Our Golden Rescue Champions
A Note from Golden Mom Rochelle
On October 29, 2004, I received a heartfelt post from Greg Korycki regarding a puppy mill rescue. His post was titled: "The Great Escape . . . From Hell to Heaven in just One Day!!" Greg had been a part of the transfer team (driver)  driving 17 Goldens from Winne, Texas to Austin, and then onto Phoenix. Here is the story of this incredible adventure as told by Janetta Chrysler. Greg also provided some photos (shown below) of some of the transferred puppy mill Goldens going to various rescue groups for fostering. The photo above shows one of the two-year-old females from the rescue who is now safely being cared for by her new foster family.

A Golden sweetie at her new foster homeThe Great Escape of 2004
Written by Janetta Chrysler

Friday, October 9, 2004, it's pouring rain, Francine, Jim, and I headed off to a small town in Arkansas on a mission to a rescue at least 30 Golden Retrievers and whatever else we could afford at a puppy mill auction. What we did not know was how it would forever change our lives and the lives of some 80 dogs.

During the 11 hour drive, we planned our bidding strategy, made jokes, got flea preventative divided up and ready in zip lock baggies along with Capstar to kill the live ones. We got collars ready with pretty pink and yellow ribbon holding on a tag on which to write the dogs auction number. It was a fun trip with lots of laughter.

We arrived in Ft. Smith, AR around 8pm and checked into a local Motel 6. We found a Waffle House to get food before returning to the motel for some much needed sleep. It was still raining.

At 6am, Jim called the room for our wake up call. Francine and I showered and got ready for the big event. We had a good laugh at each other wearing our “miller clothes” that we purchased at Goodwill a few days before the trip. The three of us walked in the rain over to McDonalds for breakfast. There was a couple and their teenage son ordering food as we walked in and we joked about them going to the auction.

Two hours later, after eating and checking out of the motel, we found North River Road and I felt as if someone had just punched me in the stomach as we pulled onto the grounds of the puppy mill. We sat in the vehicle for a few minutes to catch our breath and watched the millers unload their dogs that they had brought for consignment. I do not think any of us were prepared for what we would encounter on that Saturday, the 10th of October.

Earlier we had decided that Francine and I would stay together while Jim went on his own. As soon as we walked through the farm gates, there were two 6-week-old mixed breed black and white puppies in a hamster cage in the bed of an open pick up truck. It was chilly, windy and raining. These puppies were shivering with a sign on the truck that said, “FREE, take if you want.” You bet we took them! Two puppies were saved from being bred just for their milk and their future newborn puppies saved from being drowned because they were not wanted. Francine and I put the puppies in a warm crate with a towel in the bottom. Jim laughed at us, and called us those “damn rescue do-gooders!”

As I was walking around the mill looking at all the eyes pleading for release, I tried not to look horrified, but rather as if I was used to seeing dead eyes and lost souls everyday. I tried my best not to stick my fingers in any of the cages for I did not want people to think I actually cared about these pathetic looking creatures.

There were old trailers and portable buildings all over the grounds with cries and barking coming from them all. Francine and I got brave and started walking in them one by one. The stench, the flies, nothing in my life had prepared me for this. I have been in poorly run, falling down shelters and filthy kennels. Nothing compared. The smell of stale urine and fresh feces burned my nose and made me gag as I walked in the tiny buildings. Wire cages were stacked 3 high on both walls and crammed full of tiny puppies. They were literally dying for attention and since we were alone in the dimly lit building, my fingers went inside the rusted wire cages, if only for a second, they were given human attention. I wanted so badly to open the cages, love on all of them and set them free from the hell they were in. About an hour later, all the portable buildings now had signs posted that read “Do Not Enter.” These puppies were never auctioned off.

All the dogs up for auction had tight cheap metal chains around their necks from which hung flexible plastic cattle tag lot numbers. I guess they ran out of cheap chain because the rest of the dogs got wire wrapped around their necks and the cattle tags hung from that.

We found some of the Golden Retrievers and while there were some that were just as terrified as we were, for the most part, they were friendly and outgoing. I bent down to read a tag number on a beautiful female and I whispered to her, “You are getting out of here, I promise, you are getting out.”

