Penelope and Her Pups (A Puppymill Dog)

January 14, 1998—This is Penelope, a 2-3 year old Basset Hound that was rescued by Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California (BHRSC) from a Los Angeles area animal shelter today.

As is clear from the photo, Penelope was quite pregnant when we brought her to our home. We are a volunteer foster home for BHRSC. Penelope had a veterinarian exam on the way home and he said that she was due soon.

January 16, 1998— The veterinarian was right. Here is Penelope at 9 a.m.:

The first pup, stillborn, came at 6 a.m. She had 7 more females and one male (a big guy that I promptly named Tank) by 9 a.m. Mother and pups were all examined by our Veterinarian on the afternoon of their birth and everything looks good.

January 16, 1998—Here is the entire tribe.

Can you find eight dogs in this picture? Of course, that is Tank on top with the pink nose and tan fur. Although Mom looks like a full blooded Basset Hound we are unsure just what type of dog the Dad was.

January 17, 1998—The smallest pup died this morning. It didn’t seem able to nurse.

January 18, 1998—Penelope is unable to keep food down. She is trying to be a good mother, but probably isn’t producing enough milk for the pups. She is becoming very thin also. I’m starting to worry.

January 19, 1998—Penelope is thinner and is shaking. She feels feverish. The pups are not very active. Off to the veterinarian!

Penny got 2 shots, some pills and some special food. The Doctor took a blood sample and when he jabbed her with the needle she licked my face. What a sweetie! She went right home and is resting and hasn’t thrown up since. I have to give her 3 shots a day at home. This is a new experience for me.

The pups stayed all day with the vet. I picked them up in the evening and the doctor showed me how to feed them artificial dog milk through a stomach tube. They need food every 4 hours and we hope that Penelope gets well soon and can take care of them and feed them again. This is not what we thought Basset Hound rescue involved. Wow were we wrong!

January 20, 1998, 1 a.m.—
We just finished another tubal feeding. Last night 2 more died, including the blonde colored female that my grandson named “Buddy”. It is so much harder when they have names. She was respectfully buried next to a blooming rose bush. I wish that there was a way for those parents who want their dog to have a litter “. . . just for the kid’s sake . . .” to have listened in on the phone call I had to make to my grandson. Kids can’t rationalize death like we adults try to do. It simply hurts them. The remaining 5 took their early morning feeding well.

January 20, 1998, Evening
—Another nameless puppy died. Penelope ate rice made with chicken broth and some chicken white meat. Good for her, she needs the energy.

January 21, 1998, 3:45 a.m.
—We got up for the 4 a.m. feeding. Tank died. Big old pink nosed white faced Tank. We tube fed and bottle fed him. We kept him warm, we loved the little guy and while I held him in my hands I felt the warmth of life leave him. Tank was buried with the sports section of this morning’s paper under a redwood tree in our back yard. I have no idea why – it just seemed appropriate, maybe a guy thing. Farewell Tankster, God only knows how I miss you, and I do hope to meet you again somehow. I feel foolish for allowing that puppy to cause such hurt in my heart. Penelope keeps searching her whelping box in what appears to be a panic. Is she looking for the rest of her family?

Tank’s New Home Under the Redwood Tree

January 21, 1998, 8 a.m.—Another pup died between the 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. feedings. Now there are two and they seem to be weakening also. My daughter called last night and asked if she and our grandkids could visit on Thursday to watch us feed the puppies. I will call her later and say no. There probably won’t be any puppies by Thursday night and I don’t want to have to explain what happened to a five year old. I can’t even explain it to myself without sounding cold and heartless. If only I could be cold and heartless until this is over.

January 21, 1998, NoonAnother nameless pup died this morning. Here is Penelope with the last of nine.

Do dogs mourn? She has an air of sadness about her but I may be transferring some of my own grief onto her.

January 21, 1998, 6 p.m.Here is the last of Penelope’s pups.

We just returned home from the vet where this nameless puppy (although I have started thinking of her as Jasmine and I may regret that) got an antibiotic injection and two big syringes full of Ringers solution. Our wonderful Veterinarian says that her chances are slim but we’re doing all that we can to save her. She did take her entire dinner from a bottle tonight. Maybe, just maybe? Penny seems stronger tonight but still has no milk. January 21, 1998, 10 p.m.- Jasmine, the last of Penelope’s pups, joined her seven sisters and one brother this evening. She died a few minutes ago with Penelope briskly licking her and trying to wake her up. This has been a horrible day. It has not lessened my commitment to Basset Hound rescue. It has emphasized the importance of spaying and neutering pets.

