Three years ago this past June I got a phone call that changed my life. A friend I worked with was going to go and rescue a puppy from a large group of dogs that had been seized from a Puppy Mill operation in Spartanburg. Already having 3 dogs I asked if she had the time for another puppy. The emotion in her voice when she said how bad these dogs looked hit me immediately. She said she just couldn’t say no and asked if I wanted to go with her and hold the puppy on the way home so she could focus on driving. Did I? Want to go? Hold a Puppy? With her? Did I?
Does a bear shit in the woods? Does the Pope wear red shoes and a funny hat? Does Rose Kennedy own a black dress? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?
Immediately said yes and we jumped in the car and headed to Spartanburg. As we pulled up to the rescue organization’s building I was unprepared for what I saw. So many dogs had been seized from this puppy mill a large temporary tent had to be set up in order to house the rescue operation. After my friend Liza filled out her paperwork the bubbly and smiling worker took us over towards the entrance to the tent. She paused before walking through the flapped entrance of the tent and turned around. The bubbles and smiles were gone. She said some of the dogs we were going to see had been through a lot so just don’t let it get to you when you see them. Then she turned around and led us in.
I was not prepared for walking through that door. The overwhelming stench hit me immediately. It smelled a little like wet towels. Or like leftover food that had spoiled. But also a little like something else. I was not sure what it was at the time, but looking back on it now, I know what it was: fear. If there ever was a time I could smell emotions like most animals can it was that day. I smelled fear, and I never want to smell it again. Once we got to the point where we got accustomed to the smell I began to look around. The things I saw still haunt me to this day.
These dogs had not just been neglected and underfed. Many had been physically abused. They said some of the dogs had more than likely been forced to fight each other. Many looked as if they were on death’s door. These dogs had been grossly mistreated. That day I was filled with overwhelming sadness. When I think about it now it fills me with a blind rage that is hard to keep contained. If the
people bastards responsible for treating animals this way ever read this, I just want you to know one things. You are pieces of shit You are not worthy of the air the I breathe and you certainly aren’t worthy to breathe the same air as those dogs breathe.
Looking around I was heartbroken. Some dogs had to be shaved because their fur was matted and unclean. Other had bandages on their paws. I saw one dog who had to have an eye removed and the socket sown shut. As I saw these things I began to lose my breath. The tears started coming and I couldn’t stop and I began to gasp for breath. I was having a panic attack. As I choked back a sob I told Liza I would wait on her outside. I run out and I still couldn’t breathe. A man came over and stood with me holding a puppy. He kept telling me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. As I began to calm down I asked if that ever happens to other people. He told me I was the third person today who had to leave.
“This was one of the worst events in our history. In the 12 years I have been working here, I have yet to be a part of a puppy mill seizure this bad,” he said.
Once I calmed down he went back to caring for the animals instead of me and I found a little place to sit and wait on Liza and her new puppy. As I began to scroll through Facebook on my phone I zoned out of my surroundings and entered my own lille world. I was immediately jerked back to reality when I felt a weird sensation on my leg. I jumped up and I looked expecting to see something gross like a snake. Instead I saw the big brown eyes of a puppy on the tiniest body of a Boston Terrier. As he began to scamper away from me in fear I looked around. Seeing no shelter workers or volunteers I picked him up and went to find a worker.
As I approached the tent a worker saw me and yelled that he had been found. Somehow he had gotten away from the handlers when they were cleaning the pen that this little guy and the other puppies from his litter had been in. I was cradling him in my arms and as I went to hand him over to the worker his tiny little claws attached themselves to my t-shirt. As I went to detangle his claws from my shirt I looked at his eyes. These eyes spoke directly to my soul without even trying. They touched me in a way I still cannot fathom. I looked up at the woman and said I need some paperwork please. She wanted to put him back with the other puppies as I filled out my paperwork. I told her I was fine. I would hold him with my left hand and write with my right hand. When it was clear I wasn’t going to budge she brought me some paperwork. The rest is history.