The registration trailer was finally set up so we headed over to register and get our numbers, 60 and 64. Numbers Bob and Chad, the auctioneers, had memorized with our faces by the end of the day. We walked around a bit more, then headed over to the tent and waited for the auction to begin. As we sat on the cold hard bleachers, I turned around to see who was behind us and possibly eavesdropping, it was no other than the couple and their teenage son from McDonalds!

The auctioneer was getting started. He introduced himself as Bob and his teenage son as Chad. The rest of the family was also introduced. Bob went over the auction rules including the no camera rule. If anyone was caught with a camera, it would be confiscated and the person would be escorted off the premises to a waiting squad car and charged with trespassing, a felony.

Selling of equipment was starting. A miller’s equipment consisted of surgical scissors for doing ones own stitching and galvanized box kennel feeders along with metal cage cardholders.

The Chihuahuas were the first dogs up. As the high school aged kids brought up the dogs three at a time, I felt a lump in my throat and I had to remind myself to breathe, it was starting, the selling of dogs for breeding had begun. The first three chi’s were females and Bob stated they may have been bred, meaning they were already pregnant and checked out fine. The bidding began at $300, with no bids Bob went down to $50. It was fast and furious with millers bidding left and right, SOLD for $120 and the winning bidder picked which dog out of the three he wanted. It started all over again for the remaining two dogs. The winning bid was $250 and the lady said she wanted them both. In came the next three and Bob stated that she was a 98 model and had been bred. Her poor belly was so swollen and she looked miserable. Her body was sold for $475. The last of the Chi’s came out. On the table was an adorable 5-year-old male named Slick Willie’s Snowball that looked just like Francine’s Chi Chi that she had just lost to old age and two other males. Once again the bidding began and at $35, I raised my number, but by the time the auction helper got to me, it had gone up to $75! Before I knew it, I heard, “sold to number 60!” “Ma’am, which one do you want?” I looked at Francine and together we said, “The blonde.” The auctioneer chuckled and told the assistant that we wanted the blonde, the third one.

We curiously watched in disgust as people were bidding on these defenseless, frightened creatures like there was nothing to it. All 13 of the female Cocker Spaniels were sold for anywhere from $85 to $360 each. The male cocker puppies were next. Four puppies were brought in, all 04 models as they were called. Three of the puppies were said to have checked okay but the black and white one named Spots Whopper Daddy had double cherry eye. Bob announced that he could still get it on; he didn’t need his sight for breeding! After that comment, I was determined to get him. Bidding started out high, but due to these males being young pups, they have not been “proven” to breed yet. The starting bid kept going lower and lower. I wanted this precious boy and I saved him for $25! There were now two males left another young pup and a 3 year old. Bob told the crowd that the 01 model had an un-descended testicle, but the one he did have was big, and boy could it swing! The mob of greed was quiet and the opening bid got down to $10, I raised my card and heard “SOLD to #60.” When asked which one I wanted, Francine and I looked at each other and without hesitating we took them both for $10 each. Disgusting and a true insult to the breed, but now they too are safe.

Bob announced that the large dogs would be auctioned off in their kennels. We headed out of the tent and walked in the rain and mud to where the Golden Retrievers, Golden Doodles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Australian Shepherd’s and Akitas were. The Goldens were up. Jim was looking nervous, yet he was confident and looked like a professional. I made my way through the crowd to Francine who was in charge of keeping track of how much Jim had spent. The smell of feces made me gag and I had to turn around and quickly walk out. I caught my breath and told myself to suck it up as we were doing this to save lives. I braved the flies and the stench once more. The bidding war had begun between Jim and a friend of the auctioneer named Dell. The first kennel had five dogs in it. Dell gave up at $200 and Jim took the entire run. Kennel number two was packed with Goldens. Once again, Jim won the bid and took the whole run. This went on, kennel after kennel after kennel! Dell was now getting quite angry and the crowd was all eyes on Jim, the man buying ALL the Golden Retrievers. All I remember hearing was “SOLD, number 64 buys the lot!” Bob did not have to ask Jim how many he wanted from each kennel, he knew he was determined to get them all. Jim had saved that entire kennel area of Goldens. He called his wife to tell her the good news. Francine and I saw the Golden Doodles were being auctioned off so we quickly went back in the kennel. We had missed the females but we shouted and stopped Chad, who had taken over for his father. Francine asked what the bid was and we were told one male had sold for $15. Chad asked if we were interested, hell yes we were. “SOLD!” The last three were saved!

