Nothing Can Prepare You

August 8, 2023

Skylee and Riley

Submitted by Kimberly B. and Denise L, Littleton, CO

My sister and I have been in animal rescue for almost 10 years. We have adopted four dogs and two cats and have worked around several rescue animals; however, Skylee, our seven-year-old Golden Retriever, is our first adopted puppy mill survivor. Nothing can prepare you for what you witness as a result of these poor animals being in that kind of environment.

Skylee has been with us just over eight months, and she is doing well. When she initially came to live with us, she had minimal social skills with people or other dogs. She came to us through a Golden Retriever rescue in Colorado, but before that, she was adopted twice and returned.

We are not sure how the first family obtained Skylee We don’t have the full background story. We do know that the first family surrendered her because she was diagnosed with diabetes, and the Golden Retriever rescue drove halfway into another state to pick her up.

Skylee was adopted by a second family who took care of her and worked to manage her diabetes. Unfortunately, circumstances changed in the home and Skylee couldn’t receive the care she needed for her illness, so she was returned to the rescue.

After that, Skylee went into foster care for a few months. Our 11-year-old Belgian Shepherd-mix, Lilly, crossed the rainbow bridge due to cancer very suddenly in November 2022. Nine days later we saw Skylee on the rescue’s website, and we knew we had to try and help her. Having previously cared for two diabetic cats, we understood how to care for an animal with diabetes.

Some of Skylee’s behaviors might be displayed by dogs in general, but here are some of the triggers or fearful behaviors we have been helping her with over the past eight months:

  • Being around people in general causes her to tuck her tail and cower.
  • People petting her overhead also causes her to cower.
  • She is afraid of large objects like trucks and people standing in front of her, as well as any fast movement.
  • Loud noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms scare her.
  • She barks and lunges at dogs while being walked and barks at dogs walking past our house.
  • Initially she was not sure how to be in a yard on grass. She is getting more comfortable with that and loves to sit in the grass and sunbathe now.
  • When she first arrived, Sklyee would eat her feces and Riley’s feces almost immediately. It was a long time before she learned not to eat it.
  • She wasn’t sure about sleeping in a bed, but she loves it now.
  • She is always looking for food outside the normal feeding schedule.
  • When asked to do something, she can be very submissive.
  • Sometimes she looks scared or unsure.

Though Skylee needs a lot of encouragement to just be a dog, she has shown significant improvement since coming into our lives. She seems to be settling into a routine and starting to trust more, and she loves her stuffed hedgehog toys! She carries them around like they are babies. She will even take them out to the yard and back in the house when it’s time to come inside.

She is learning every day and doing wonderful with her German Shepherd brother, Riley, who is about nine years old. She loves him and he loves her. She also seems to be doing well around our 12-year-old cat Nala, who normally does not get along with other dogs.

You can still see the residual impact of her being fearful and unsure, but we are working with her and helping her feel safe and loved.

We’ve always been advocates for helping animals and supporting Goldie’s Act is no different. When we brought Skylee into our home, the need to do more to stop puppy mills and backyard breeders exponentially increased.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for protecting dogs in federally licensed puppy mills and ensuring puppy mill operators are meeting the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act. Sadly, that isn’t happening.

There are roughly a quarter of a million dogs languishing in USDA-licensed puppy mills. The agency is failing to enforce the law, allowing dogs to suffer in cruel facilities. Goldie’s Act (H.R. 1788) is critical legislation that would ensure the USDA does its job. It was named after Goldie, who was a Golden Retriever, the same breed as Skylee. Goldie lived in a horrific puppy mill in Iowa operated by Daniel Gingerich. The USDA witnessed her decline for months but failed to intervene. She died in that puppy mill, never having a warm bed, fresh food or human companionship—she didn’t even have a name until we learned about her fate and gave her one.

Goldie’s Act would require the USDA to conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections of licensed puppy mills, provide lifesaving intervention for suffering animals, impose penalties for violations and communicate with local law enforcement to address cruelty and neglect. Use our easy online form today to send a message to your members of Congress, urging them to support Goldie’s Act.