Sometimes, all it takes is one small step to make a big change. For one puppy, her life was filled with trauma, cruelty, and pain until a stranger stepped in and changed her life forever. Here's the inspiring story.
A Dark Past
Teacup Chihuahua, Hemp, was brought up in terror. The tiny pup was subject to doom, raised as a breeding dog in a puppy mill. She only had one purpose - to produce offspring so the owners could gain profit.
Hemp was kept hostage in a small cage and limited to daylight. She was restricted from everyday dog activities, from running in the open air and fresh-cut grass to playing fetch with loveable owners. Not to mention, she was deprived of the slightest bit of affection. But Hemp didn't know just how much her life would change.
Despite what the future held for Hemp, she spent her days in the toughest of environments. Something no dog should ever experience. Unfortunately, Hemp was too small to fight off any neglect or escape, for that matter. In the worst-case scenario, she would be sentenced to death.
Hemp was kept from the outside world. While she was sentenced to a crowded cage along with other abused pups, it was a living environment completely out of the ordinary. There was not the slightest bit of puppy love given, and she was unaware of what a glimpse would even feel like.
The conditions the dogs were subject to in the puppy mill were unimaginable. To make things worse, tea-cup chihuahuas are not fit for these conditions. Their petite bone structure makes them more prone to health issues. Sadly, there was no hope for the special attention the small dogs required.
Considering their size, which resembles a miniature Russian toy, a chihuahua is more likely to be affected by heart issues, low blood sugar, seizures, and fainting. They're too small to protect themselves, so they're sensitive to the cold and vulnerable to eye complications, and their tiny bodies could never handle obesity.
A Breeding Machine
Hemp's size affected her daily activities, including the harsh situations she was forced into. Though kept in a cage, she was put to use as a puppy-making machine. The owners disregarded her size when she was forced to carry a new puppy inside of her. These dogs were sold from $700 - $1500, depending on suspected health concerns.
Hemp's body was put to the test in extreme conditions that could have been fatal. She was a clear victim of physical and mental neglect and eventually developed health issues from puppy labor. Tragically, she had been sentenced to living in the puppy mill forever.
Hemp was not fit enough for the circumstances that the puppy mill provided. She was made to continuously reproduce, purely for breeding, so the cruel owners could sell her babies. But, these owners would not go down the traditional reproduction route. Instead, they found an alternative - but it was far from beneficial.
Hemp would bring pup after pup into the world on a regular basis. However, this was not an ordinary birth. Instead, the breeders would perform a cesarean section, putting her through severe stress that could have been fatal. Her small body could not keep up with the severity of these situations.
The Last Straw
Even after giving birth to two litters, that was enough for Hemp. She could not keep up with the overwhelming surgeries, which resulted in her no longer being able to produce for her breeders. She became useless to the puppy mill, which did not go down well at all with the owners.
After her dual birth action, Hemp was only becoming weaker. They didn't care and nurture her the way the dog needed to be, so she became malnourished and physically could not reproduce any longer. She was no longer a good fit for the mill, and the owners decided to say goodbye in perhaps the most cruel way possible.
Visitors to the Rescue
Reports began circulating that the owners of the mill planned to drown Hemp, completely disregarding her emotions as an animal. There were no words to describe the conditions she was exposed to. As an innocent puppy, it was a cruel world to be a part of. Thankfully, a rescue agency soon stepped in.
The agency was Many Tears Animal Rescue. After hearing of the horrible instance, they stepped in to take Hemp away from the mill. But once they arrived, they were speechless - taken aback by the shocking conditions that should never be seen. It was a lair of doom, taking advantage of pups that could do anything purely for profit.
Assessing the Situation
Once the rescue agency started becoming more aware of the situation, it was not just Hemp who needed saving. They took matters into their own hands to save the other pups at risk of potential trauma. So, they grabbed Hemp first before anyone else could.