We found Jim still talking to his wife away from the crowds and told him about the Doodles. The hoards of men, women and children moved up the hill to a few more Goldens, Saint Bernard’s, and Burmese Mountain Dog puppies. The adult female-bred Berners bids were no higher than $200 and the miller said she would not let them go for that. I’m so sorry girls that you were left in that filth to have your precious babies. Saint Bernard rescue was able to get all three of the Saint puppies. Once again the Bernese Mountain Dogs were not getting much attention and the bidding went down to $10. They were not in great shape and looked to have hip dysplasia already at 8 months of age. I got in on the bidding and it stopped at $25. “SOLD to #60.” Each bidder was allowed to pick a dog. Jim got the rest of the Goldens in that area.

I was starting to feel that the pores in my body had soaked up the entire stench from around me. I was surrounded by human greed. I was surrounded by cruelty. I had to take a walk away from it all. I needed to clear my head, I needed to be strong.

Jim was on a roll at the upper kennels that contained the Golden Retrievers for consignment. I stood back and watched Dell roll his eyes and throw up his arms as he lost kennel after kennel to Jim. I heard some women talking about the man in the blue jacket at the end of the run. I casually looked down that way and they were speaking of Jim. His cover was blown and they along with everyone else had figured it out. These dogs were never going to be bred again. They were getting out of this filthy greed. They will never have to lie in their own urine and feces. They will be kept warm in the winter and cool during the summer months. They will never live in a kennel again. They are free, they have escaped this horrible thing the millers call a living.

A few Goldens were left and the millers were driving the prices up to try and outbid “that rescue man.” Bob asked Dell if he was ready and paying attention. Dell had already given up and realized he was not going to get the twenty females he had come to the auction for. Next it was off to the building with mammas and their puppies. Once again Dell and the other millers there, to raise the bidding, lost to Jim. In that building, he saved two nursing moms with two puppies each. The rest of the litter to one mom had been hosed down the drain and the others pups had been eaten by the other dogs in the kennel with her. One more Golden was left. She looked worried about where her puppies were to be born. She was miserable in her wire-bottomed cage. She too is now safe. You lose Dell, the Goldens have won this auction!

Hours and hours had now passed and we are all getting tired and wondering how we were going to get all the dogs home. Jim went to the trailer and got his final total of dogs and money owed. On his phone, he told his wife the wonderful news. Jim went back to our vehicle to figure out a plan on transporting about fifty more dogs than we had planned. Francine and I went back to the auction tent to watch the disgust of bidding wars on the small dogs.

Bulldog number 99 was up. He checked out fine for an ‘02 model and had even been semen tested. The beautiful boy was bought for $450. Next came the Bacon Frise’s. All five of them were 04 models and unproven males. We were shockingly surprised when no one was biting at the opening bid of $1,000. Why would anyone want to put up that much money in an unproven male? Who cares how adorable they are. That was not the game we were playing that day. Two Bichons were sold to us for a measly $30 each.

The insanity went on for hours. In those cold wet hours, we were able to save an Italian Greyhound and a Rat Terrier, both looked scared to death. A male Schipperke was also freed from his hell. I am not a big fan of Schipperkes and apparently millers are not either. It was Larry’s Man Smokey’s turn on the chopping block. Bidding started at $25, no bidders, down to $20, still no bidders, down to $10, nothing. Bob said $5, then gave up and asked if anyone even wanted this boy for free. My arm shot up and Bob asked if I would pay a nickel for him. Of course I will I told Bob. Another one saved.

