A compelling true story of one dog's rescue from a Pennsylvania puppy mill
This touching narrative uses the poignant makeover of Gracie, a sickly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to tell the story of America's hidden puppy mills-commercial kennels that breed dogs in horrific living conditions and churn out often-diseased and emotionally damaged puppies for sale.
Saving Gracie chronicles how one little dog is transformed from a bedraggled animal worn out from bearing puppies into a loving, healthy member of her new family; and how her owner, Linda Jackson, is changed from a person who barely tolerated dogs to a woman passionately determined not only to save Gracie's life, but also to get the word out about the millions of American puppy mill dogs who need our help.
- A touching story of survival and redemption
- Written by award-winning journalist Carol Bradley
- Newsworthy issues call animal lovers to action
Join journalist Carol Bradley as she draws back the curtain on the world of illegal puppy production in Saving Gracie.
Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Author Carol Bradley
What are puppy mills?
Author Carol Bradley with her two dogs
Puppy mills are commercial kennels where dogs are treated like livestock, forced to produce puppies in often-squalid conditions. Puppy mills vary in size – they can contain as few as a dozen dogs or more than 1,000. Any breeder who subjects his or her dogs to filthy cages or runs, extreme temperatures, inadequate food and water and little to no socialization or veterinary care is operating a puppy mill. How many puppy mills are there in the United States?
The Humane Society of the United States estimated in 2008 that there were 10,000 puppy mills in America. The head of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle, now believes the number is closer to 15,000. Aren't puppy mills illegal?
Surprisingly, no. In most states breeders may confine dogs to wire cages their entire lives if they so choose. Breeders can be charged with animal cruelty if they fail to provide adequate food or water, but there aren't nearly enough federal or state inspectors to keep tabs on shoddy operators, and even when they're discovered, they are often given a free pass. What is it about Gracie that made you want to tell her story?
Gracie is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed renowned for their companionship -- they're total lapdogs. I was struck by the resilience a small, vulnerable dog would need to muster to overcome a life as traumatic as the one Gracie had led. I was intrigued, too, by her new owner, Linda Jackson, a woman who hadn't necessarily wanted a dog—she adopted Gracie to satisfy her kids—but who wound up being changed forever by the experience. How do breeding dogs like Gracie become available?
Breeders are sometimes willing to sell at a discount dogs that have spent years having puppies. Rescue groups also purchase some of these dogs at auctions and then try to adopt them out. Puppy mill survivors aren't for everyone, but people who have the patience to work with a traumatized dog often find the experience deeply gratifying. Letter to Readers from Carol Bradley
Gracie after being rescued
From the attic office of my home in Great Falls, Montana, I have a bird's-eye view of Memorial Park, where occasionally a dog will sprint by, happy to be alive. It's heart-warming to watch because I am mindful that across America, hundreds of thousands of dogs are kept in cages, never once allowed the simple freedom of running through grass.
As a newspaper reporter in my former life, I covered the story of a puppy mill -- a large-volume dog-breeding operation involving 180 neglected and abused collies. My husband and I had two shelties at the time, and the similarities between those sweet-tempered collies and my own dogs were distressing. Long after the breeders were convicted and the dogs adopted out to new homes, the dark side of dog-breeding still haunted me. I began searching for the right dog, the right case to tell the story of puppy mills in America. The trail led me to Gracie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy mill in Pennsylvania. After six years of living in a cage, giving birth to puppies, Gracie finally had a chance at a new life. But could she overcome the cruelty of her past? Saving Gracie
is told "Law and Order"-style, with a description of life in a puppy mill, then segueing to the raid on Gracie's kennel, the trial that ensued against the breeder, Gracie's first exposure to kindness in a shelter and then to her new life with Linda Jackson, a woman who hadn't particularly wanted a dog. As Linda and Gracie struggle to adjust to one another, the state of Pennsylvania undergoes a bitter battle to curtail puppy mills.
Like most of you, I love stories where good triumphs over evil, where perseverance carries the day. Saving Gracie
is that kind of book.
Journalist Bradley exposes the hidden world of puppy mills, where dogs are caged like chickens and forced to repeatedly breed until they die. Unlike most factory farm animals that endure painful confinement and are slaughtered within six months of birth, mill breeding dogs are sentenced to many years of existence in deplorable conditions; many don't learn to walk because their cages don't give them enough room to stand. Bradley details the raid of one such mill, Mike-Mar Kennel in Oxford, Pa., which led to the seizure of more than 300 dogs, mostly adults that had languished for years with broken limbs and untreated diseases. Dog 132, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel later named Gracie, was rescued during the raid. Nearly blind, with decayed teeth and a strong aversion to human contact, Gracie flourished under the love and patience of her adoptive owner, Linda Jackson. Bradley's powerful narrative will tug at heartstrings, raise public awareness, and, hopefully, help put an end to puppy mills. (Feb.)
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