In the car on the way home I held two puppies. Liza’s puppy and my own. We had to go by Petsmart on the way home. I had not planned on this. I had thought about getting my own dog before, but I had not made the decision to yet. I had no dog bed, or food, or toys or anything like that. Thankfully the workers at Petsmart helped me out and I felt like I had enough to get me at least through the next few days until I figured out what I would still need to get. As I pulled into the driveway and got him out of my car I let him explore everything- the front yard, the backyard, the deck, and inside the house. As the novelty of watching him explore his new surroundings wore off I waited on my roommate/landlord to come home from work. I rented my room in the house that Cameron owned and the sinking realization came in that I had forgotten to technically ask him if I could get a dog – this could end up with us both homeless.
Thankfully, I know my friends well and Cameron immediately smiled when he walked through the door. With that bullet dodged we went about the next few days of getting to know each other. I had yet to come up with a good name. I wanted it to be something good and not a normal dog name (Spot, Rover, Tank, etc.). Looking at the sweet little face he reminded me of a grumpy old man. So I went with one of the most bad ass grumpy old men of all time who starred in one of my all time favorite movies: Humphrey Bogart. I settled on Humphrey instead of calling him “Bogie” because I did not want people to assume I enjoy or like golf or find it interesting, because I don’t- I would rather watch paint dry.
After about a week of being with each other Humphrey and I were going through the motions but I didn’t really feel anything. I did not feel like I was connected to him or that he found me particularly interesting at all.I was wondering if it was because of his puppy mill past or if I was being a terrible dog parent, but I was disappointed. Then my friend Tyler and I decided a trip to Six Flags was in order. I did not yet know what to do with a puppy who can’t hold his bladder, but thankfully Tyler’s mom volunteered to keep him with her two dogs for the day. As we pulled away from her house, Humphrey looked like I had abandoned him. The heartbroken look in his eyes was so devastating that I almost told Tyler I couldn’t go. The entire trip I talked and wondered about how Humphrey was doing. Im sure it drove Tyler crazy, but as a good friend he got his mom to send picture updates.
When we got home, I am not sure who was more excited. Me or Humphrey. We finally had our bonding moment. After a long day full of hours feeling like that Boy from Homeward Homeward Bound waiting on Shadow to come limping over that hill, we were a family. And nothing was going to change that. This was what dreams were made of. Three years of memories to look back on I can confidently say this: I rescued Humphrey from a puppy mill and it was the greatest decision I have ever made. I rescued him, but the impact he had on me is just as big. We rescued each other.
Around the time I got Humph, I was in a rut. I wasn’t where I thought I should be in life and I was bored and frustrated with just about everything. He changed all of that. He made dealing with minutiae of daily life not as unbearable as it used to be. He was happy to see me and he didn’t want anything in return other than for me to throw the tennis ball until my arm falls off. As someone who is terrible at throwing or catching objects, he doesn’t ridicule me when the ball doesn’t go quite where I intended it to. He gladly chases after it and hops like a gazelle on the way back. He give me so much more than he takes (minus the time he ate my TOMS – I am still bitter about that) as well. When I am sad or upset about something he is always right there. HE will nestle up next to me and rest his paw on my hand.
After three years together, we know each other so well we and we have some of the same issues. Neither of us are morning people. It takes forever to get us up and moving. We can both clear a room with our digestive issues. We are fiercely protective of the things and people we love, and although we may not be the sharpest tack in the box (my dad says his elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top), we more than make up for that in personality. As far as I can tell, the only thing we really disagree on is Humphrey’s disdain of pickles.
I wish I loved Humphrey even half as much as he loves me. That dog thinks I am more special than any human has ever thought I was and he is more special than any of the family pets we had growing up because he is mine and mine alone. In his book Marley and Me John Grogan wrote the following.
A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?
Don’t pay hundred or thousands of dollars when there are plenty of wonderful fur babies at your local humane society or rescue shelter who will make wonderful editions to your family. You will not regret it. I sure haven’t I gave Humphrey my heart because he gave me his. I do not need a person to make me feel special- he does that all on his own. Happy third birthday Humphrey! I love you buddy!
To donate to the Greenville County Human Society in Honor of Humphrey’s birthday and to help other rescue fur babies, click here.
To follow Humphrey on Instagram, follow @humphreybobark or click here.