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.
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.
My Personality Shines Through!
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.
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