Icon. Hero. When we think of those words, we tend to think of people. When I think of those words, I think of a small dog whose life was so improbable as to be the stuff of legends. Harley. Harley Taylor, to be exact. I was trying to think back to when I first learned about Harley and I had to go look it up in my records. Just like human icons and heroes are timeless, so is Harley. It is like he has always been and always will be, thanks to his family and his devoted followers.
Harley lived in a cramped, filthy cage at a puppy mill for the first 10 years of his life, fathering countless puppies to be sold in pet stores across the country. His life was incredibly rough. He was sick, afraid and had never known the kindness of human touch. After he had been tossed in a bucket along with some dead puppies, a puppy mill worker noticed he was still breathing. She retrieved him from the bucket and passed the tiny, disfigured Chihuahua on to a nearby rescue. He received immediate medical care and he was put in the grass where his picture was taken. He was old and crooked, he had only one eye, and he appeared sad and afraid. Rudi Taylor wrote:
when I saw the photo I knew instinctively that this little Chihuahua was meant to be with me. I called the women who ran the rescue; we spoke for an hour and the next thing you know I was on my way to pick up “my boy” a couple states away. To be honest, my intention was to give this dog a loving home for his final days, which the vet said would likely be about three months. A soft bed, good food and clean water – but most importantly, love – that is what I would give “Harley” for the first time in his life.
Harley had come very close to death and he had issues: a diseased heart, a mouth filled with rot, a fused spine, a broken tail, gnarled toes, and legs that were deformed. And then there was the missing eye – the result of his cage being power-washed with him in it (an all too common practice in puppy mills). But Harley was a survivor. He thrived on the love and attention he received for the first time in his life.
Harley has been called “magical” by everyone who met him and loved him. Harley inspired Rudi and her husband, Dan, to create a campaign called “Harley to the Rescue” which raised funds to save (and provide medical care for) more than 500 dogs from puppy mills in less than two years. Harley went on these rescue missions and “clearly recognized his role in helping to bridge the gap between canine and human,” wrote Rudi.
Harley passed away on March 20, 2016. I had never met him, but still felt the loss. I had created a series of video projects over the years using images and video clips of him and faithful sidekick, Teddy Burchfield, so I felt like I knew him. But isn’t that the way it is with all heroes? I believe so. When souls touch our lives on such a personal level, we feel as if we know them and so the loss of them feels like a personal loss. I wrote a series of blogs after Harley’ passing. I wrote about the fact that he changed the world. I wrote about his extraordinary life. I wrote about his legacy. I wrote about the fact that he was small in size and larger than life.
As I processed the news of his passing, I felt deep down that Harley's legacy would be huge and may even be greater than his accomplishments while in the loving care of the Taylors. Even I was wrong. No one could have imagined the profound effect Harley had, and continues to have, on so very many people across the country. He inspires. He empowers. He has given some people a focus and passion for a subject they never had before as they labor tirelessly to speak out for other dogs like Harley who were not saved.
To honor Harley’s life and continue his legacy, Rudi and Dan Taylor developed a non-profit organization called Harley’s Dream. The work done by this incredible organization is almost beyond description. The Taylors channeled their love (and, I would presume, their grief) into developing programs to bring an end to puppy mills and to help other dogs like Harley. The scope of these programs is huge so I encourage you to visit the website to learn more about them.
The first program is a public awareness program which is intended to expose the puppy mill industry to as many people as possible toward bringing an end to that industry. This program includes large scale public awareness using billboards, social media awareness, peaceful protests and rallies, puppy mill awareness cards, media awareness, t-shirts and products (which start conversations), an annual Hops & Harley event and the Art by Teddy campaign.
The second program is an educational program which seeks to educate the public about the reality of the puppy mill industry and the link between puppy mills and pet stores/websites. It includes educational events, presentations, a Children’s Educational Campaign, print and display educational materials and Bookmarks for Change.
The third program is an advocacy program which promotes grassroots organization with mobilized supporters across the country in order to effect change at the local and regional levels. It includes Harley’s Heroes groups in each state, Lobby Days, petitions, sample letters, and promotion of Humane Pet Stores which provides the steps and information necessary to start the process of establishing a ban of the retail sale of puppies in pet stores in towns/cities. More and more places across the country are enacting ordinances to keep national pet supply stores from selling animals sources from puppy mills. They do not prevent people from purchasing a dog from a breeder. They do serve as consumer protection laws in light of CDC investigations of the transmission of diseases from pet store puppies to people.