January 23, 1998Penelope seems to be growing stronger, although she is still not eating well. We gave her a sponge bath last night which she enjoyed. Afterwards we cuddled with her on the carpet. She does love to cuddle. Periodically she starts what I assume is a frantic search for her puppies, running from room to room, crying and digging through throw rugs, her bed and anyplace else they might be. I’ve been told that she will get over this soon. I sure hope so. I dreamed of Tank last night. He was older, probably 10 weeks or so. He came running up to me through a field of tall grass and flowers, all puppy-fuzzy and jumping all around. He said, “I’m O.K., please don’t worry,” and then turned and ran off until he vanished in the distance. I must be more tired than I thought, dreaming silly, childish nonsense like that.

January 24, 1998A couple adopted Penelope last night and she is now living in her new home. Consultation with our Veterinarian and with several on-line Basset buddies led me to believe that the sooner she was placed the sooner her emotional scars would heal. This made sense to me, but I wonder if it will help to heal my emotional scars? The scent of her lost puppies was a major source of discontent for her as she wandered into the room where they had lived their short lives. Penelope would stand there and cry, frantically digging at the carpet. Outside, where there is no puppy scent she has been a new dog these last two days, showing from her behavior just how young she really is.

One of her new “food slaves” is retired and is home all day. They have had seven Bassets over the years including five rescues. There are currently two living with them now in addition to Penelope. It looks like a good match. They called me when they got home with her and said that she already learned how to work the doggie door. As always, Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California will take her back if her new family finds her incompatible.

January 25, 1998Here are a few things that I have learned or had reinforced through this experience:

  1. Life is precious. Don’t take it for granted. Not ever.
  2. You can learn far more about yourself from playing in a losing game than by winning.
  3. You are never too old to learn how to cry. It took me almost 54 years.
  4. Sadness is never fun but it can be good. If this concept causes you to be confused . . . well, so was I until I met Penelope and her pups.
  5. Casual breeding of pets should be avoided. Don’t do it, “. . . so the kids can experience the miracle of birth.” Rent them a video, take them to a farm, buy them a book, just don’t take a chance of creating an experience like ours. Instead, teach your children responsibility.
  6. Spay and neuter. Many Veterinarians now do the procedures on dogs as young as 10 weeks. Every time I rescue a Basset Hound from a shelter, I walk away from 100+ other dogs. This hurts me deeply, but we can’t save them all. Many of our urban shelters have a kill rate of over 75%. Think about that.
  7. Don’t patronize “puppy mills”. What is a puppy mill? A farm where pets are raised as a cash crop, frequently in inhumane conditions. A female dog may be chained to a tree, bred several times a year until she is worn out and then discarded. Her puppies are removed from her far too early to learn important socialization skills. They often are diseased, exhibit nervous behavior and frequently never exhibit the behavior standards of the breed. Many puppy mill dogs are sold at pet stores, through newspaper ads and now via the internet. Call your local breed club or rescue group for sources of dogs that have been properly bred and raised or give serious consideration to adopting a “second-hand” hound.
  8. The support of my wife and many friends is beyond value. Without them, this would have been unendurable.
  9. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

February 7, 1998—Our Basset rescue group has a monthly “Breakfast with Bassets” breakfast at a cafe with a dog dining area. Penelope’s new family brought her today. She looked good, had put on a few needed pounds, and was getting along well with their other two Bassets. She recognized me. After all she went through at our home, she was glad to see me. We had a tummy rubbing, slurpy reunion. I cried with joy at seeing her so healed and well.

April 1998—Penelope, now named Mattie, was spayed this month. I find myself wishing that her prior owners had done this for her last year. I am beyond anger, but if only people really cared about their pets the world would be a somewhat better place for us all.

January 13, 1999—Penelope’s (Mattie’s) new family sent me an e-mail today. She seemed to be having some problems with her hind legs and was diagnosed with lymphoma and a spinal problem. They have chosen to use holistic remedies in an attempt to treat Penelope with dignity and respect. I thought that I was done shedding tears for this rescued Basset Hound. I was wrong.

