5 Lessons From A Puppy Mill Mom

A few years ago, my family rescued a wire fox terrier. Maisy had been a puppy mill mom for the first seven years of her life and came to our family after finding refuge in an amazing organization in northern Iowa.

Life in a puppy mill—it can’t get much worse for a dog.

You talking about me?

You talking about me?

We often say Maisy is broken: she doesn’t play with toys or balls; she flinches when touched; she sleeps most of the day instead of bouncing off the walls with typical terrier energy (maybe that’s not a bad thing?).

But even with all her broken bits, she’s taught me a lot about being human as I’ve watched her blossom in a normal environment…well, as normal as our home can be.

Your Past Does Not Define You

I work for a Fortune 500 company in the financial services industry. There’s a standard disclaimer in this industry: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” That’s good news if your past isn’t so great, like Maisy’s. So what’s the bad news? Even if your past was good, it’s over, and there’s no guarantee it will be that good again.

But let’s get back to the good news! Every day is a chance to start over. Heck, you can start over every minute if you want or need to. That’s what I do when fear has me its grip. I talked about that here.

While that starting over can be frightening and disheartening, it’s the opportunity to improve your “just okay” self and hone your best skills. You can’t rest on your laurels. Or on a chair covered with porcupines. But with a willingness to move forward and not look back (unless it’s to pull porcupine quills out of your butt cheeks), you’ll have many opportunities to create success in your life.

You Make The Mess, You Clean It Up

Maisy has corprophagia. I’ll let you look that one up, but for those of you who don’t want to, let’s just say she has a favorite “snack” that’s pretty disgusting. The good thing about this distasteful habit is that she takes care of her own messes. Most of the time.

Everyone has times in their lives when they mess up. Sometimes more than once. Some of us are professional messer-uppers. The mess doesn’t even have to be a big boo-boo—sometimes the little ones cause as much muck as the big ones.

Maybe you made a promise and broke it.

Maybe you gave a half-a**ed effort, and it showed in the end product and people were let down.

Maybe you forgot to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

When faced with the feelings of guilt that come with messing up, it’s easy to point to someone else as the cause of your error. Takes a little of the sting out.

I'll give you a lesson to cry about!  Photo Credit: vauka via Compfight cc

I’ll give you a lesson to cry about! Photo Credit: vauka via Compfight cc

Don’t do it.

Take responsibility for your actions. One of the best ways is to start with an apology.

Roberta “Bobbi” DePorter, President of the Quantum Learning Network, outlines the following steps to an effective apology:

Acknowledge that you are at fault and did something wrong.
Apologize for your actions and their negative consequences.
Ask “How can I make it right?”
Explain your plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Personal accountability breeds respect, which results in deeper relationships and higher self-confidence, oddly enough.

And one of the coolest things about stepping up and owning up is that it often diffuses the situation immediately. It’s hard to keep arguing with a person when that person says, “You’re right. I messed up, and it was all my fault. I’m sorry.”

No One Is A Stranger (after a proper introduction)

Maisy greets every new dog she meets like a long-lost friend. This is significant because in the puppy mill she never had a chance to socialize with other dogs. If leading a fuller, growth-fueled, experience-filled life gets you jazzed up, you need to do the same (but not like dogs—bad form).

Take writing, for example. I’ve been doing it for a long time and recently started submitting some of my creative nonfiction pieces to literary journals, magazines, etc. If you’d like to read my first, but certainly not last, formally published piece, fly on over to Lunch Ticket and read The Call. And as you can tell from a quick perusal of the my What Kelly’s Working On page, I’m in the first stages of sticking my head out of the lonely fiction writer’s cave.

Now, I know I can get better at writing by writing more, and I’m no where near the gazillion bad words I supposedly need to write before I get to the good ones. But since I’m serious about sharing my writing and, by extension, myself, I have to put myself out there. Hence, this website/blog and hurtling myself into the world of social media.

What’s the most awesome part of putting yourself out there? You get to meet encouraging, generous and fascinating people, sometimes ones with all three characteristics. Over these past couple of months that’s what’s happened to me. And those people are not strangers anymore, although some of them are strange, which is a-okay with me.

