He’d been roughly and unceremoniously pulled from the cramped, filthy cage at the puppy mill – where he’d lived all of his 10 years. The old dog was tossed in a bucket along with some dead puppies. There, his life would end, painfully and brutally.
But luckily, a worker at the puppy mill noticed he was still breathing and she retrieved him from the bucket and passed the tiny, disfigured Chihuahua on to a nearby rescue. He immediately received medical care and he was put in the grass where his picture was taken. He was old and crooked, he had only one eye, and he appeared sad and afraid.
When I saw the photo I knew instinctively that this little Chihuahua was meant to be with me. I called the women who ran the rescue; we spoke for an hour and the next thing you know I was on my way to pick up “my boy”, a couple states away.
To be honest, my intention was to give this dog a loving home for his final days, which the vet said would likely be about three months. A soft bed, good food and clean water – but most importantly, love – that is what I would give “Harley” for the first time in his life.
For all of his 10 years and until the day of his rescue, Harley’s only purpose had been to father countless puppies … puppies who would be sold in pet stores around the country. His life had been rough, he was sick and afraid, and he’d never known a kind human touch. Harley’s grizzled appearance is a testament to the care and nurturing that he had never received.
Harley had issues: a diseased heart, a mouth filled with rot, a fused spine, a broken tail, gnarled toes, and legs that were deformed. And then there was the missing eye – the result of his cage being power-washed with him in it (an all too common practice in puppy mills). All of these conditions were the result of years of horrendous neglect and abuse.
But this little one-eyed dog was a survivor. Harley thrived on the newfound love and attention he was receiving for the first time in his life. He saw many veterinarians and underwent two surgeries. Through it all, Harley had his ups and downs, but overall his physical condition steadily improved. I was awestruck and inspired by his transformation … his courage and his determination to grab this wonderful new life and hold onto it with everything he had … and I fell more deeply in love with him every day. It was as though he KNEW his life had to serve a greater purpose than fathering hundreds of puppies. He needed to make a difference to other dogs, just like him, to give them a chance at the kind of life he’d miraculously fallen into after so many years in misery.
From the beginning there was something “magical” about Harley. Everyone who met him saw it. People were drawn to him and he was drawn to people. It became clear that Harley had a very important reason to live … and somehow I was the lucky one chosen to help him in his journey.
In adopting Harley, I found a new depth of compassion within myself, and he has indeed made my life complete as a result. Harley now speaks through me on his Facebook page to his adoring fans all over the world. There he is known as “A little dog with a big dream” … to end puppy mills. He tells his fans about life in the puppy mill and explains just where those adorable pet store puppies really come from. He has become the voice for the tens of thousands of dogs who still remain in the mills, and he is making a difference to so many of them. He makes special appearances at schools and events, spreading awareness with his mantra, “adopt, don’t shop”.
Along the way, Harley inspired me to create a campaign called “Harley to the Rescue” which has raised the funds to save (and provide medical care for) more than 500 dogs from puppy mills in less than two years. Harley personally goes on these rescue missions; and there is no doubt … Harley is keenly aware of what is happening! There is something indescribable in the way he communicates with the sad and scared dogs. Harley clearly recognizes his role in helping to bridge the gap between canine and human.
In a world so full of evil and hate it’s easy to become cynical. This special little dog, with such a horrible past, has helped me see how much love and caring there really is in the world. Harley has taught me to look for (and expect) love and kindness from people, because he only sees the best in people. He has truly changed my life in remarkable ways.
Written by Harley’s mom, Rudi Taylor