#RapplerPets: Bred for success

Kathy Moran

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'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated'

ANIMAL-LOVING SENATOR. Now the US President, Barack Obama gave his word to only rescue -- not buy -- dogs. Screen grab from YouTube (janaandBaby)

MANILA, Philippines – “Surveys show that an overwhelming majority use baby talk to communicate with their pets — that high singsong tone of voice, accompanied by silly, made up sounds and words (used) by mothers (and fathers) the world over when speaking to their human infants and their young children,” writes Jana Kohl, Psy. D. in her book A Rare Breed of Love.

Kohl’s book is an interesting read for pet owners like me who have searched high and low for that perfect pet companion. 

And in that search, the discovery of puppy mills much like Kohl describes in her book are just as common here as they are in the US.

A puppy mill is a place where dogs (of different breeds and sizes) are kept in cages. Depending on the size of the property and the number of dogs and breeds for sale, the cages are piled one on top of the other so that as more puppies come, more space is available. 

A few years back I had my eyes on a Miniature Schnauzer I had seen on the Web. There was one breeder I visited who changed the way I looked at dog breeders for life. 

I remember the rows and rows of cages and the stench that came from the area as I saw where the dogs were kept. I left in a rush — and since then have never surfed for a dog again.

In A Rare Breed of Love, Kohl relates how she had been warned against buying dogs from breeders who ran puppy mills. She shares that she did not pay much attention to what her well-meaning animal welfare advocate friends said. 

Kohl was in search of a Poodle because she wanted a small dog that could travel with her. She was staying in LA but had seen the cutest Poodle in Texas and flew there to get the dog. 

“As soon as we stepped out of our car, the horrible sounds greeted us — the desperate cries of hundreds of dogs barking from within two wooden sheds. I felt a terrible sense of dread in the pit of my stomach,” Kohl writes.

She recalls what the Texan puppy miller told her: “They don’t mind being locked up. Animals don’t have feelings.” 

From that day on, Kohl knew that she had to stop puppy mills and the inhumane treatment of animals.

And Baby makes two

Kohl researched on puppy mills and gathered all the information she could. After a year, she found a Poodle, the breed she wanted, available at one of the puppy mills. 

That’s how she found Baby, a roughly 9-year-old poodle who had been locked in a cage all her life. 

Baby only had 3 legs — she lost one following years of mistreatment at the puppy mill. 

When Kohl first met Baby she wasn’t sure she if was ready to get Baby for US$200, because she feared that it might be hard to handle an older dog. 

Baby could no longer be used for breeding purposes; this was why she was available for cheap.

It was only when Kohl was given a last option a few months later that she finally made the decision to get Baby.

What Kohl saw and learned through her experience with Baby has led her to devote her life to protecting dogs and shutting down puppy mills.

I have met my share of animal advocates in the years that I have been writing about pets and I know how hard sell many of them can be. But this book is not written by that kind of an advocate, perhaps it is one of the reasons why I really enjoyed reading the book:

Once upon a time, Kohl wore fur and was basically indifferent toward animals. But her one experience at a puppy mill redefined her life.

Then Kohl finally took Baby in, and the unofficial “spokesdog” for the Humane Society of the United States was born. 

Kohl and Baby travel around the US lobbying for reform on the issue of puppy mills. A Rare Breed of Love contains more than 60 photographs of Baby with many of her high-profile fans; from Barack Obama to Judge Judy to Patti LaBelle, as well as original essays from Alice Walker and Gloria Steinem about the special love we all have for the pets in our lives. 

In A Rare Breed of Love, Kohl and Baby offer practical advice on what each of us can do to raise awareness, make a difference, and stop animal suffering everywhere.

But more than just advice, what the book shows us is that there is something we can do to stop cruelty to animals if we really want to. 

Heart melter

STOP PUPPY MILLS. A Rare Breed of Love by Jana Kohl, Psy. D. is available online and in bookstores nationwide. Screen shot from barnesandnoble.com

From stars, to politicians, to atheletes, what Baby has done is put a face to animal abuse and neglect — and she has made many take notice of how real all these really are. 

And, as Kohl explains, her tours across the country also touch thousands of everyday people. 

Kohl shares an encounter she and Baby had with a homeless man:

“He charged down the sidewalk toward us, screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs, ranting unintelligibly,” Kohl writes. But upon seeing Baby, the man stopped and questioned Kohl about the 3-legged dog before suddenly becoming an advocate for her.

“‘You’re taking good care of her, right?’ he asks, looking at me squarely. ‘You aren’t going to hurt her,’ he added. I felt my throat tighten and my eyes well with tears for the empathy this troubled man was offering Baby, someone he identified with and wanted to protect, someone who, for that moment, inspired him to put aside his own agony and feel the pain of another.

“In the two years since I adopted her, I had never seen a clearer example of Baby’s transformational power to elicit love, kindness, and empathy even in the face of one’s own suffering. It is a power that animals singularly possess to heal the human soul.”

Back in 2005 when President Barack Obama was a US senator, he was one of the politicians who agreed to meet with Kohl and Baby. He agreed to a photo shoot and pledged to Kohl that when he brought a dog home for his family, it would be a rescue dog — not one from a breeder. And now, it seems, the President has lived up to his word.

Mahatma Gandhi once said:  “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” 

If only we would listen. – Rappler.com

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