Learn Something New Every Day

Maisy used to be afraid of my husband and daughter. But now that she’s learned they won’t hurt her, she gladly lets them pet her. When she learned that parked cars were not her enemy, she stopped bolting from them. When she learned better, she did better.

I’m a baby blogger, so I have a lot to learn. It’s a good thing I like to research, read and repeat. Problem is there’s so much information out there it’s easy to give into my self-diagnosed ADD. I want to look at all the pretties. Now!

That’s a bad idea.

And it’s just an extension of the multitasking myth, multiplied exponentially. It goes a little something like this:

Technology creates a mirage—it lets us think we’re doing a bunch of stuff simultaneously. But all we’re actually doing is rapidly switching our attention between tasks or interests, never giving any of them the focus they need.

This is especially true for me now as I’m trying to manage multiple social media platforms, my blog, editing my novel and various creative nonfiction pieces at once. Oh, and working a full-time day job at the Fortune 500 company I mentioned above. What I should be doing is picking one, maybe two, to focus on at a time.

Easier said than done.

Here’s the problem: novices are often told to copy or imitate the style of people they admire or strive to be like (think apprenticeships).

It makes sense. We take Maisy to doggy daycare and dog parks so she can imitate what other dogs are doing and become more like a “real” dog.

Lesson #4: Eat. Sticks.

Lesson #4: Eat. Sticks.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m reading everything I can about the best ways to blog and engage on social media. I’m following the influencers, and taking virtual notes on what they do.

But I’m ultimately going to do it my way, in the way that works best for me. Gotta be authentic, people, in everything you do.

Remember To Relax

When Maisy comes home from doggy daycare or the dog park, she collapses. It takes a lot of work for a broken terrier to act like a fixed one.

Right now I’m in a tornado of activity, and it’s all my own doing. Part of me likes it—I’m energized by starting down new paths. But I can also get a bit manic (yeah, okay family, I hear you…a LOT manic).

So I make sure to end my nights, every night, lying in bed reading a book for pure pleasure.

Photo Credit: Teagan Nicholle via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Teagan Nicholle via Compfight cc

I know that wrenching my hands away from my keyboard will not mean the end of all the good stuff I’m working on. Hunkering down in my tornado shelter of bed and books rejuvenates me. And it’s those forty-five minutes or so that make me better in everything I do.

So what do you think—any of these resonate with you? Who’s been a nontraditional teacher to you? What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from him/her or others? What’s one lesson you’d like to share, and to whom? Anyone else think my dog’s cuter than s#@t??

12 thoughts on “5 Lessons From A Puppy Mill Mom

  1. Too right your dog is cuter than s***! And a wonderful teacher. Important lessons.

    I read The Fourth State of Matter – my god, I’m reeling. Heart-stopping and so many what-ifs.. So so awful.. Incredibly written.

  2. First, yes, Maisy gets another vote. Super cutie.

    What courageous troopers our fuzzies are, huh? So many things to learn from them. All of these lessons resonate with me, but 1,4 & 5 are the toughest ones I struggle with on a daily basis.

    I try my best to tell my inner jerk, the one trying to pull me back to yesterday, to rewind me, every day to shut the hell up. Can’t you see I’m working here? I fight against him constantly because he doesn’t think I’ve got a shot in hell at being successful, but I’m going to prove him wrong, dirty little bastard.

    I’m generally excellent at acknowledging my fault in things, but I will and do draw the line at consuming my own… well. You know. 😉

    Multitasking is bunk, and yet we all have to do it, just to make a small dent. It’s so hard to keep the focus where it needs to be and I fail at it every day. he interwebs is a giant black hole and it will suck you in if you let it. There’s always one more blog to read. One more everything to do… But I’m working at getting back to what really matters right now, which is the writing. If you don’t have that, then a platform doesn’t mean much.

    Relaxing and taking time to read something I want to just for fun…ah yes, I remember that. Vaguely. Also working on doing that more. It’s SO important. Otherwise we lose sight of why the hell we want to do this crazy thing in the first place. At least I do.