The fourth program is new and is truly a labor of love. It is Harley’s House of Hope which helps individual senior dogs by saving them from animal shelters, caring for them in a home environment and providing them all necessary medical care before finding them new homes. Most of the dogs who enter Harley's House of Hope were scheduled to be euthanized until they were rescued.
I know it has been more than four years since Harley left us. Sometimes it feels like it has been ages and other times it feels as though it was just yesterday. Looking back, I marvel at how many people Harley has touched with his life and his legacy. I believe a time will come when the puppy mill industry will cease to exist as we know it. I have no doubt that Harley and the Taylors will have played a huge role in that transition to more compassionate way of functioning as we not only say that dogs are man’s best friend, but we prove it through our actions and our choices.
Dare to dream. We miss you Harley. You are a hero and an icon. And you will never be forgotten.
If you would like to support Harley's Dream, there are a variety of ways to do that. Click on the support drop down menu on the website to learn more.
I can’t really recall when I first heard about puppy mill survivor Harley Taylor. Harley is such an iconic figure that – for me - his existence is both constant and timeless, as if I have always known about him.
Harley was 10 years old and had been left in a bucket to die at a puppy mill when he was rescued. He was missing one eye (due to a power washer) and had a host of serious health problems. The fact that he was rescued and we all came to know his name is extraordinary in and of itself. The fact that he not only lived beyond all expectations (considering his health challenges), but went on to thrive and serve a Higher Purpose is simply beyond extraordinary. It is the stuff of legends.
I’m sure that I first heard of Harley and his family, Rudi and Dan Taylor, related to his “Harley to the Rescue” missions. Harley and his best buddy Teddy would go on trips to save other mill dogs, decked out in their little superhero capes no less. Who could resist the concept? Although many of us only see the end result of rescue missions to save these dogs, the reality is that it is dirty, shocking and heart wrenching work. Having two little superhero dogs help save other dogs from terrible conditions not only made the rescue process immensely positive, but it also served a purpose: to help calm the newly rescued dogs. We will never know just what Harley and Teddy said to the new arrivals, but we all know that dogs have a language of their own and I'm sure it was something very reassuring. "You’re gonna be okay now. The bad stuff is over. People are gonna love you and take care of you. Really." Harley and Teddy helped save thousands of dogs over a period of years and raised an incredible amount of money to help save more mill dogs.
I did my first project about Harley for the Taylors in 2014 which was called “A Dream to Call My Own” and which used a Fisher song called “Home.” I knew the song was a perfect fit for Harley the first time I heard it and the video got a lot of positive feedback. When Harley was nominated to be the 2015 American Hero Dog in the “emerging hero” category, I was so proud just to be able to say I knew his family and had helped people learn more about him in some way. When I watched the Hero Dog ceremony on television and heard his name being read as the 2015 American Hero Dog, I both gasped and cried. I knew it was coming because the ceremony had been taped months before it was shown on the Hallmark Channel, but it still took my breath away. We did a second project related to Harley's award called “Change the World” which has a similar vibe to A Dream to Call My Own.
When the Taylors were later planning a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a Congressional Hearing called “Dog Day Afternoon on the Hill” and to seek an audience with the Top Dog (the President), I was thrilled to be asked to create a project specific to that visit. Harley did not get his paw-time with the POTUS (since Joe Biden chose that day to announce he would not run for office), but the Taylors learned later from an aide that the President had, in fact, seen the video called “Dear Mr. President.”
Harley passed away on March 20th of 2016. I again gasped and cried when I heard the news. My reaction made no sense, of course. He was not my dog and I had never met him in person, but like so many other people, I felt the loss just the same. I had spent so many hours using his images and video clips and interacting with the Taylors that I felt like I had always known Harley. I know my empathy grief was shared by countless other people around the world as I blogged a number of times about the loss of a larger than life soul in such a small body, his extraordinary time here and his legacy. Now as we approach the first year anniversary of his passing, I wanted to touch on the subject of his legacy yet again.
In the time since Harley left this Earth, so very much has happened that I just can't list it all here. Harley’s family established the Harley Puppy Mill Action and Awareness Project to take his mission and his message to the public. They have since formed a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Harley’s Dream which is currently using donated funds to quite literally take the message to the streets through a national billboard campaign. Billboards are now on display in Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Longmont, Colorado; San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida; Belton, Texas and at three locations in Minnesota. The billboards say simple yet captivating things like “Ask Harley What Happened to His Eye” and “Adopt, Don't Shop. End Puppy Mills.” A grassroots advocacy movement called Harley’s Heroes has begun and is growing with each month. It is a movement made up of ordinary people from across the country who are doing deeds both large and small to bring an end to the puppy mill industry.
