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By Paul Vornholt

When our team was asked to help with a puppy mill situation in Missouri, we jumped at the opportunity. Amy and I met at DCHS at 4 am and left on the 9 hour trip to Humansville, MO where the recused dogs were being temporarily housed until they could be transferred to shelters to be adopted. Having left so early we arrived in time to help the team from the Bissell Foundation prepare the dogs for travel. We were there to bring 16 of the dogs back to Wisconsin, but we found a facility with well over a hundred dogs. We jumped in to help where we could. Together with other shelters and rescues we were able to get every single dog out of the holding facility and on their way to a new life.

I will admit that while in Missouri I did feel like I was in a living Sarah Mclaughlin music video, but I don’t want you to focus on the rough shape these pups were in, but on their eventual outcomes. Out of the 16 dogs that we brought back with us, we don’t believe that any of them had walked on grass until they arrived at our shelter. Everyone of them getting a chance to take a bathroom break as soon as we arrived home and they were able to feel soft grass under their paws for the first time.

When get got back here to the shelter the real work began. Many of the older dogs needed dental work, one needing serious work on his jaw. Everyone of the dogs were given a full medical exam and were given all of their vaccinations. All of the longer haired dogs needed haircuts. Marley, a full-sized poodle, had to be sedated to be able to shave all the hair off of him without harming him in the process. It was a lot of shaving and we ended up taking over 5 lbs of fur off of his body. The very next day a donor came to the shelter and made Marley the first puppy mill dog to go home. I watched with my own eyes as this abused animal decided to trust a human, laying his head in the donor’s hands. I cried as I watched Marley climb into his new family’s car. And I kept crying as I received updates on how he was doing. Marley has gone from just a breeder, to a family dog that sleeps in bed…and I am sure he will stop eating shoes…eventually.

And then there was Schmidt…that dog was pretty scary. Amy described him as the closest she has ever come to being bitten. I was honestly worried about how this dog would do in a new home. All of this anger was packed into a little 7-pound Maltese. Thankfully he started to come around at DCHS, but I was still worried. Who would possibly want such a grumpy little dog? But one family did, one family was willing to take a chance on a dog that no one else ever had. Schmidt has repaid that chance with love and affection. My favorite moment of this entire year was getting a picture of the angry dog as happy as can be and wearing a sailor suit.

I know that many of you have heard parts of this story, some of you are in this story, but all of you are part of this story. Your support is what made this trip possible. Your support is why 16 dogs are living in new loving homes. Your support is what makes Dane County Humane Society a place where second chances start. Thank you for making this story possible.