George’s Happily Ever After

Please enjoy this beautiful testimony written by George’s forever mom, Gayle Kerr.


When I first met George in March 2011, he was huddled in the back of his kennel at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, sitting straight up, quivering and scared. An Agape Animal Rescue colleague and I had volunteered to help with the Warren County puppy mill rescue effort, and we were focused on our morning task, which was cleaning, feeding, and watering our assigned kennels. There wasn’t much time to interact with the dogs as we worked, but I noticed right away how empty and frightened George was.  As my friend April held him, he stiffened like a board and shook the entire time I cleaned his cage.  We could see his eyesight was impacted by the puppy mill neglect, but we didn’t know how severely.  Someone nearby mentioned he was blind.  My heart sank for him, since the kennels were draped and I knew if he needed light, there was very little in his make-shift, temporary space.  Yet, when we got out the food bowls, I saw a spark, just a little, beneath all his sadness, as George began to dance around in his kennel. I thought to myself,” He wants to be happy.”

George receiving medical attention after being rescued.

At the puppy mill, George was used as a breeding dog, and he had lived his entire life in a rabbit hutch.  Poor nutrition and neglect had rotted his teeth, leaving him with only a couple remaining, and those eventually had to be pulled.  His gums were infected, as were his ears, he was depressed, dehydrated and had developed a low thyroid condition. His 6 to7 years of neglect had left him with severe eye damage and partial blindness.  Matted hair on his face had sealed his eyes shut. There is no telling how long George lived in the darkness.

As a volunteer and foster parent for Agape, I knew that some of the dogs at the fairgrounds might end up in our foster care program once they were released by the court system.  Because of that spark I’d seen in George, I gave my director his name as a candidate to come into the Agape foster program and, ironically, of the 12 dogs we took into foster care from the fairgrounds, little George became my foster dog.

I wasn’t looking for a new dog for my family. As a foster parent for Agape, I actively rehab the dogs under my care. So my normal day includes walks, trips to parks and other settings where my lab, Simon, and my foster dogs get lots of socialization and exposure to people and other dogs. We walk A LOT and meet as many people as possible. George fell right into this routine with us as we worked on his rehabilitation – physical and emotional – and posted him on the Agape website, waiting for his forever family to come along.

But the right family didn’t come. Some were interested, but it seemed George’s health issues (mainly his vision problems) caused most families to look over him and choose other adoptable dogs.  My heart broke for him as applicant after applicant rejected my little, lovable
puppy mill shih tzu.

Six months, seven months passed, and George grew healthier and stronger.  He was becoming so blended into our family, and so happy with his life, I had to take a step back and look at the situation: would it be fair to move him?  One day I saw the online Animal Rescue Corp video of the actual footage showing George and his fellow puppy mill survivors being rescued from their Warren County, TN captivity.  The timing of this was what I would call a “God thing,” as I was doing my own soul searching about whe
ther or not George should stay with us permanently.  I had seen still shots of the puppy mill bust, and worked with and held many of those dogs at the fairgrounds, but had never seen the actual video showing the puppy mill itself.  Tears rolled down my face as I watched, in horror, where he came from, and the disgusting life the dogs had been forced to live (do you call that living?)  Then I saw him right after he was saved from his “prison,” being held in the arms of an ARC rescuer, wagging his tail, and it hit me:  he cannot, must not, leave us.  He is beyond happy HERE, where he loves his routine and believes  our home is the best place on
the planet.  And I wanted to make it official.  Right then.  I discussed it with my husband, and we did!  We adopted George the very next day.

George is now well-adjusted and very, very happy.  He thinks all dogs get to walk at the Belle Meade Plantation and meet Civil War reenactors in uniform and ladies in big hoop skirts,  We take lots of car rides and go as many places as possible with his best friend, my lab, Simon.  George plays with tennis balls and stuffed toys and loves to steal clothes from the laundry basket when you aren’t looking, then make his own pile, a trait we affectionately call, “George doing the laundry.”  He has become a greeter, something I’m sure he’s learned from living with a big, social lab brother.  Though socializing him has been a slower process because of his puppy mill background, his progress has been amazing to watch. I am very proud of him!   His journey from survivor to the confident, social shih tzu he is today has simply been a blessing for me to be a small part of. Working with George has taught me a lot about trust and love, and I am so thankful I saw his tiny spark in an otherwise empty face months ago. I love him and we are thrilled he has become a forever member of our family!


George rescued at puppy mill (on left) and with mom Gayle now.


Professional photo courtesy of Harmony Designs Photography