Some other highlights of note are:
-Harley's Dream has a very active Twitter page and he has thousands of followers on his Facebook page.
- There is an “Ask me about Puppy Mills” t-shirt fundraiser going on now with FLOAT (For the Love of All Things).
- On online “Bidding for Change” Auction to benefit Harley’s Dream will begin in early April. Donations for Harley, Teddy and puppy mill related items are being accepted now.
- Small change = BIG CHANGE donation jars are showing up in more and more businesses to collect small donations to continue Harley's legacy.
- Billboards will be coming soon to Houston, Minneapolis/Saint Paul and Kansas City.
- Harley’s Dream has been approved to accept Facebook fundraisers and there are already 5 in progress.
- “Hops and Harley” will be held on June 24th in Berthoud, Colorado. There will also be an event which is still in the planning stages the day after Hops and Harley to celebrate Harley's life.
I think all of us long in some way to be part of something much bigger than ourselves. To know that we are making a difference. Although my contributions to Harley’s efforts were very small, Harley and his family helped me to feel like I was part of something big in terms of social change and for that I will be forever grateful. The fact that I am still able to help preserve his legacy in some way is a privilege.
I know that March 20th will be a very sad day for so many people. I'm sure I'll be sad too, but my plan is to just try really hard to make it a day of celebration instead. I hope you will join me. I am thankful Harley was rescued. I am grateful he was loved by a family who understood his Purpose and who are generous enough to share him with all of us. I know that I am forever changed thanks to the life of a little dog I never met but who means so very much to so very many people. And who is still changing the world each and every day.
If you feel strongly about Harley's legacy and want to get involved as as way to channel your grief, please visit the Harley's Dream website. There are a number of suggestions listed there to help you. There is no donation too small. There is no act of advocacy too small. You can support a billboard. You can wear a Harley t-shirt as a conversation starter. You can write a letter to your local paper. You can join a Harley's Heroes group in your state and share ideas with people who share your values to work toward ending puppy mills.
As Margaret Meade once wrote, "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Harley changed the world. Let's keep his legacy strong.
I engage with a lot of animal welfare advocates across the country on a variety of issues. I've had conversations with advocates in multiple states recently about two issues I consider our national shame related to companion animals: puppy mills and killing in animal shelters. The two issues may seem unrelated, but they are absolutely related. The puppy mill industry produces millions of dogs each year, infusing them into the supply system as a result of public demand. The public has been bamboozled into believing pure bred dogs are superior to mixed breed dogs or dogs in our sheltering system and has confused cost with value or worth. At the same time those dogs are being marketed as superior, we are destroying great dogs in our antiquated animal sheltering system, often just for space or convenience. This continued slaughter of dogs using our money simply serves to perpetuate the stereotype that something is wrong with them and that we have no choice but to destroy them. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Beyond this connection between puppy mills and shelter killing is issue of what is being done about both problems. A lot of people think that national animal welfare organizations are working hard to eradicate the evils of the puppy mill industry and working hard to reform our tax-funded shelters. Not so much. There is some good being done by what I call the alphabet soup of animal welfare (since most organizations are known by acronyms we all use to describe them). But the truth is this: the greatest good being done across our country to bring awareness to the topic of puppy mills is being done by grassroots advocacy, by the people "in the weeds" of putting this topic on the public radar. The same is true for the animal shelter issue. If you seek reform of your local animal shelter, don't look to a large, national organization for help. Your best help and support is going to come from other advocates like you who can guide you regarding effective advocacy.
We will bring an end to shelter killing when enough of the public knows what is taking place behind closed doors using their money and while they are blamed for the process. We will bring an end to puppy mills when enough of the public knows what takes place in the supply chain before that cute puppy ends up in that pet store, on the internet or in that newspaper ad.
So, what can you do about puppy mills? The answer is pretty simple: Just Say No.
• Say no to dogs in pet stores. Even if you are told they come from a USDA licensed kennel, they are from a puppy mill. When you buy a dog in a store, you are simply creating demand and are making the industry profitable.
• Say no to dogs on internet websites. It is easy to make a good looking website while having the dogs live in absolute squalor and while receiving no veterinary care. If you believe a website is run by a reputable breeder, do your due diligence to learn more about that breeder to determine how many litters they produce each year and about the health of their dogs.
