Crown Point Rev. David Hirtle relaxed in a large easy chair as his two rambunctious dachshunds tossed toys at his feet, pleading for him to play fetch.
As he reached for one of the stuffed objects, a small head peaked around the corner from the next room.
And, just as quickly, disappeared.
“There she is, there’s Zelda,” Hirtle said, referring to his most recent foster dog. “She has a very difficult time with men — especially their feet.”
“What do you think that says?” he added, alluding to the abuse the small dog had endured.
Zelda, Hirtle explained, was rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri along with a dozen other dogs. In her first two years of life she had already been forced to deliver two litters of puppies. She had lived her life in a cage with no real human interaction, had never had a toy or been outside.
“The authorities in Missouri are cracking down on puppy mills,” Hirtle said. “They said find a home for these dogs, or shoot them.”
Hirtle is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Crown Point.
One of the dachshund rescue organizations Hirtle works with — All American Dachshund Rescue — agreed to take the dogs in and place them with foster homes in hopes they could be readied for adoption in a permanent home.
All American is in Tennessee, so once foster families were located for the dogs, they had to be driven by volunteers, each taking a leg of the 1,200 mile trip. The final dog was placed in New Hampshire, Hirtle said, with volunteers driving 21 separate legs to complete the entire drive.
When Zelda arrived at the Hirtles, she weighed just over 8 pounds. The first two nights she would not come out of her crate and howled throughout the night, but within a week she was beginning to respond to human interaction. And, she was the most social of all the dogs saved from the puppy mill.