The court ordered that 45 of the 66 dogs be returned to the breeding kennel from which they came. The remaining would stay with rescue, as evidence.
There were tears everywhere as the rescue groups returned the dogs. Posts on facebook included final pictures of freedom, tearful goodbyes, and expressions of anger and disbelief. Rinthea took this last photograph of Lily. The sadness is evident on Rinthea's face. The joy of not-knowing is evident on Lily's face, and a spark in her eye that grew in that home was obvious. You can even see a clown-like smile on that face.
The saddest part of this story is that prior to the rescue, these dogs had no idea what they were missing. Now they did know. They knew the comfort of a couch cushion, and the warmth of a guardian's lap. Would they now miss that life? I believe they would. I have seen evidence of long term memory in animals too many times to disregard it.
As time passed, the rescues continued doing their routine rescue work, but the dogs they were forced to return were not forgotten. The remaining 16 dogs were purchased from the breeder and given to the rescue groups. No charges were ever filed about the case. The USDA inspection report from that raid is 17 pages long, immortalizing the conditions of the kennel on that day. Read the report here.The 45 dogs that went back to the breeder remained in the facility, to live their lives as commercial breeding stock. Lily was one of those dogs.
Four months passed, and Lily was not forgotten. Safe Haven of Iowa County had many fundraisers. On the back of their t-shirts were the words "Team Lily" in her memory, and to affirm the promise that was made to her on the day of her return. Lily would not be forgotten.
Facebook has made the world a smaller place for families, old friends, businesses, and of course, for rescue groups as well. We all have networks that we join together and maintain in case we need help, or can give help. As the word of the raid spread, and the knowledge of the Boston Terriers was made visible, a Boston Terrier rescue stepped up to offer their assistance if needed. When shelters or all-breed rescues can place a purebred into a breed-specific rescue, it opens up a cage to rescue another animal in need. In this way, we work together. When the rescue learned of Lily's return to the breeding facility, along with the many other dogs, they were saddened and sympathized with all the heartbroken foster families.
Four months later, the same Boston Terrier rescue group called Rinthea.
"I think we found your dog."
"What dog? What are you talking about?"
"I think we know where Lily is."
Rinthea was shocked, excited, and determined to find Lily and bring her home. The Boston Terrier rescue was looking at a puppy mill auction's inventory and recognized the breeder's name. It was the name of the person to whom Lily belonged. They called Rinthea. The groups shared information to confirm identity of Lily and several other dogs by using their microchip identification numbers. Lily was up for auction by Southwest Auction Service and the auction would take place in Ashland, Nebraska. The breeder was driving over 5 hours with these dogs to get rid of them for good. It was time for Miss Lily to come home.
Fundraising began immediately, in order to enable the purchase of Lily at the auction. Money was also designated for other dogs that had been fostered after the raid. The Boston Terrier rescue group said that in their experience, most dogs can be purchased at this auction for an average of $40.
Fundraising is always the most difficult part of the job for rescues. Once the funds were maxed out, Lily could go to the highest bidder, even if it wasn't a rescue group. If you are not familiar with dog auctions, visit http://www.youtube.com/ and watch some first hand. Breeders auction off dogs they no longer want, and they are purchased by other breeders. Some rescues visit these auctions, but even in the rescue world, this is very controversial. Some rescues believe that if you get one dog away from the breeders, it is a life saved. Other rescues believe that putting money into the pockets of these breeders, even at a dog auction, then you are perpetuating the problem rather than fighting it. I tend to be middle of the road on this, as they are both valid arguements. But in this case, these dogs had already experienced the warmth of a good home and loving families. They deserved to be brought back to the life of a beloved pet.
The fundraising continued. The status updates on facebook reflected the anticipation that we all had for the big day.
Would Lily come home? Would the rescue group be outbid by another breeder sending Lily off to a new kennel, a new cage, and a lifetime of puppy production? What was her destiny?
To be continued...
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