• Say no to dogs in newspaper ads. While some reputable breeders do use newspapers to sell dogs, they are ordinarily very transparent about how they function if they are legitimate. Make plans to meet the parent dogs, see the conditions in which the dogs live and ask questions about how many dogs are sold each year.
• Say no to dogs in store parking lots. It is easy for someone who is running a backyard breeding operation which would horrify you to bring a box of cute puppies to a parking lot near you and spin some tale about a dog who got loose, resulting in an unexpected litter. It is very likely that you are supporting a milling operation which the person selling the dogs does not want you to see. If you think the person is being honest, ask so see the parent dogs and the conditions in which they live.
• Say yes to adopting a puppy or a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. You will have saved a life and you’ll get a wonderful companion in the process.
If you want to get involved yourself on a grassroots level and become part of the advocacy effort taking place across our country, consider getting involved with Harley's Puppy Mill Action and Awareness Project. Harley was the 2015 American Hero Dog and while he is no longer with us, his family is continuing his legacy by promoting grassroots advocacy across the country by small groups of people just like you in order to change our culture. Some of the most productive conversations in our country about puppy mills are taking place not in conference rooms but in grocery store check-out lines, at banks, at parks, at social gatherings and on airplanes as animal advocates look for opportunities to talk about puppy mills and help educate the people around them about the evils of the industry.
If you want a wearable conversation starter to make your advocacy easier, please consider supporting the Just Say "No" To Puppy Mills campaign going on now with Bonfire. All proceeds will go directly to Harley's Puppy Mill Action and Awareness Project and you'll be spreading awareness effortlessly. The shirt design was donated by the very talented Morgan Spicer of Bark Point Studio. Thank you so very much, Morgan!
Sometimes a shirt is more than just a shirt. It is a way to start a dialogue with others who may tell even more people as we turn the tide on the mill industry and take back the power for the sake of the dogs we say we love and value.
Just say No.
(image subject to copyright of Bark Point Studio and Rudi Taylor)
When you hear the word, "legacy," what does it mean to you? Do you automatically think of other people or do you think of your own legacy and how you will be remembered once you are gone? I suspect that most of are so involved with the day-to-day activities of life that we don't give a whole lot of thought to our legacy. Introspection takes time and effort. I think I am more mindful of having a purpose-driven life now that my parents are gone. I know that I'll never be famous and I know I won't change the world. The best I can hope for is to try to be a positive force for change in some way.
Which brings me to the subject of Harley Taylor and his legacy. I was at work when I read the news that Harley had passed away on March 20th. It shocked me, I started to cry and I could not stop. So much for being the hardened, crusty old soldier. I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss for a dog I had never met, but with whom I felt a strong bond. Harley was a "client" of mine, for lack of a better description. I had spent so many hours marveling at his advocacy and working with his images and videos for projects, that the loss seemed personal to me. I know that grief is a selfish emotion, but that did not help the wave that came over me. (If you do not know who Harley Tayloris, I encourage you to learn about his life through his website and perhaps by reading some of my earlier blogs about him.)
When I was finally able to "get a grip," as mom used to say, my next thought was for Harley's family and friends. Harley lived a very public life and I am grateful his family shared him with all of us. I knew that if I was being so affected by his passing, surely what his family was enduring was beyond description with words. I expressed my condolences in my own ways and hoped that time would bring peace to them somehow.
As the days and weeks passed, I wondered about Harley's legacy. How would his family move on? Would they continue his work to educate the public about the evils of the commercial dog farming industry or would it just be too much? How would they really be able to grieve their loss while the rest of us were reminding them of our feelings pretty much every minute? Social media is a great thing, but it can also be a terrible burden and I know that even the most well-intentioned words of support can keep a wound from healing.
As Dean Koontz (famous author, huge dog lover and philanthropist) once so aptly wrote, "grief can destroy you or it can focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it." In the case of the Taylor family, I think it is safe to say that their grief has focused them and that the legacy of Harley Taylor will be strong. Harley's Facebook page is as active as it ever was and new social media pages have emerged to help people show their support for his advocacy to end the mill industry and their support for his family. The Taylors have also established the Harley Puppy Mill Education and Outreach Fund which will be used to carry on Harley's mission to bring awareness to the commercial dog breeding industry. The money raised will be used to develop educational curriculum materials about Harley’s life for use in schools, fund billboards to raise puppy mill awareness, create brochures and promotional materials, and to complete a documentary film about Harley which was started last summer.
