Found clinging to life on a heap of dead puppies in a bucket, little did he know at the time what a difference his broken life would someday make. Harley Puppy Mill Dog was lucky. He was plucked from the brink by a mill worker who noticed he was still breathing, and after ten miserable, abuse-filled years, was sent to a rescue group. And then, his life became magical. Rudi and Dan Taylor found and adopted Harley. And, their love for and commitment to this one-eyed, disfigured boy, and their desire to never see another dog go through what Harley did, began a journey that has ignited the animal loving world. For National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, we’re honoring and remembering Harley, who passed away in March at 15 years old, after five wonderful and important years with the Taylor’s. And, we’re going to meet Fernando, their newest senior rescue and the entire Taylor canine family.
Harley’s Work & Legacy
Harley rose to his new life with fervor. The love and care he’d never received healed him and, beyond all expectations, gave him four + more years of life than anticipated. When Rudi and Harley got involved in shedding more light on puppy mill horrors, Harley would go on their rescue missions, behind a campaign he and Rudi created called Harley to the Rescue. Harley to the Rescue raises funds to save and provide medical care for mill dogs. But, Harley’s story may have just been a lovely one of a caring couple who saved an old and crooked mill dog, if all concerned weren’t as special as they are.
In the five years Harley lived with the Taylor’s, he had a direct paw in helping to rescue 700 puppy mill dogs and raised the money for all of their care. Harley to the Rescue also raised enough money to save an additional 1,000 puppy mill dogs! In 2015, Harley was named the American Humane Association’s American Hero Dog of the Year. No surprise to any of the lives he’s touched. At this writing, Harley has over 122,000 Facebook fans and almost 27,000 followers on Instagram.
Rudi shared so much of Harley’s life with his fans and followers, channeling his voice in blogs and social media posts, and documenting his good works in photos and video. I found this quote particularly poignant about her observations of Harley on the rescue missions. When he went, Rudi shared, “…there is no doubt … Harley is keenly aware of what is happening! There is something indescribable in the way he communicates with the sad and scared dogs. Harley clearly recognizes his role in helping to bridge the gap between canine and human.”
She went on to share how special a boy Harley was. “From the beginning, there was something ‘magical’ about Harley. Everyone who met him saw it. People were drawn to him and he was drawn to people. It became clear that Harley had a very important reason to live … and somehow I was the lucky one chosen to help him in his journey.”
You see what I mean about Rudi in the way she writes about Harley? Dan, her husband, is cut from the same cloth. And, when I met them and Harley at the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards Luncheon, just a short while before Harley passed, I was immediately drawn to this kind, warm couple and the little dog with a big dream.
Harley’s newest venture
Harley continues to make a difference from over the Rainbow Bridge. His newest campaign, Harley’s Puppy Mill Action and Awareness Project, is getting communities around the world involved in championing for change for puppy mill dogs. To become one of Harley’s Heroes, Harley is asking you to form an anti-puppy mill group in your town, to hold regular meetings and to reach out in your community. The campaign officially launched September 1st, and already there are 124 Harley’s Heroes groups in 41 states across the country (6 of those in Canada).
Want to learn more? Get involved in Harley’s Puppy Mill Action and Awareness Project.
While many of you already know of Harley, his work with Harley to the Rescue and the wonderful, national organization he’s championed called the National Mill Dog Rescue, what you probably don’t know is that Harley shared a home with four other dogs. We’re going to meet the Taylor’s fur baby family, including its newest member, a senior Chihuahua named Fernando, rescued since Harley’s passing.
Rudi and Dan are an in-need senior dog’s dream. They share their home with five of them in all shapes, colors and sizes, and you can see from Rudi’s face in the photo above, how she and Dan feel about their fur children. Meet Cricket, Olive, Riley, Stella and Fernando. Here’s a little about each of them, in Rudi’s own words:
Cricket is a 12 year old, 6-pound Chihuahua, who spent the first six years of her life in a cage in a puppy mill, producing puppies to be sold in pet stores. After her rescue, it took about three years for her to develop the confidence to let a man come near her. She is the sweetest, kindest and softest little dog; her eyes are almost human-like. She was our very first puppy mill survivor and she’s quite special to us.
Olive is a 5 year old, 4-pound Chihuahua that we rescued from a show breeder. She was a ‘reject’ – her teeth weren’t straight enough and she was a little too small for the show world. Olive rules our roost! We often say that she is a Pitbull/Border Collie in a tiny Chihuahua body. She will play fetch all day long and she always makes sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be, when she wants them to be there! She is also very bold and intimidating, but has the sweetest soul.
Riley is a 10 year old, 7-pound Chihuahua, who we rescued from a puppy mill four years ago. She was so emotionally shut down after being freed, that she couldn’t move for days; she only had a glazed-over, dead stare. We planned to foster Riley, but after a few months, it was obvious that she needed us, and so she became a Taylor. Riley still has many fears, but she is also very happy and shows that by spinning around, wagging her tail! She loves to hike in the mountains with us, off-leash. She’s also very beautiful!
Stella was rescued from a farm in Kansas when she was 3+ years old, and we adopted her soon after – that was 6 years ago. She is an Anatolian Shepherd and weighs 110 pounds. Her breed is known to have a very low prey drive, and is often used to guard flocks of sheep, chickens and even small children! Stella is the absolute most gentle dog you could imagine, in spite of her large size. She keeps a watchful eye on her Chihuahua siblings when they are outdoors, always scanning the sky for hawks and other predators.
Fernando is the newest addition to our pack, and we’ve had this Chihuahua for about a month now. This skinny, crippled little old dog was found running in city traffic near San Francisco and luckily, was saved. He made his way to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, and they flew him to us. We fell in love instantly and he fell in love with us. Fernando is a funny character; very grateful to be with our family. While his history is not known, there are many indications that suggest he may have been used as a breeding dog, and either escaped or was dumped. He is approximately 12 years old. It’s not possible to ever replace our beloved Harley, but Fernando has certainly helped heal our hearts.
Rudi and Dan, what a beautiful family! Thank you so much for sharing them with us.
I couldn’t think of a better way to end this post in honor of Harley and puppy mill dogs everywhere, than with this quote from Rudi:
“In a world so full of evil and hate, it’s easy to become cynical. This special little dog, with such a horrible past, has helped me see how much love and caring there really is in the world. Harley has taught me to look for (and expect) love and kindness from people, because he only sees the best in people. He has truly changed my life in remarkable ways.” Bless you, Harley. And, bless you, Rudi and Dan Taylor, who are doing so much to end the horrors of puppy mills for millions of dogs everywhere.
Do you have a puppy mill story?