Lolly’s Journey from Terrified Puppy Mill Victim to Confident Helper Dog

January 19, 2023

In November 2021, at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the ASPCA assisted in removing, transporting and sheltering more than 500 dogs and puppies in the care of a USDA-licensed breeder in Seymour, Iowa. The animals were surrendered after the USDA documented over 190 violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

The complaint detailed horrific conditions at multiple locations in Iowa including dogs with untreated injuries and illnesses, painful matting, dogs in cages that were too small, moldy food and even deceased dogs. 

Of the dogs found in these deplorable conditions, was Lolly, a two-year-old Poodle-mix.

The Start of a New Journey

Due to her condition, Lolly was transferred to an emergency shelter for initial exams and treatment where it was noted that she had matted fur, internal parasites, dental disease and severe infection. On top of her medical conditions, Lolly was extremely nervous, avoiding human interaction and leashing. 

In order to address her behavior concerns, Lolly was transferred to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC) in Weaverville, North Carolina. Here, Lolly would receive the specialized treatment she needed to overcome her fears. 

When Lolly first arrived at the BRC, she was nervous and pacing in her kennel, so stressed that her paw pads were sweating. But our staff at the BRC felt confident they could help Lolly, so they used their expertise and got to work on a behavioral plan that would help her relax, gain more confidence and hopefully, come out of her shell.

For many dogs, combining items they enjoy with items they are fearful of help create positive associations with the “scary” items and experiences. Our staff began associating treats or other dogs from her case—things Lolly loves—with scary things like new people, new places and leashing.

Thanks to the hard work put in by both Lolly and our dedicated BRC staff, Lolly came out of her shell and began to blossom into the dog she was always meant to be. She became more and more excited to work with people and even solicited their attention, seeking pets and wanting to spend time on their laps. She also enjoyed car rides and exploring local parks. 

Improving by Leaps and Bounds

Having made massive strides in her six weeks at the BRC, Lolly was ready for graduation. 

At the same time, Lolly was experiencing some eye discharge, so she saw Dr. Ashely Eisenback, BRC Senior Director of Veterinary Services, to resolve it.

After spending time together, Lolly and Dr. Eisenback became inseparable. And as luck would have it, Dr. Eisenback and her family had been looking for a smaller dog as a companion for both themselves and their young dog. 

Dr. Eisenback made the decision to adopt Lolly and welcomed her into what would be Lolly’s first-ever home. 

Helping Others

Going to a new place can be scary, so it took some time for Lolly to initially warm up to her new digs. But with patience and time, Lolly became more and more comfortable in her home. 

Now, Lolly does everything with her family like exploring new places, going for walks in the neighborhood, cuddling and even sleeping with Dr. Eisenback’s youngest daughter every night. 

But that’s not where this heartwarming story ends! Lolly has come so far that she often goes to work with Dr. Eisenback as a helper dog at the BRC.

Helper dogs act as guide for more fearful dogs, showing them how to walk on a leash, engage in play or even just calmly be around people. Helper dogs provide fearful dogs the confidence and reinforcement they need to interact with both people and the environment around them. This allows the fearful dogs to feel more relaxed and come out of their shells.

Lolly has been hard at work teaching other dogs the same lesson she learned, life can be pretty scary sometimes, but it gets better!