Harley, a battered but most certainly not broken puppy mill survivor, passed away March 20, 2016 at 15 years old. He has become no less than the poster dog to end puppy mills for good, and spent the last wonderful years of his life campaigning to make his dream come true.
My name is Mary, and I am a friend of Harley’s mom and dad. They have asked me to let you know that their beloved Harley took his last breath today. He went on his own terms … he chose his moment, he did not suffer, and he was not in pain. He passed peacefully surrounded by the love of his mom and dad. Harley's parents, Rudi and Dan, want you to know how very much your love, prayers and support have meant to them today and throughout Harley’s journey. They will have much more to say in the coming days when they are ready. For the moment, they ask for your understanding as they walk through this incredibly difficult time. We all feel as though Harley belonged to each of us in some way. Now, we all share a common grief that we must each somehow come to terms with. Just know that Harley’s mission will continue, his voice will still be heard, and his light will shine brighter than ever. This is not the end. As today is the first day of spring – a day of new beginnings – let this be a new beginning in the fight against puppy mills, and let Harley’s voice be heard through each and every one of us. Harley, run free. You were loved immeasurably, and our lives and the lives of so many puppy mill dogs are better because you were a part of us. You will be missed more than you’ll ever know. <3
The sweet little man emerged from a mill literally on the brink of death—he had been pulled from a bucket among other lost souls and taken to a rescue. There, a human named Rudi Taylor heard his story and “knew instinctively that this little Chihuahua was meant to be with me.”
She made the journey to adopt him, and the world has followed their adventures on Facebook ever since.
Together, they’ve made such major accomplishments as establishing the “Harley to the Rescue” campaign, which has saved several hundred puppy mill dogs in partnership with the National Mill Dog Rescue, and traveled around the country educating people on the reality of puppy mills—all from the “mouth” of the American Hero Dog himself.
It’s true that Harley wasn’t always all that imposing. He was tiny, but slowly regained confidence over those years surrounded by love, something he’d never known the first 10 years of his life. His website reads:
Harley 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). All of these conditions were the result of years of horrendous neglect and abuse.
What the humans who worked there didn’t realize was that every day Harley endured this existence, every day they let these things continue, Harley’s spirit grew stronger. He probably didn’t realize it. He certainly didn’t know that there were such things as grass, toys, or treats, or that people could be kind.
But when he found refuge with Taylor (and became cushioned by the support of an entire country!) that little bit of spirit awoke inside him. And the result was what we can describe as no less than a movement. A unified outpouring of compassion, encouragement, and most importantly, awareness.
Because of Harley, there is no measure of the number of people he helped educate, and the number of active supporters he gained who will continue to fight his battle until the day puppy mills are a thing of the past.
All of this, from the tiny but powerful voice of a Chihuahua. Harley… we cannot thank you enough for your bravery and the impact you’ve had on the animal lovers of the world. And to Rudi Taylor and her family, you are the reason Harley gained the confidence to do it.
We’ll miss you, little guy. And we won’t stop fighting.
To see how you can further Harley’s mission to end puppy mills, please visit the National Mill Dog Rescue.