Mill Mommas and Mistletoe

Everywhere you turn during the months approaching Christmas, you see signs saying things like, “Christmas is a time for giving.” Because this giving is regulated to happen every 12 months, it can easily become automatic, lacking profound thought.

For me, the holidays had even begun to feel like a chore – too much to do, not enough money, too little time. I always looked forward to our family holiday parties, where video game bowling tournaments have become a tradition alongside the eggnog and spiced rum, but other than that the holidays often seemed more like a time for stress than a time for cheer.

Several years ago we became a foster family for MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue. We didn’t know anything about puppy mills at the time, but we got a crash course via our first few foster dogs. Each one was unique, but none was quite like Zoye, our 20th foster dog who came to us just before last Christmas. She had been a breeding dog at a mill, stuck in a chicken wire cage 24/7, perpetually making puppies for SEVEN years. Her splayed paws and droopy nipples said it all. Our rescue had adopted her out to a “good” home, but after being there for six months, I was asked if I would pick her up and take her in as a foster. “Odd,” I thought, “And just before the holidays?”

Zoye Boston TerrierI met Zoye’s “mom” in a hotel parking lot, where she handed me a dog in a too-small crate. She said Zoye “had bitten both dogs and children, could not be potty-trained, and must be deaf and blind because she keeps walking into things.” She had locked Zoye in her kitchen for six months where Zoye’s urine couldn’t damage the floor. I’m glad she didn’t invite me over to eat!

On the drive home, I worried. Caring for an incontinent, blind biter over the holidays in addition to my two cats and Bill, a quirky puppy mill survivor we had adopted, was not going to be easy. I imagined Zoye’s first introduction to my house: a trail of pee following her like breadcrumbs and a vicious battle with Bill, leaving him ear-less. It seemed my Christmas was going to be spent scrubbing floors and breaking up fights.

What occurred, in reality, was…merry! Zoye made friends with Bill immediately and then claimed a squeaky toy for her own, proudly parading it around the house. She did have accidents, but it was clear she could be trained. Where was the deaf, blind devil dog? Why wasn’t she walking into walls?

Bill and ZoyeThat Christmas our holiday party had a new star – Zoye! She marched around my parents’ house – the whole house, not just the kitchen – as if everyone had come just to greet her. She sported a little diaper like a fashion accessory and snuggled on the couch with Bill to watch our highly-competitive (only to my dad, mind you) bowling tournament. The pair was the picture of contentment in each other’s warmth.

You may not have known it, but I accepted it for us all, and on behalf of all the dogs adopted out of mills who leave their pasts behind. It’s the gift that Zoye gave me, and you, and the miller, and the woman who locked her in the kitchen. She gave us all the gift of forgiveness by licking and loving and living without a shadow of resentment or regret. The gift was a lesson, one for which I remain grateful and steadfast in my service as a foster home and advocate for Zoye and dogs like her.

Maybe those signs you see during the holidays should say, “Christmas is a time ‘forgiving,’ ” instead.

Zoye and Kyla


A year later, the holidays seem right – a time for cheer. If Zoye could leave her stress behind her, so can I. She is in a truly loving home now, and we’ll be spending this year’s holiday with our new mill momma foster dog, Olive. No diaper needed… as of last week.

**Written for the Trupanion Insurance Pawliday Blog Contest

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17 Responses to Mill Mommas and Mistletoe

  1. Oh, the best holiday story EVER!!! Thank you for sharing……….. and thank you for doing what you do, and inspiring others!!

    Hugs and wags,

    Erika, Taz, Chip, Pebbles, and all the fosters past, present and future!! :-3

  2. DORA says:

    Jesus is my savior, and I celebrate his birthday with enthusiasm!
    Christmas is the most wonderful time for us. We save money all year long to have an unforgettable White Christmas each year.
    Even our fur friends get something!
    We love the coziness of the 25th in the morning, when everyone , still in their pajamas, sit to “open” their stockings;) Truly, I can’t think of a better Holiday in the whole year!

  3. Kim Max & Madeline aka the M & Ms says:

    What a wonderful Christmas story. I love it. And I love the Christmas holiday season. Yes it can be a bit to overwhelmingly stressful and chaotic, but with careful planning and just saying NO to those wonderful sales & growing Christmas gift lists, we get through it with little to no stress. I am happy to share our first Christmas with the M & Ms. They have been a blessing in our lives this past year and I hope we have been to them as well.

  4. Heather says:

    What a wonderful story. I love hearing about happy endings for mill dogs. I have so much respect for you as a foster mom and admire you for the work you are doing. Hugs to Zoye – and Olive too!

  5. Lisa Brone says:

    I remember Zoye and what a love she was and a licker! I’m glad she found a great home. Thanks for sharing her story and as always, thanks for the unbelievable GREAT work you do.

  6. Julie Tinker says:

    What an uplifting testimony! Christmas CAN be a magical time for blessed events like this to happen! Thank you for sharing your home and your heart with those in need of an angel!!

  7. Carol Duffy says:

    I can’t find the words that offer appropriate sentiments for what you and Dylan do for this great cause. You do so much! I am so proud that you are using your athletic talents as well as your academics to help make people aware of what so many animals are subjected to. Dylan is amazing with flying dogs to new homes and much more. Your dad and I have received so much from being a very small part of your commitment. Every day of the year you have given endlessly to help these animals. I love your word: forgiving-. I thank you for being YOU and the life’s path you chose or did it choose you? Either way, you are a very very special lady! LOVE, mom & dad

  8. Mom (Carol) – I thank YOU AND DAD for forgiving all my perpetual goofiness and ungratefulness. Thanks for standing by me and trying to keep me on the right path! 🙂

    Thanks to everyone for all your kind comments. Your support means everything to me.

  9. Sam says:

    What a great story. It sounds like her first momma didn’t give her any kind of chance – she was so lucky to have been returned to you!


  10. Sandy says:

    What a wonderful, inspiring story. Good for you and good for Zoye. I’d like to find out if there is a foster organization for German Shepherd Dogs in Hawaii. I’d love to be one.

  11. Peggy Moynihan says:

    Dear Kyla,
    Your experience in story form was warm, attention holding and spoke clearly of the love in your heart for misused and abused animals. The lesson of forgiveness learned and shared was truly a gift of Christmas to you, and through you to us, for that is the main message from the Christ Child born this day. God bless you for sharing this gift with all of us.
    You asked for a critique and so as a volunteer proof-reader I would suggest that you add the word “to” in your sentence, “It’s the gift that Zoye gave to me, and to you, and to the miller, and to the woman…” This little word, to, gives a visual to the action, but the author knows what is best for her creation.
    I’m proud of you. Love, Aunt Peggy

  12. mary says:

    What a beautiful story and what a great mission for you and Dylan. I am filled with joy to see the two of you working on something bigger than yourselves. God bless you both as well as your extended puppy family.

  13. Kanani says:

    What a beautiful story about a sweet puppy. Thanks for sharing. I love this phrase, “Christmas is a time ‘forgiving’. ”

  14. Sandy – I just looked it up for you and didn’t see anything specifically, although the Maui Humane Society and Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary seemed to both have some GSDs. is a great place to search. Give it a try there… Good luck!

  15. Thanks, Mary! You’ve been a great friend and inspiration to us!

  16. KATHY says:


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