Francine left to help Jim start loading up the truck. For some reason, I could not pull myself away from this disgust, I was hooked and I wanted more dogs out. Unfortunately, I could not afford any of the Pugs, Westies, Maltese, or Min Pins. The last dog of the auction was a ‘96 model female Japanese Chin. Bob announced that she was missing several teeth and had a large umbilical hernia. Another miller asked if she had been bred and Bob put his hand under her to feel the stomach. I was not prepared for what happened next. “Folks, she is bleeding right now!” Bob showed the crowd the blood on his hand, and then wiped it across his shirt. “The bitch is in heavy season.” I decided at that moment, I was not leaving that tent until I got this girl. No matter what the cost was, she was going to be set free. I was not going to let this girl be bought just for her uterus. Bidding started out high, and then quickly went to $10. Another round of furious bidding had begun and this time I was in the middle of it. Slowly, one by one other bidders were backing down, not me. Then I heard the words I had been waiting for, “SOLD to number 60 for $75!” As I breathed a sigh of relief that I had saved the Japanese Chin from being bred again, I started to feel a sense of grief. There were so many dogs that the miller would not sell. What was going to happen to all the others that were bought by other millers? In the back of my mind, I knew exactly what was going to happen to them.

I found my way to the trailer and settled up the bill. I wanted my dogs, but I had to find another trailer to pick up their paperwork and sign off on the USDA forms. With papers in hand, I ran to what became known as the “Big Yellow Truck” and boasted to Francine that I got the female Japanese Chin. She was busy loading all the Golden Retrievers up and she and Jim were worrying about available space. I could not be worried about space right now I had prized possessions to get. I was off to collect our dogs. One by one, I carried them out of their filth to the truck, the whole way whispering to them, “It is ok, I am getting you out of here, you are safe now.”

We did end up having to buy several crates from the millers. The miller’s entire family stayed with us at the Big Yellow Truck and helped us load. One teenage boy was instructing his friends to remove the wire from the dog’s neck before they got loaded, as Francine had previously instructed him. The miller thanked us for coming and buying the dogs. She knew we were from a rescue and she admitted that the dogs we had bought were now safe. She even brought out another Golden puppy and asked us to buy him for $100. Jim told her we did not have room, as he knew the game she was playing, and she went down to $50, yet another saved. I told her these dogs would never be bred again and would only go to the best most loving homes we could find. As our eyes met she whispered thank you.

It was a very long drive home and had started to get dark. It was still raining. The stench these dogs had taken with them was unbearable. The stench we had taken with us was unbearable. We were covered in urine and feces ourselves. While trying to take our minds off the burning odor, I loved on a Golden Retriever puppy for about 10 minutes. Add being covered in dog vomit to the urine and feces list.

We drove for a few hours before stopping at McDonalds for a quick bite to eat. Adding to my notes for the next trip: Do not eat a Big Mac then get back in a vehicle full of 80 plus dogs that have just escaped a puppy mill. I was about to vomit from the stench and had to lie down on the floor, in the back with all the dogs using a roll of paper towels for a pillow. The windows were down most of the way home needless to say. There was no laughter on the trip home.

Arriving home in the early hours of Sunday is much of a blur. One moment that will be forever engraved in my head is when I was letting all the dogs out of their crates in Francine’s front yard. All the dogs slowly came out, sniffed the grass for the first time and relieved themselves, except for one dog. The Italian Greyhound, no longer known as Prince’s Feisty Rascal #173, came right up to me as I knelt on the ground. He put both front paws on my thigh and gently licked my cheek before running off to enjoy his new found freedom.

All of the dogs are doing extremely well and adjusting to the good life quicker then I thought they would. Their past is exactly that now, the past. It is I that is having trouble getting back to normal. I knew the weekend would be hard, but I had no idea it would affect me the way it did. While the “escapees” are comfortable and in a deep sleep dreaming of the loving family that awaits them, I am having nightmares about the ones we had to leave behind. Nightmares about not having crates to get the ones we saved home. Nearly a week later, my nights continue to be troubled by the faces, the sorrow, the filth, the suffering. I awake soaked and gasping for fresh air wishing I had never gone to that damned place called a puppy mill. Then every morning when I see the shining faces, the indebted eyes, and the joyful wagging tails of the dogs thanking me for going to that damned puppy mill, I am the one that knows it is going to be ok now.

Your choice — turn off music or keep on.