A guest post by Cathy Hester, as told by Moses

My Old Life

My name is Moses. For the first 16 years of my life, I had no name. I had no person. I had no life. I lived at an Amish farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I lived in a dirty hutch in a dark barn. I walked on wire. I suffered in the heat and the cold. I was a breeder. I had no life.

My personality was feisty. I barked a lot and I liked to fight. I would fight the farmer when he grabbed me to shove me into the hutch of a female dog. I bit the farmer and I bit the female. To prevent me from biting, my teeth were knocked out. My jaw was broken. I could not close my mouth. To prevent my barking and disturbing the neighbors who would complain, my vocal cords were broken by a pipe shoved down my tiny throat. I had no voice. I had no life.

I endured this existence for three days shy of 16 years. Then the impossible happened. The farmer was finished with me. He called a local rescue that he trusted—A Tail to Tell Puppy Mill Rescue. He told the nice lady to come quickly to take me and some other dogs away. If they didn’t hurry, we would be killed—shot, drowned, beaten with a shovel, burned, or put into a wood chipper. The lady hurried to the farm and saved us. I had no idea what was happening.

tiny yorkshire terrier in the grass

My Life Begins

Soon I was in a warm place with a lot of light. It smelled very clean. I was bathed. I had no idea what that felt like. I was matted and could barely see for the dreadlocks on my face. Someone gently trimmed my hair. I felt so good. But I was still confused. Later I got sleepy, very sleepy. When I awoke, things were different. I was taken to a home where I slept comfortably for the first time in my 16 years. It was my birthday. Imagine how that happened. It was October 15, 2015, and I was safe. I had a life.

Two days later, a new very nice lady put me in her car and we traveled a distance. After a few hours, another kind lady put me in her car. There was another dog in the car. He growled at me. I think he smelled the farm on me, because he came from a farm also. I did not know it at the time, but this lady would become my Mama and this dog was to be my brother. I had a life.

Over the next few weeks, things changed quickly. I ran in the grass and chased falling leaves. I had a bed, fresh water, and tasty food. The people in my life were kind and gentle with me. I ran up a ramp to sit with the family and watched a talking box each evening. I also was given a name—Moses. It seems a different Moses wandered for 40 years before he found his promised land. But he was too old to enter in. But my new Mama said I would enter into a Promised Land I never expected. And boy was she right. I had a name. I had a life.

Even though things were going well, I was still afraid. I was afraid of sudden sharp noises. It reminded me of the sound in the barn. If Mama coughed, I jumped. I was very afraid of anything that came near my face. It reminded me of the damage to my mouth by the mean farmer. Mama had a hard time cleaning my eyes or trimming the hair around my mouth that got crusted with food. I was difficult for the first year or so. Later I started to feel so safe, that Mama could vacuum the floor around my bed and I slept soundly. It was a good feeling. I had a life.

So life was good. I had a family. A Mama, a Daddy, and brothers and sisters. I also had other people in my life. The staff at work, the trainees, and our extended family. Everyone loved me. But some I loved more. Mama’s granddaughter, Sydney, was my favorite girl. Karen, at work, was my favorite staff member. Mary Beth was my favorite trainee. I had a lot of exercise chasing in the halls at work. I seldom stepped into my bed. I usually took a two-foot leap to get into my bed. I had such energy. I felt like a pup. My life began when I turned 16. Imagine that. I finally had a life.

The next three years were good to me. Mama took me everywhere. We were seldom apart. I went to work of course. But I also went to church on Sunday. I visited the finest restaurants in Pittsburgh. I went shopping in all kinds of stores, and I liked riding in the shopping carts. I even attended concerts and movies. I was at the doctors a lot with Mama. I even was in the allergist’s office, and he thought it was ironic having a dog in his office. Each time I went to the doctors, Mama tried to make me unnoticeable, but someone always asked what was in the carrier. When Mama said it was a dog, everyone in the office came to the exam room to see me. Of course, Mama told my story to everyone. She must have told this story to hundreds of people over those three years. I didn’t like being reminded of my past, but I knew my story had to be told to save other dogs. I finally had a voice. I had a life.

My New Life

Each morning my Mama put me in a comfy carrier and strapped me in the car. We went to work together. I had a job. I spent the day in a training facility where adults who had lost their jobs came to get retrained and rehired. Some were very sad because they were fired or laid off. Some of the ladies were recently divorced and needed to get work to provide for themselves. When they heard about my life, they found hope. They knew if I could survive all those terrible years, they could get over their disappointments. I made them smile. I had purpose. I had a bed under Mama’s desk and a potty pad in the corner. I learned quickly how to use it. I had a plate of food and a bowl of water. I had all I needed. I had a life.