January 19, 1999—In an e-mail note, Penelope’s family told me that she was euthanized on Monday, January 18th. Her lymphoma just overwhelmed her, she lost her ability to walk and to control her bladder. She had a good year with people who loved her. She had her quirks and was a challenge to them but they accepted her as she was and loved her through it all. Tonight I feel both sad and angry. I understand the sad, the anger confuses me. And I still miss Tank and what he may have become. This really ends the need to update this page. Thank you all for your kind thoughts.

This page will stay on-line for a while because some folks have said that they are going to print copies to use as cudgels on their indiscriminate dog breeding neighbors. The many e-mails you have sent to help Pat and I through this event in our lives have been wonderful. If you have questions or comments please continue to send them.

Thank you all and may God bless you,

Bill James
Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California

Join the Conversation


  1. My heart aches for you after reading this. Your right…spay and neuter is the key to avoiding incidents like this. God bless you for your endeavors to make this world a better place.

    Sheri Tawwwatters

  2. Keep up the great work I am sure it must be at times difficult. We have a 1 year old Bassett crossed with something we purchased from Williams Lake B.C He has very long legs makes us wonder about the breed. Regardless we have always owned hounds mostly larger rescue breeds. I am sure the issue is they are so cute then grow and spend the rest of thir lives being very emotional and following their noses you have to be prepared.We luv them all regardless and adjust our lives to fit them and all their needs in to our schedule thats our job!

  3. I cryed , for mommma and babies, I lost my beautiful little girl basset this spring, was one of the hardest things to do, she had been sick a very long time,once you have loved a basset you are never the same, eventually I will have another, AND think I will have a “rescued” girl, again Bill you are the best of people to care like you did, they had love if only for a short time

  4. So sorry for your loss. They make huge holes in our hearts when they are gone. But in the long run, the love that they give us is absolutely worth it. When you are ready to let another one in your heart, I wish you both the best of times together. Yes, do get a rescue. They are so, so grateful.

  5. Here it is 14yrs later and I just cried and hurt for what you and Penelope went through. God Bless you and what you do. I lost 3 of my houndies in a 18mo period and thought I’d never quit hurting. Your stamina and understanding is inspirational.
    Thank You,

  6. I know your pain. I’ve sat with many dying babies and shed many many tears. Just know you loved Penelope and her babies as much as anything can be loved. We have rescued for years. I rescued 2 basset hounds from an irresponsible so called breeder when they were just 3 weeks old. They were raised on a bottle until they could eat. Buford and Sophie were the most wonderful dogs. Buford was my husband, Tim’s, bud. They did everything together, including watching many tv shows. Buford slept on Tim’s pillow and guess who had the smallest portion of the pillow. It wasn’t Buford. This past year we lost Buford and Sophie both 6 years old to kidney failure.Too much inbreeding. And then we lost our long legged hound to a sudden heart problem. This all took place within a 6 month period. I cried so much I didn’t think I could ever cry again. Tim was devistated. He still has a hard time. He finds himself looking for Buford when he does certain things, and cries when he remembers he is not hear. I want to find another bud for Tim. We have 6 dogs and 6 cats. All the cats are rescues and 2 are on a bottle. I’m loving it. Wether we have an animal for 1 day or many years the love we show them is with them forever. All you can do is your best. They feel it. You make their life wonderful even if it’s for a split second. It all counts. Keep on loving.
    God Bless

  7. I could never imagine what you had gone through. You are a true hero for the continuing love and respect you gave Penelope and her babies. What a needless shame…all because of stupidity on the part of Penelope’s initial owners. You have touched my heart and I will forever remember your tragic story. Life is precious…all life. Bless you and damn the owners before you…what goes around, comes around they say…the initial owners have to meet their maker one day…boy would I like to be a fly on the wall for that meeting!
    Penelope could not have picked a better home to give birth to her pups in. You are an exceptional person…thank you.

  8. I loved getting to read my brother, Bill James, account of Penelope and to see in the comments the impact it still has. He passed away of cancer in March 2001, leaving his beloved Miss Mollie and followers of his great stories about her and family missing the great man with a big heart

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