I like to think that most people are inherently good or that there is good in them. I also like to think that we all to change the world in our own small ways during our lives whether it relates to our own families, our professions or social issues. For myself, I can only hope that my legacy will be a fraction of the one being forged right now by Harley's family in his honor. And I am happy to be involved in perpetuating that legacy in some small way through our educational projects. If you would like to support Harley's Puppy Mill Education and Outreach Fund, you can learn more about it on his website.
I can't sing. I wish I could, but it's just not something I'm good at so I keep my singing pretty much limited to time spent inside my car. I grew up in a musical household - both mom and dad played acoustic guitars and my mom really could sing - so music is essentially woven into the fabric of who I am. We grew up listening to Dylan and Baez and James Taylor and to Peter, Paul and Mary. I know I have more song lyrics in my brain than belong there. That memory capacity is surely better used for other information, but I'm powerless to do anything about that.
After our parents died, I found that I had new songs inside my head. I'm not sure where they came from and I'm sure they don't follow conventional rules about song design. I like them all for different reasons and find them either entertaining or helpful to me, even if no one else will ever hear them. One of the songs just begged to be used in some way and I am happy to say that it now has been.
"Just No Looking Back" is written from the perspective of a rescued animal. It came to life through the talents and generosity of a woman I have never met, but with whom I share a bond which was meant to be. Cristina Lynn is one of those people in my life with whom I was destined to cross paths for some greater good. I knew the first time we spoke that she would be able to take what I thought of as some random ingredients and bake a beautiful cake, musically speaking. I knew I couldn't do it myself and that she was the one to take the song inside my head and turn it into something inspirational.
After Cristina recorded the song (with the help of Russ Holder who included a special "lick"), she sang it at some local events and I'm told it was well received One was an event for cancer survivors and that one meant a lot to me; we lost both mom and dad to cancer. I had some ideas for how to use the song that came and went. I knew I would use it to help a rescue or nonprofit group,with Cristina's permission, but for years nothing really felt right in terms of a good fit.
A few weeks ago, I was listening back to a video recorded for the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards ceremony about Harley Taylor, a puppy mill survivor and the "Emerging Hero" entry into the Hero Awards competition. Harley went on to be named the 2015 Hero Dog and I have written about him before. It was hearing Theresa Strader, founder of National Mill Dog Rescue, talk about how the former mill dogs just live now that it became totally obvious to me how to use the song: to highlight the resilience and forgiving nature of puppy mill survivors. I was just beginning to select photographs for the project when Harley died, most likely from a brain tumor. Harley was 15 years old and lived much longer than many (if not most) former mill dogs, but he had been in really good health and his sudden departure from this Earth was a shock to many of us who saw him as a larger than life figure in animal advocacy and rescue circles.
I am proud to say that I finally found the perfect fit for the song and that it's now being used to help National Mill Dog Rescue which is based in Colorado. When I read the lyrics now, I know they were somehow inspired by the plight of mill dogs and by their incredible capacity for resilience, forgiveness and joy. I just didn't realize it back in 2011 when the song took up residence inside my head. I guess I just needed a little time to understand and perhaps some inspiration from the other side.
You will find No Looking Back on my Youtube channel and the Facebook page for National Mill Dog Rescue. I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you'll take some time to reflect on how you live your own life, on the life of Harley Taylor and all the other dogs saved from the ravages of the commercial dog breeding industry.
Thanks, Cristina. I am honored to say I know you and that we were brought together to help animals.
(Note: the dog seen in the video singing is "Gremmy." He is not in pain and is not upset; he is simply vocalizing. You can read Gremmy's story here on the blog about his life.)
I've made a lot of new friends in the wake of the passing of Harley "Freight Train" Taylor on Sunday; Harley was the 2015 Hero Dog, one of my "clients" and one of my personal heroes.
Like many who have followed Harley's story, I am still struggling to process the fact that he no longer walks the Earth. Our sense of community loss simply cannot compare to the loss of Rudi Taylor and Dan Taylor or even those who spent a lot of time with him like Michele Burchfield, Teddy and National Mill Dog Rescue founders Theresa and Richard Strader. I mean no offense at all when I say that I'm still getting choked up knowing that he is no longer here. I don't really have a right to feel that way, but I do.
As I think about how we all came to know Harley, I think we can all agree that the whole sequence of events was extraordinary, if not magical. He was left in a bucket to die. What are the odds that he would be saved? Surely those odds were against him from the start. Mill dogs die each and every day in ways most of us would find criminal. It is a miracle that he was saved at all.
