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10 Years After Rescue from Puppy Mill, Pete the Special-Needs Dog Is Living His Best Life

Pete, a 10-year-old dachshund, is a beloved companion of the Smalley household. Rescued from a puppy mill in 2013, Pete has special needs, but it has never stopped him from living life to the fullest.

According to the Humane Society, puppy mills are callous commercial dog-breeding facilities that may sell puppies in pet stores, online or directly to the public in flea markets or via classified ads. Puppy mills disregard the dogs’ health — both physical and emotional — in order to maximize profits.

It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, fewer than 3,000 of which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


In the 2013 incident, which 9&10 News covered, the Elk Country Animal Shelter helped save 37 puppies and six miniature horses from a puppy mill. Pete was one of the animals saved.

“Pete was found under the house with hypothermia. They nursed him back to health at the animal shelter,” said Pete’s owner, Bonnie Smalley.

Bonnie always wanted a dachshund, and when she and her husband first visited the group of puppies, she fell in love with Pete. Her husband took a liking to girl dachshund, and the couple planned to adopt both.

“When they approved us, they were only allowing one adoption per family. My husband and I talked it over and decided that we would ask for Pete because we felt like he needed us. We knew that there could be possible issues with him because of the hypothermia and things like that, but it was a task we were willing to take on,” Bonnie said.


Pete has a clubfoot, a seizure disorder and has experienced paralysis for a short span.

“The clubfoot was our biggest concern,” Bonnie said. “We took him to the vet immediately when we got him, and the vet said just watch it. He didn’t recommended trying to do anything; (Pete) was already too old to cast at that point in time. We didn’t want to do surgery on it.”

Ten years later, it has never been an issue - Pete gets around just fine.

At a few years old, Pete began having seizures. One major episode led him to be prescribed a daily medication for the condition.


In 2021, Pete had an incident that caused paralysis on his left side.

“He couldn’t bear weight on it at all. Technically that’s his good side, because his clubfoot is the right side. They really weren’t sure what the issue was,” Bonnie said.

The vet said they could take Pete to the University of Michigan for further assessment, or they could try at-home exercises to increase his mobility.

“The vet showed us how to do some strength exercises with his legs and encourage him to walk and stuff like that, and he came around,” Bonnie said.


Through all the ups and downs, Pete’s personality always outshined his ailments.

“He is a huge snuggler; he loves to give Pete hugs. He will get up on your chest, and if you ask him for a hug, he will put his head down and nuzzle underneath your chin and hug you,” Bonnie said.

The Smalley family has never regretted Pete joining the family, and they encourage others not to be intimidated by an animal with special needs.

“It’s such a blessing to have animals and care for them. Mine have always been able to sense what I need,” Bonnie said.

If you are thinking of adopting a pet with special needs, talking to your vet is a great first step to ease any anxiety.

“If you have a pet with a disability, you do what you need to do. It’s nothing to be afraid of,” Bonnie said.

“They are going to cost you more money, and there is those emergency times you may have to go in. But no matter what their disability is, they’ll still love you.”