Please take a minute to get to know me

By Maria Sweeney, Owner at Vanity Fur

I’m not usually one to go in for internet sob stories about animals. Most of what appear in my news feed are either just self serving tear jerker’s about somebody’s guinea pig who beat cancer and deserves 10,000 ‘likes’, or worse they are genuine heartbreaking stories that I’m ashamed to admit I quickly scroll past because it is easier to look away. If I don’t see the conditions the puppy breeders on Done Deal are keeping their dogs in, or read the litany of cruelty, abuse and neglect cases the local animal shelters are struggling to keep up with, then I will enjoy my breakfast more and not have to start the day off on a sombre note. And of course if we don’t know exactly what’s happening and just think of it as a general problem then we can much more easily make it go away in our minds. Phew! Thank God for ignorance.  I’ll just keep giving my few quid to charity every month and everything will be fine.

But this is wrong. It feels wrong. It is causing very wrong things to happen to innocent dogs just like your and my pet. Because pretending it doesn’t happen is exactly what the perpetrators want you to do. That way they can keep doing what they’re doing, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, albeit whilst shaking our heads and tutting in disapproval, and the cruelty will continue. The problem most of us have is that we look at the enormity of the situation and think we can’t do anything to help such a wide scale issue. But we need to remember that each of the thousands of dogs that are suffering at the hands of commercial breeders, or as a result of cruelty and neglect by owners, are all individuals with personalities just like our own pets. Many of them actually were our pets at one stage, who were stolen and sold into commercial breeding farms.

Yesterday I experienced first hand what one of these innocent little creatures have to endure. The amazing Fiona Gammell at Wicklow Animal Welfare took in a Bichon/Poodle type little girl last week, pictured below as she came in. She is suspected to have once been someone’s pet, as she is microchipped however no details were ever registered to it. Somehow she ended up locked in a dark, cold stinking shed for the rest of her life where she was forced to produce litter after litter of ‘designer breed’ dogs. These puppies were then taken from her, sold to the likes of you and me through Done Deal, and she was left there year after year, sitting starving in that shed in her own filth, never hearing a kind word from anyone.

Rescue Bichon


She was barely recognisable as a dog at all when I went to collect her yesterday. She desperately needed a grooming to take off the heavy, pelted, faeces soaked mats that pulled at her skin from head to toe. I went to pick her up from her kennel and she shrank in pure terror, completely at my mercy and convinced I was going to hurt her. I carried her to my car and she shivered in fear the whole way to the salon. She has no reason to trust anyone so why would I be any different. When we got there she was unable to walk on the lead, her legs knocking together as she trembled, so I carried her and set her down on the floor inside. She had a tentative sniff and then found the farthest corner and stayed there. After a few hours of observing the other dogs , and getting constant reassurance from the humans (she would cower when I went to pet her but would let me all the same), she got up and put her nose out to the main floor of the salon, then went back to her spot. After a while I picked her up and put her on the grooming table to start trying to tackle her coat. What struck me the most was how unbelievably gentle she was, even though she would have been in so much discomfort while I cut through all those mats, the likes of which I have never seen. She had sores on her skin underneath, which must have been pure agony to deal with while trapped under all that old coat. She didn’t flinch once though. She didn’t have a scrap of fight in her, they had broken her spirit and deliberately so. I lifted up her gums to check her teeth, all of which were brown and rotten to the core, and one of them fell out there and then and she swallowed it. It must be so painful for her even to eat with teeth as brittle as that.

When she had been washed and dried she shook herself off for what was probably the first time in years, and didn’t immediately retreat back to her corner. She sat a little further out this time. After a few hours when it was just her and me and another rescue dog from the same shelter, she stood up and walked around a bit. Then she gave an ever so slight little wag of her bald tail. I went and sat down next to her and she let me put her on my lap, where she dozed off! I couldn’t believe it, she actually trusted me!

It broke my heart to have to hand her back over to Fiona that evening, not because she wouldn’t give her an amazing, warm and loving  place to stay, but because I had become so attached to her even in such a short space of time. She had the sweetest little face, and when you look at her eyes you just want to make everything ok again for her.

Rescue Bichon/Poodle

As I said, I’m really not usually one for self serving soppy stories, but I hope that by sharing this personal experience that even one person will stand up and take note. Don’t buy puppies from random ‘breeders’ on the classified sites. If you think you have come across one, report it to the ISPCA helpline, anonymously if you wish. Spay/neuter your dog – remember if they can produce puppies they are a prime target for dog thieves who can profit from it. Please consider adoption before buying.

Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog the world will change forever.