured spleen.
Why would anyone want to protect the brute that did this? Even if I found a member of my own family had abused an animal, there would be no protecting them. They would suffer the consequences of their actions.
Judges' hands tied by inadequate cruelty laws
The latter was the only case of cruelty I ever heard in which the perpetrator received a jail sentence.
Normally, their hands tied by inadequate laws, judges can order only that the aggressors are fined and banned from keeping pets for life.
Yet how on earth would this be policed? Who could say, 10 years down the line, at a different address, this killer would not fatally attack another helpless creature?
Always report animal cruelty to the authorities
I am a firm believer in much harsher sentences for people who carry out acts of cruelty to animals. I think jail should be the option every time.
Otherwise, one might be led to believe it doesn't matter as much, because it's "only an animal."
Whereas in reality, they have just as much right - if not more right - to be here as you and I have. Animals are all innocent and do not deliberately carry out acts of cruelty against other living beings as humans do - so why should they not be entitled to a long and happy life, free from fear and abuse?
I would advise anyone who knows of any animal being mistreated to report it to the police and animal cruelty investigators, such as the RSPCA. Don't turn a blind eye, because you could save a life by stepping in and doing something to help.
There are thousands of other dogs, cats and other animals in the same situation as Millie when we first found her and everyone must be extra vigilant.
I have always said that one person probably cannot make a huge difference to the world - but you CAN make a difference to one abused dog and become their world.
My beloved Millie passed away from old age in October 2017, after almost 12 happy years in our family. She was at home when she died, surrounded by her loved ones.
It broke my heart when I lost her and I didn't think I would ever recover from the pain. Even now, six months later, I feel like my life will never be the same again.
I guess all you can do, when you lose a loved one, is to try and remember the happy times and be thankful for all those good years together.
I'm so glad Millie came our way and was a ray of sunshine in our life.