    Thanks for the reminders and hug Maisy for me. 🙂

    Oh, and best of luck with “The Knowers,” Kelly. I dig the cover. Kudos to Chris. I hope you’re making great progress with it. Are you planning to traditionally publish?

    1. Two votes for Maisy!! Yay!

      Multitasking is my worst one, hands down. It is so hard. And it’s all the internet’s fault. I don’t remember having this much trouble focusing before that technology devil showed up on the scene. Although I am a knowledge whore and am addicted to learning new things, so if the internet wasn’t around, I’d probably have multiple sets of Encyclopedia Britannicas.

      Maisy is hugged…and bathed and combed! She came home from doggy daycare on Friday as a brown dog…you should have seen the bottom of our tub.

      And thanks for the well-wishes on my book. I’m editing mostly on the weekends and am making slow but steady progress. I’d hoped to have it in publishable format before Christmas this year, but it ain’t gonna happen. That’s OK though. I don’t want to rush through it. I’m thinking about self/Indie publishing actually. I may send a few queries out to small presses or agents. We’ll see. 🙂

      1. Oh yes, I’ve had many a dirty tub in my day. Just means she had fun. 🙂

        Yes, that dirty devil, technology. Double edged sword in my opinion. I just wish I read faster. Or wrote faster. Or formulated coherent thoughts faster. Then I could keep up with it. It’s all just moving so damn fast.

        Rushing is not the way to go, so good for you. Take your time. It’s your baby. Being an “author/publisher” has its perks for sure, because you still have to do all the heavy lifting of marketing yourself regardless of whether you’re traditionally published or not, but at least when you publish yourself you have control over everything. Or most everything.

        It’s a lot of work, either way. The key is finding and building your tribe of rabid fans, fellow writers, and readers. Those people who will tell everyone they know about your books. I’m still in very early stages there, but I’m working on it. So far I have 2. LOL 😉

  3. Your Maisy sounds a lot like our little Belle. Not a puppy mill rescue, but she has never been a ‘typical’ terrier. She is very cat-like. She can be very aloof and very seldom wants to be held. Yet…on her terms…she will on occasion jump into my lap and precede to lick my whole face. Doesn’t really care to socialize with other people or other dogs. She pretty much just ignores them. Except for Cosmo…he is our male fox terrier…him she likes to boss around. Her favorite method is a butt slam….and she really packs a wallop! Yuppers…our furry babies can really teach us a lot about life. Little Belle has taught me that it is perfectly acceptable to take a step back….access the situation….and then decide if I wanna jump in with both feet or calmly walk away!

    1. You nailed it, Debbie! Maisy is so much more like a cat—aloof and all on her terms, just like you said. She also sleeps all day…she has none of the typical terrier energy, but maybe that’s not so bad.

      And I’ve heard about those butt slams—they can take down a small child!

      That’s another really good lesson. They’re amazing creatures when we take the time to listen to them.

      Thanks much for reading and your comment.

  4. It makes me tired just reading about your schedule. I’m glad you find time for pure reading. Keep listening to that puppy. Immunity to corprophagia in Fortune 500 companies is difficult to sustain.

  5. Kelly, your sweet puppy has overcome so much. What an inspiration! He really is too cute. I think we could all learn an important lesson from him. So glad he’s turned out to be a nice addition to your family. 🙂

  6. I saw, up and personal, exactly how Maisy has evolved in to “a dog”. Only through you three just allowing her to evolve in her own time. Great Job and she is sooooo cute.
    The most important thing I learned from our adorable Basset Abby was “giving”. For the 1st 12 years I took her for a long walk every single day. There were many days I’d come home from work and taking a walk was the very last thing I wanted to do, but I did it anyway. In rain and snow storms, in 90 degree temperatures, sometimes at 5:00 in the morning and sometimes at 10:00 at night. Just looking at her with that tail wagging and waiting patiently for what I knew was the biggist joy of her life, I just couldn’t say now. The love I got back from her every day, mainly because of her long outings made every single walk soo worth it.

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