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Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills Hardcover – March 1, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Author Carol Bradley with her two dogs

What are puppy mills?
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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Howell Book House; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470447583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470447581
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,414,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Groner VINE VOICE on February 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is more an expose and the story of one court case than it is the story of one dog. Bradley, an experienced reporter, goes into depth about the background of a raid against a puppy mill in southeastern Pennsylvania, the raid itself, and the aftermath of the raid. She also focuses on legislative changes in that state to crack down on dog abusers -- changes that owe a great deal to the energy and support of Gov. Ed Rendell and his wife, Marjorie.

Puppy mills are a serious problem, and their victims carry the scars throughout their lives, in many cases. I help care for a Westie that is a rescue dog, and I see these effects daily. Bradley is better at explaining the social causes, the lobbying battles, and the legal defenses than she is at telling the story of a single dog. But this is still a must-read for anyone who cares for animals.
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Well, I'm pretty sure she is.

I live in Central PA, surrounded by many of the puppy mills discussed in this book. I've passed the billboards showing the inside of a dishwasher, telling us that a dog is allowed to live in a crate this size for their entire life. Linda Jackson, Gracie's owner, and I have been friends for many years.

But I have to admit, I've turned a blind eye to the horrific problem of puppy mills.

Like many of you, I read the stories, heard the news reports and could not believe that this horrible treatment of animals was going on so prolifically in my state. I just didn't know what to do about it. Like many things, it feels like an overwhelming task for one person to delve into.

But there is hope, as is evident by many of the heroes in Carol Bradley's book.

Bradley writes in an easy to read methodical way, giving facts to illustrate the problem balanced with the personal stories of specific dogs, like Gracie. Let's be clear though, Gracie's story is not the focus of the book but the thread that weaves its way through the big picture of the abundance of puppy mills and the greediness of their business owners.

Many of the stories are so sickening that it is hard to believe people can treat animals with such callousness. But if you've ever watched Animal Cops, you know that many people don't have a conscience and treat their animals worse than dirt. As an avid animal lover, a regular contributor to WWF and other animal welfare groups, it is hard to think of the thousands of animals suffering every day.

Which brings me to Izzy - who by the way is my profile picture. Our 14 year old standard poodle had been gone for about two years. Our son was 8 and our daughter was 3.
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"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Saving Gracie tells three stories. It begins with a raid on the puppy mill operation run by the ironically named Michael Wolf. Once famous in the world of show dogs, Wolf became notorious when, in 2004, 337 dogs were seized from his Mike-Mar "kennel" in 2004. Both the puppies and their parents lived in squalid conditions that would turn the stomach of any right-thinking person: 24/7 confinement in small wire cages, which were stacked 4-high - the feces from the dogs in the higher cages literally dropping on other dogs and getting caught in the mesh flooring; no ventilation in the room, leading to unbearable odors; dogs forced to breed non-stop until they were spent. Some 2.5 million dogs are pumped out of puppy mills every year, and 4 million shelter dogs are euthanized each year. Do the math.

The book also details the ongoing problem of puppy mills, most obvious in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a location with a high number of Amish and Menonite breeders who regard the dogs as nothing more than a crop, comparable to an ear of corn. The standard Amish practice of shooting a dog which has reached the end of its pup-bearing life blows the lid off their bucolic image. While Pennsylvania, where reform legislation has been enacted, is the focus of this book, other states with similar issues - Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and I'm ashamed to say Ohio - are also discussed. The American Kennel Club, which lobbied against reform until the publicity damaged its public image, is also briefly mentioned.
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The entire time reading this book, my own Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Arthur, was snoring on my lap. You see, I have a dog who in personality is much like Gracie. He had come from a breeder who no longer wanted him in her program at nearly 6 yrs old. Arthur was not a family pet (as advertised) he was a breeding dog who was no longer wanted like an old pair of shoes. Arthur is fearful, clingy, and in general, a non-typical Cavalier personality.

I knew when I got him something was up with the breeder, things just "weren't right" when I got there. So what to do? Of course bring him home and give him the best possible life I could. I have a job that lets me mostly work from home, I take him EVERYWHERE with me, so it's rare for me to be out of his sight. And that makes us both happy.

So when I saw this book I was really intrigued to see if I could get some insight that might help me understand Arthur and to help him gain more confidence. This book is somewhat misleading in that you think it's a story about one dog and the lady who loved her. In reality, about 45 of the 242 pages are on Linda, her family, and their dogs (including Gracie). Yet somehow that is enough.

The majority of the book is about the puppy mill industry in general, many many heart breaking examples, and some great help at the end to give you ideas where to go if you want to help stop this horror. Yes, as many other reviews said, in some ways this book is tedious with details that really don't matter (who drove which can to the rescue that day, etc). I think that's just the resilt of the authors extensive time as a newspaper reporter's style. I didn't really mind that.
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