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Puppy mill dogs still need permanent homes

Months after his rescue from a puppy mill outside Wheatland, N.D., little Buick's socialization skills have improved, though he remains cautious about strangers -- and he still needs a permanent home.

Kaye John holds Buick Sunday at her home
Kaye John, cofounder of Prairie Paws Rescue, holds Buick Sunday at her home outside Jamestown. Buick and five of the other nine dogs Prairie Paws took in still need homes after their rescue from a puppy mill near Wheatland in July. (Kari Lucin / The Jamestown Sun)

Months after his rescue from a puppy mill outside Wheatland, N.D., little Buick's socialization skills have improved, though he remains cautious about strangers -- and he still needs a permanent home.

More than 174 dogs were saved from a breeding operation in July, and Prairie Paws Rescue took in nine of them.

While three of the dogs have been adopted, six -- including quiet, reserved Buick -- have yet to find homes.

"Buick takes a while to warm up," said Kaye John, co-founder of Prairie Paws, who is fostering Buick at her home outside Jamestown. "... he adjusted pretty well. He's a sweetheart."

He's also a little bit shy around people he doesn't know, and sometimes still has accidents indoors.


Those are common problems among puppy mill dogs, and anyone hoping to adopt one of remaining Wheatland dogs will need to be extra patient and willing to spend time with them on both socialization skills and house training, John said.

"You're not going to just turn them around in a few days' time," she said.

Many of the dogs seized in July by Cass County sheriff's deputies were undernourished and neglected, with fur so matted the animals couldn't even move.

And while the dogs Prairie Paws took in have improved, many still bear the scars of their puppy mill days, often in the form of health problems requiring special food or other medical treatment, said those caring for them.

Mercedes, for example, had been used as a breeder, and when she was rescued, one of her eyes was matted shut, and had been for so long that the eye was starting to close.

Now the eye is open again, but she still needs eyedrops to keep it that way, said Stacey Ellingson, who is fostering Mercedes southeast of Edgeley.

"She's a sweetheart. She loves to be petted and on her lap," Ellingson said.

But she also gobbles her food down as quickly as she can, without chewing, as a result of her time at the puppy mill. That could cause bloating or twisting of the intestines, and once, Mercedes tried to swallow a rawhide chew whole and started choking. Ellingson had to give the dog rescue breathing.


When she feels stressed, Mercedes tends to curl up in a quiet place and tune out everything around her, to the extent that her rescuers incorrectly thought she was deaf.

"She's got her little self-preservation things, her coping mechanisms she had to develop to survive where she was at," said Ellingson.

Some of the younger Wheatland dogs have had an easier time adjusting to life outside the puppy mill.

Porsche was adopted by Terry McCleary, of Ashley, N.D.

"It's taken a little bit of an adjustment period, but actually, she's come out of her shell quite nicely," McCleary said. "... she's pretty much a normal puppy. She's gotten over the shyness, she's socialized quite well, now, I think."

Porsche still has some issues with small children and people wearing cowboy boots, but now McCleary brings her to work every day at his business, McCleary Lumber Inc.

"She gets along with pretty much everybody. If there's a strange customer that comes in, now and again she'll bark at them, but that's normal. She's just a normal dog," McCleary said, calling her a "very good family companion."

Chevy and Royce, renamed Blaze, have also been adopted, John said, while Buick and the other five Wheatland dogs remain in foster care.


Denali and Mazerati are being fostered in Minot, where they attend agility classes mostly to learn how to socialize. Model-T hasn't found a permanent family yet, and neither has Duzy, the tiny white Maltese who initially hated being touched.

"A lot of the foster homes have gotten them as far as they are going to get them," John said. "They're going to need (adopters) who are dog-savvy."

She and the other foster families with Prairie Paws still have high hopes for the Wheatland dogs.

"She'd be a wonderful pet. They're just going to have to be patient," Ellingson said of Mercedes. "She's a wonderful, wonderful dog. She's sweet."

For more information about any of the approximately 25 dogs and six cats Prairie Paws Rescue has available -- including kittens, puppies and large and small breed dogs -- visit visit prairiepawsrescue.com, email prairiepawsrescue@hotmail.com or call 320-4553.

Related Topics: PETS
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