It was clear she had not been looked after at all. She was covered in scratches from head to toe on her ears and legs, accompanied by painful scab marks. Although they tried to clean her for a promising photo, things were only as good as they could be.
As shown below, Hemp was captured moments after being rescued from a nightmare. Of course, the sweet chihuahua wasn't looking picture-perfect, considering the glimpse of terror but slight relief in her giant puppy-dog eyes. Slowly but surely, she was on the road to recovery and, hopefully, would find a loving home.
To the agency's surprise, a substantial number of people were interested in adopting Hemp despite her being worn out. Of course, there were going to be strict procedures carried out to make sure Hemp would enter a safe environment. One woman, in particular, Claire Stokoe, enquired. But she lived on the other side of the country.
Love at First Sight
Claire didn't think twice about the distance between her and her future pup. She found love the moment she laid eyes on Hemp and was determined to bring her home. So, she contacted the rescue agency to see if Hemp was still up for adoption. Once she had her mind set on Hemp, there was no other pup that could compare.
Claire would have to travel over 600 miles to meet the chihuahua. Those who travel that far are, of course, hopeful they will walk away with what they want. In this case, she hoped she would have an instant connection in person with Hemp. However, things didn't quite so as planned.
The Moment of Truth
Claire hoped that hundreds of miles of driving would be worth it. But when she arrived, it was not what she had imagined. When she entered, Claire was left stunned. Not only was she surprised to see Hemp in the flesh, but she was more taken by the severity of her neglect. It was made even more clear how bad the mill conditions were.
Claire said, "When I saw her, I was shocked… She was emaciated and shaking. She clung to the lady at the rescue, and I wondered for a second if I could really help her. She looked so pitiful, and it was really upsetting." She added that Hemp was "crouched at the back of her little carry case, wide-eyed, and scared."
Taking a Closer Look
Considering the undeniable state of the pup, the agency was transparent with Claire about Hemp's previous situation. There was no hiding from the truth. Her wide eyes look terrified, a stranger to daylight. They specifically wanted to stress the extent of nurturing that Hemp would need.
Hemp was used to being in a dark room at the mill. She was also used to dangerous settings, so it must have been hard to trust the new group of strangers surrounding her. The rescue agency knew she would eventually settle into natural environments - but it wasn't going to happen overnight.
While it has already been established, Hemp was highly mistreated and abandoned at the mill. She was malnourished, barely fed, and disregarded once she was unable to reproduce more puppies for the owners. At that point, she began to develop a skin disease that challenged her health like never before.
Hemp was prone to many health scares from the inside to the outside. Her small body was put to the maximum ability, but she lost this battle. Her legs began to bend in the wrong way due to the pressure she was forced to place on them. Claire was up for a challenge if she was still willing to take her home. But was she?
Looking for a Connection
Luckily, the health issue was not a deterrent for Claire. With those hurdles out of the question, she was worried about whether Hemp was a good addition to her family. If she didn't feel a real connection with Hemp, this would be the only thing stopping her from taking her home.
Claire had her doubts and reasons for them. At first, Hemp was hesitant about going near her, but this was expected for a traumatized pup. For that matter, Claire was skeptical about adopting her, worried if Hemp was ever going to settle in comfortably in her home with Claire as an owner. But this wasn't the case at all.
It seems there was nothing getting in the way of Claire taking little Hemp home. She knew she would never forgive herself if she left Hemp there in the shelter. Who knows who would have adopted her instead? She feared the worst - the worst of owners, and the worst-case scenario, having to put Hemp down because no one would help her.
Claire took into consideration the list of responsibilities she would have with Hemp as her pooch. Hemp needed special attention in sickness and in health. With positive spirits in mind, Claire took the plunge and adopted her. She had to take the risk, knowing Hemp would finally be in a loving home. But would Hemp warm up to her?
Fight or Flight
Like usual practices, Claire proceeded to fill out the necessary paperwork before taking home her tiny teacup. Finally, she had the pup of her dreams. Hemp was about to enter a home filled with love, with no cages in sight. Although Claire was excited, things weren't the same for Hemp. She was scarred from the mill, and it showed.