Then when we think about the family who took Harley in and made them their boy, that is also extraordinary. There are a lot of people who love dogs and a lot of people who could have given Harley a charmed life, far removed from his suffering in the mill. Surely the odds were against him crossing paths with the Taylors who we all must admit are extraordinary people. Their incredible work to help educate the public about mills and to help save other mill dogs is just something magical to behold and it is something many of us would not have the strength to endure.
When I think about the success of the Harley to the Rescue campaign, I just have to smile. Who could know that casting Harley and Teddy as little superheros would affect us all so profoundly? Saving mill dogs is dirty, difficult heart-wrenching work, but because of the incredibly positive energy behind the way it was and is handled, we all smiled and cheered every time they set out on a new mission to save more dogs.
Like all of you, I voted every day for Harley to be named the American Humane Association Hero Dog last year and when I heard he had won, my heart swelled with pride not because I had anything to do with it, but because I knew what it meant to his family and to Teddy's family and to the Straders and to every person who has supported or volunteered with National Mill Dog Rescue. I knew that him being named would change the national discussion about mills and reach so many more people so we can end the mills once and for all. When I watched the ceremony on television, I knew he had already won but I still got all choked up watching the process and hearing Theresa's voice when his name was announced. I found myself crying with a smile on my face so wide that it made my face hurt.
I will not compare losses with any of you. That would just be selfish. But I will say that life has taught me that no one gets to stay, human or canine. We all have a finite amount of time to live and love and learn and try to make a difference. When I find myself so incredibly sad for the loss of Harley, I am reminding myself how incredibly fortunate we all are that we even knew about him in the first place.
Harley's life was both extraordinary and magical. I plan to hold that in my heart when I think about him and as I move forward, working to honor his memory with my new projects related to mill dogs and related to National Mill Dog Rescue.
We are all so very blessed. It's time to get busy to continue Harley's legacy and to honor his truly extraordinary life.
I lost a very close friend of mine yesterday. He was covered with fur, was pretty short, walked kinda crooked and only had one eye, but I loved him dearly. And still do. His name is Harley Taylor. We never met in person, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. . .
I first started doing volunteer work for National Mill Dog Rescue back in 2009. I learned about the organization through something I read back on the former message boards for the Best Friends Animal Society about some puppy mill dogs who had been saved. I knew back then about what puppy mills in rather general terms, but my education had a long way to go. It was due to my association with NMDR that I really began to learn about the origin of mills, how they function and how we perpetuate their existence through our own choices. The reality is that all puppies are cute and we allow ourselves to be blinded by that cuteness we see when we tell ourselves it is okay to buy that dog from the pet store or the internet. It is not. And it must stop.
When I heard about a new player on the scene who was working as a “spokesdog” for NMDR, I marveled at the genius of the concept: Harley and his faithful sidekick, Teddy, began orchestrating “Harley to the Rescue!” missions to save other mill dogs. It was just perfect. Who better to not only speak for the mill dogs but to encourage all of us to help those dogs while educating the public to make better choices?
I did a number of projects involving Harley over a period of time, not because he or NMDR needed my help but just because I felt compelled to do something to be part of such wonderful, life-saving work. I wanted to be part of something I felt was magical. Our project called “A Dream to Call My Own” went semi-viral and is still one of my most popular projects I have ever done. When you combine the face of an irresistible dog with the music of Kathy Fisher and Ron Wasserman (my friends “Fisher”) with the voice of a child, who can stop smiling? No one. My other projects for Harley are less well known, but I think they still affect many people in many ways. Looking back, I am profoundly grateful that I came to know Harley and his family through our projects.
I think the most any of us can hope for, human or canine, is that we make some difference in our time here. Most of us will never cure a disease or invent something revolutionary, but we can all strive to change the world in some small way. Harley Taylor did just that. And while we all mourn the loss of this wonderful little soul, I hope our focus will be more on his remarkable life and how very many people he touched in such a very short period of time. He was a puppy mill survivor who led a truly purpose-driven life as he helped save other mill dogs and helped educate the public about the insidious nature of the commercial dog breeding industry. He was named the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog of 2015 and in the end, he Changed the World.
I cry for a dog I never met. I smile with pride for a boy who likely did more to change the national discussion about the commercial dog breeding industry than most people could ever hope for.
I will miss you, Harley. I am so very, very sorry you could not stay. I am so very, very grateful to have known you at all. Godspeed, little man. Your work here is done. And now we must continue it in your honor.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson