A 12-year-old Maltese that survived six years in a puppy mill has beaten 10,000 canine contestants to win a dog beauty contest. She’s using her platform for good, as little Lamb Chop and her owner, Christin Schubert, are advocating for pet adoption and an end to puppy mills.
Schubert, 41, who by her own admission is more of a “cat person,” adopted Lamb Chop from Wisconsin’s Washington County Humane Society (WCHS) in December 2014. Lamb Chop, named after the famous ventriloquist Shari Lewis’s toothless puppet, stole Schubert’s heart with her story.
Her life began in a puppy mill, where the shy Maltese gave birth multiple times for six years. “When she was rescued, local vets had to remove all of her teeth because they were rotten,” Schubert told People.
The Humane Society also diagnosed mammary tumors, a skin infection, and cauliflower ear as a result of neglected ear infections. They treated the little dog using their own resources.
“I think that she’s gotten, unfortunately, so used to chronic pain that she just thinks this is how life is,” WCHS operations manager Tina Duris lamented in a video following Lamb Chop’s recovery. The little pup struggled with doors and was initially scared to be held, but soon became “very affectionate.”
When Lamb Chop was ready to find her forever home, she matched perfectly with Schubert and traveled to Milwaukee to begin her new life.
Schubert’s loving care, plus formal dog training, helped Lamb Chop shed her residual shyness. In honor of the Maltese’s extraordinary transformation, Schubert entered her into People magazine’s third annual World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Contest, sponsored by Pedigree.
In September, the pair had a welcome surprise: Lamb Chop won first place. Besides a year’s supply of dog food, $1,000 for an animal rescue group of their choice, and a guest spot on Good Morning America, the pair suddenly had a huge platform from which to spread their message.
Schubert and Lamb Chop have been working with Bailing Out Benji, a nonprofit that educates people on the link between pet stores and puppy mills, for some time. “We always say that in order for puppy mills to close, the public needs to stop funding them through their purchases,” said Schubert, advising people always to adopt.
Lamb Chop, she says, is “a super-cute face to an ugly industry.”
Since losing her teeth, Lamb Chop’s tongue often hangs out of her mouth, but Schubert says the quirky feature draws crowds at pet expos. The pair are also working with state and federal lawmakers to try to put a stop to the sale of puppy mill dogs in U.S. pet stores.
Commercial dog-breeding facilities, or “puppy mills,” are prolific in the United States despite their notoriously poor welfare conditions. According to the Humane Society, there are 10,000 active puppy mills nationwide, housing over 194,000 dogs, and selling over 2 million puppies each year.
Two other dogs, whose happy endings offer comfort for animal advocates, are Lunas and Diana, the runners-up of People and Pedigree’s “World’s Cutest” competition.
Six-year-old Lunas is a former stray from Mississippi with a lopsided tongue of his own. His owner, Jane Jones, told People that Lunas loves to play catch despite a jaw injury sustained during life on the streets.
Diana, 3, was abandoned in Oklahoma with a broken back. Today, she lights up the streets of New York City in a snazzy custom wheelchair with her adoptive owner, Nina Aguero Rios.
Lamb Chop’s life today is a million miles from the misery of life at the puppy mill. Schubert says Lamb Chop loves her stuffed toys, and calls her a “true Wisconsinite” for her obsession with cheese.
“She is still shy,” Schubert admitted, “but we’re working on that. I always tell people that I think she is super brave and resilient, given what she has gone through … She has an amazing joy for life.”
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