Claire prepared the car with warm blankets for Hemp, hopeful that Hemp would feel secure and loved on the journey home. Not to mention, it had to be comfortable for that long journey. Yet, Hemp had not gained full trust in her new owner yet. As Claire was driving home with Hemp in the back, something unexpected happened.
A Pleasant Surprise
Claire recalled, "I took the front of the case off, and all of a sudden, she ran up my stomach and hid her face in my neck…I was dumbfounded and just sat there enjoying the feeling of her little breaths on my neck." Hemp's fear got the best of her, and her actions were a surprise for Claire. Was this the beginning of trust?
She continued, "She fell asleep, and soon we were all dozing in the back of the car. She fell asleep within minutes." The wholesome yet shocking experience was an eye-opener for Claire. She finally began to see things how she had hoped, that Hemp started to feel safe in a new environment.
Claire thought that with Hemp embarking on a new journey, she deserved a new name. This would only symbolize new beginnings. So, she decided on the name Brie. Like the cheese! Actually, she was named after the Game of Thrones character Brienne of Tarth, who represents strength and loyalty.
Claire chose this name based on Hemp's/Brie's past. She explained, "how she survived two pregnancies, the cold, the hunger, and the fear, I have no idea… She is made of stronger stuff than me, that's for sure. It's inspiring." Brie had a new life ahead of her - along with a new group of family and friends to protect her.
But as much as we thought this was Claire's first pooch, considering her excitement, this was not the case. Waiting at home for Claire and Brie was not one, nor two, but three more dogs! Little Douddica, Dexter, and Vesper were the perfect new siblings for Brie - all tiny pups ready to play!
Once Brie walked through the door, these pups became best pals. Particularly, little Vesper took a strong liking to Brie straight away, as if they were born and raised together. Claire recalled, "She cleaned her and sat next to her. Brie would walk all over Vesper, and Vesper let Brie do anything - even eat from her food bowl."
With a new name comes a new story - and Brie was all for embracing her new life. In the blink of a puppy dog eye, her personality changed dramatically, almost overnight. She woke up with a twinkle in her eye - the happiest she'd ever been in a long time, thanks to Claire. Even Vesper, a fellow pup, took notice.
Claire added, "Vesper even had a phantom pregnancy just one month after I got Brie, and the vet said that getting Brie made her hormones shoot through the roof… She was even trying to get Brie to suckle like a puppy." How sweet. A change in environment can go a long way. But no one could ever predict just how impactful it could be.
The Night They First Met
It was destiny that brought Claire and re-named Brie together. Claire reminisced on the days she spent scrolling through Facebook and the one day she came across the post for the tiny teacup. It was meant to be. She felt something was missing that drew her even closer to Brie, subconsciously knowing Brie needed a safe place to go.
When Brie was originally advertised, the agency used an image of her placed next to a soup can. The striking similarity in size caught Claire's attention, "She could barely see over the top of it, and she looked so precious and vulnerable." She questioned how she could ever scroll past without investigating Brie's situation further.
Brie & Mr. Duck Duck
Claire claimed, "she acts very much like a young puppy in many ways… She races around the house, plays with toys, chases and throws socks around, and slides along the floor, dragging her legs behind her." Brie took an immediate liking to the stuffed toy Mr. Duck Duck, but this was just the beginning of expanding her comfort zones.
Brie found comfort in toys, but it wasn't long before she became confident in human contact and the nature around her. Claire said, "She has constant contact with humans who love her and want to protect her… She sleeps in her own bed on a soft blanket with access to water. She walks off [leash] and runs with her brother and sisters."
Say Cheese, Brie!
Things were looking up by the day, and Brie even started to show the personality she didn't know she had. Claire joked, "She does a hilarious little thing where she grabs her ears and opens her mouth really loud and makes a noise like chimps do when they laugh," Claire laughed. "It is the cutest thing I have ever seen."