Each day I ran the halls and into the classrooms and teased the trainees. I made them smile. Everyone liked me. And when new people came to visit or to deliver the water or supplies, Mama told them my story. She let them know that puppy mills were a bad place and no one should ever buy a dog that came from that kind of breeder. People were astonished. They had no idea. I guess I had purpose in this respect too. I helped people understand and behave more responsibly.

When we got home in the evening, I met with my four brothers and sisters and we gathered in the kitchen for treats. I jumped up and grabbed the food quickly. I didn’t wait my turn but no one got mad at me. I think they felt sorry for me because of my history. We sat together in the evening with Daddy. Then when bedtime came, I curled up next to Mama and went to sleep. I had a life.

tiny yorkshire terrier perched under a step stool

My Personality Shines Through!

My Decline

During the early part of my third year, I fell. It was an accident and I didn’t fall far—only a foot. But it was on a hard floor. I squirmed out of my young boy’s arms as he lifted me from my X-pen. I hurt my head. I was knocked out for a few minutes, but Mama’s daughter prayed for me and I woke up. After that I was not as energetic as I was. I sometimes forgot where the potty pad was, and I could not always find my bed. I still loved to eat, and I slept all night next to Mama. But things were not the same.

Over the next few months, I declined. I didn’t have pain, but I wasn’t as active or alert. I began wandering around looking for my bed. I had accidents on the floor but no one was mad at me. When I was outside, I got lost under the car. I never did that before. Then I started walking in circles—around and around and around until Mama would pick me up and hug me tight. A few months later, I had a headache and it helped to press my head into the wall or a piece of furniture. For some dogs, this means they have a liver problem, so Mama had that checked out. My liver and kidneys were fine. Mama would pick me up and hug me. It felt good to be in her arms. She would whisper in my ear that she loved me. She called me her baby or her little man. I wasn’t hearing as well as I once did, so her voice so close to my ear was nice. I liked feeling her breath on my head as she whispered. It calmed me no matter how anxious I was. I felt safe.

After a few months, things got worse. I circled more often. I pressed my head. At times I screamed. I didn’t know I could do that. Mama was upset and didn’t know what to do. I was really healthy. The doctor said my heart and lungs sounded good. My liver and kidney function tests remained good. I had a good appetite and my bladder and bowel habits were normal. Why was my brain not working right? Did it have to do with my fall? Or was I just getting old? Mama read a lot and asked the doctor a lot of questions. It seemed that I had a condition of older dogs—Canine Cognitive Dysfunction—I had dementia. Mama insisted that I have medication to help with my confusion. I’m glad she did, because for a while I was feeling better.

My Final Days

One day I couldn’t walk. I fell over on my side and couldn’t stand up. My legs didn’t work right. It was scary and frustrating. Mama of course was there for me as she always was. She carried me as she did her work. She put a sling around my belly and I peed and I walked around the yard the best could. The grass smelled good and some leaves were falling. I remembered when Mama first brought me home and how much I liked the grass and the leaves. Oh my, it was the same time of the year. Yes, in only a few weeks it will be my 19th birthday and the anniversary of my three years of freedom. Mama wanted me to have a birthday so much on October 15, 2018. Also I was voted in the top 12 for our rescue’s annual calendar. My picture is for the month of October. My birthday month and my Gotcha month. But I was tired. I would not live to see these special days. A kind vet, Dr. Tammy, came to our home and helped me across the Rainbow Bridge while I was in Mama’s arms. I had a life. The best life.

closeup of tiny yorkshire terrier

Today I am missed very much. I know Mama cries a lot. She has other dogs, but I know she misses me so much it hurts her. Remember we were together all day long.  I know she misses me in the car on the way to and from work. I know that when she is done teaching a class and comes to her office, she looks for me under her desk. She misses me sitting in her lap as she does the payroll and balances the budget. At home after dinner she misses holding me on the sofa and whispering in my ear. And at bedtime, she misses cuddling me as I curled up next to her chest and we enjoyed the soft, comforting breath sounds of one another. I am sure she knows it because everyone tells her that she gave me the best years of my life. And this is true. But she is still very sad. I’m sure she is hurting and will for some time. She will turn the calendar in her office from September to October in a few days and will see my picture for the month of October 2018. She will look at me and smile and she might cry a bit. I hope she will smile more than she will cry. I want her to be happy. I want her to help another dog with a story. I want her to give a life to another dog who has no life. This would honor me. I am Moses. I had a voice. And I had a life. I had the best life.

Copyright 2018 Cathy Hester

10 Responses

  1. You gave your love and you helped your Mom. We know as we have helped 5 dogs go to the Rainbow Bridge and all were loved too.

  2. i just had my worst cry of the day reading this. i wonder if the fall acerbated or caused the problem like it does in humans.

  3. I just read this at work and am wiping away tears. I lost my precious boy Marty to this disease in December of last year. I still think about him all the time. I miss him so much. I feel kind of guilty because I wonder if I kept him around a little too long. I just couldn’t bear to say goodbye. He passed in my arms the evening of December 13th. He was 18 years old. He was the sweetest little boy and watching him decline was so hard, but I was there for him and loved and held him until the end. I wear a locket with some of his ashes inside it everywhere I go. I’ll never have another friend as special as Marty. He was with me through the hardest and most trying times of my life, when all I had was him. I miss him so.

    1. I completely understand. I feel your pain. I thought I was prepared, but I was not. I hope you have a new companion, but one will never take Marty’s place. I am so sad getting in the car each morning without Moses. He was my emotional support when I was blue. Just having him next to me calmed my spirit. I thank God for those three years.

  4. I found comfort in your story. I had a 17 year old rattie named Busterboy who I had to put down on the 6th of December 2018 it broke my heart! I loved that little boy so much. I missed him so much I became so depressed. Then one day I found my Dinah on a ratty rescue page. Dinah is a ratty she is 11 years old and I truely believe that God sent her to me to help me with the loss of my Buster Boy.. Thank you for sharing Mos’es story…..

    1. I hope your Dinah will be with you a long time to be loved by you and to love you back like Busterboy! I know how hard it is.

  5. From Margaret:

    Oh that just tore my heart to pieces. Almost exactly 1 year ago we had to put our boy Cooper down. What bothered me most – and still bothers me – is that his brain was just fine. His hearing was going and his back legs all but gave out. At 1st he could at least get up and walk around on the carpet but he eventually started having trouble walking on the linoleum in the kitchen and, at the end, he had trouble getting up even on the carpet. We were getting ready to move and the new house had all wood floors and I knew that he wouldn’t be able to navigate that house. We asked someone to come for the house to help him cross over because he was terrified of going to the vet. We couldn’t Even think of taking him somewhere and getting him so upset at a time like that. I still cry really hard when I think about him but I know he’s looking down on us and chasing squirrels all day long! I’m not even a dog person but I miss our Cooper!

  6. I can’t tell you how the horror of his beginnings to the sadness of his ending has affected me. I had to let my 17 year old dachshund cross the rainbow bridge on August 1, 2018. He had cushings disease for the past 3 years and was doing well on medication. Early last spring, when I was typing a comment about my 19 year old and her dementia, I looked over and saw him stuck in the corner. That was the first sign. A couple of months later, we brought him in for bloodwork and it showed his liver numbers were increasing. After antibiotics, ultra sounds, more bloodwork and assorted medications, it was hopeless. His liver numbers were increasing and he was on the way to liver failure. We stopped short of a liver biopsy. We couldn’t put him through that, not at 17. His dementia advanced faster than my 19 yr old who has kidney disease. He also turned vicious with the other dogs, but not with us. Even sadder, my 19 year old searched for him at least 3 to 4 days after. (even with dementia, she knew he was gone). He bit her constantly when she was walking around. (He had 4 teeth) We had to keep him separate when no one was in the room. They grew up together. How lucky we are to have these little angels in our lives, even for a short time. In Moses’ case, way too short a time. I know the sadness, the quiet, the emptiness, the loss. I’m so very sorry.

  7. Thank you for this article. I, too, had a Moses. A perfect Shih Tzu that I inherited from my son about 5-6 years ago. I’ve known Moses since he was 5 months old. He lived in California for 3 years with my son, but my son moved back and I saw him often. I inherited Moses because my son’s 2 year old couldn’t leave him along and he snapped at my grandchild. I couldn’t let Moses go to a stranger. Even though I had 2 Shih Tzus of my own, I wanted Moses. We travel a lot and when we flew across country to our second home we always took the dogs (under the seat). All the dogs were great travelers. Now, Moses can’t handle it. That was before. Moses was now 15 and his dementia was worsening. He was “ridiculously healthy” as the vet said, but his mind was going. He smiled more than any dog I’ve ever seen!! He had lost his hearing and a lot of his eyesight. Within a month, the eyesight was almost gone and it made him even more anxious and the smile is long gone.. In the car, he would bark loudly (which he never did) and whine because he was so distraught. He got stuck in a corner and woke me up whining. I couldn’t bear to put him through more. I don’t know if he remembered me anymore or not. I decided when he no longer frolicked in his bed, his joy for life was gone. As with the others, he constantly paced, had accidents in the house. I helped him pass a week ago and I feel so guilty. But your article and all the replies have brought comfort. Thank you all for sharing. I still have 1 of the Shih Tzu’s left, but he’s 14 and I know his time is limited.

  8. Your little Moses and your love for him touched me now, two years after his death. Thank you so much for giving him a good home where he got to be a real dog and do good work spreading awareness of puppy mills. People who can do such things to defenseless creatures must be living a real hell to be able to commit such acts. I hope Moses has guided another love your way and you continue your good work. Bless you.

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