Since she escaped the agonizing puppy mill, with the help of the rescue agency, Brie's health improved physically and mentally. She gained awareness of what it was like to be taken care of properly in a safe and cozy habitat. She had a loving family around her, Vesper being like a sibling and Claire as the mother figure.
To add something a little extra to Brie's comfort, Claire began to provide clothing for her. For a chihuahua as tiny as Brie, Claire prioritized supplying her clothes for the winter days. Due to her very small size, she needed a fuzzy four-legged sweater, especially as she enjoyed lying in the sunshine.
In contrast to her brutally dark cage, Brie was now the proud owner of her own warm and cozy bed to sleep comfortably through the night. She knew she was in safe hands, especially when Vesper was around. She was blessed with a pink, unicorn-shaped bed, which again was a great way to symbolize Brie's personal growth.
Brie Takes Instagram
It was almost impossible for Claire not to share the heartwarming story. She was so touched by the power of social media she decided to embrace it and went on to share Brie's rescue journey, which went viral in a matter of time. From that moment on, she made sure to document every moment as a family.
Almost instantly, Brie's social media page blew up. There was a very popular teacup chihuahua on everyones' hands. The page gained an impressive 68,000+ followers. These followers watched Brie settle into her new home - but the purpose of the account was to spread joy and especially awareness over these situations.
Exposing Puppy Farms
When it comes to saving a rescue dog, Claire could not help but express the importance of adoption on Brie's online page. In most cases, people are more than happy to buy puppies from a pet store, where they are trained at a puppy farm beforehand. But as we've learned, this is not the best moral route to take.
The term 'puppy farm' sounds great, but in reality, it is a harsh and dark world where pups are put to work to reproduce. Just like Brie, these pet store pups are bred in cramped cages for the unforeseeable until they are of no good use anymore to the owners. Then who knows what might happen?
Made under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, Lucy's Law was eventually coined. This law regulates in limiting the sale of puppies and other pets in England. The law came into full force when the UK parliament came to its senses and acknowledged the cruel world of animal punishment and breeding.
The law was named after a victim named Lucy, who was in a similar situation to Brie. The sweet spaniel was saved in 2013 from a breeding puppy farm in South Wales by an animal rescue organization. Lucy's owner pleaded, "dogs' lives are literally hanging in the balance, all the other Lucy's out there still need to be saved."
Every Signature Counts
A petition was started in honor of Lucy to make sure the Law was officiated. Remarkably, the petition gained over 143,000 signatures. Lisa Garner, Lucy's savior, said, "I never thought it would come as far as it has, and it's all stemmed from one little dog called Lucy who I saw on a rescue center website looking so tiny and vulnerable."
Once people began to take charge, it was a moment to mark in Lisa's life. She said, "I'm incredibly proud of my team and everyone for signing and sharing the petition, change is long overdue, and you are all making it happen." According to Pedpedia, "about 2.04 million puppies produced by puppy mills are sold each year."
In the United States, only partial elements of dog breeding procedures are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act of August 24th, 1966. Although each state has its own regulations for puppy mills and breeding, it is heartbreaking to know there are many states who opt to disregard the cruel conditions that exist.
According to ACPCA, at least 21 states, including Alabama, Kentucky, and Michigan, do not have any laws that watch over puppy mills. This only makes it easier to target these farms and expand their wicked businesses. Just like Brie's mill, there are many out there that still exist, and nothing is stopping them.
The Journey Continues...
In contrast to those who are getting away with their breeding business, a number of mills across the United States have been raided by officials, with owners arrested or charged over animal cruelty. In 2015, a puppy farm in Florida was targeted, and over 100 dogs were saved from the horrifying conditions they were found in.
If any good news can come out of statistical awareness, the Humane Society saved 183 animals from a mill in Arkansas. These animals were close to the same dangers as Brie. Hopefully, with the power of social media, more pups can be adopted and rescued rather than bought from the store. This story is just getting started…