A Rare Breed of Love by Jana Kohl is a difficult but important book to read. To its discredit, Kohl at times strayed from her topic and a part of her book is dated. To its credit, more than once, I found myself crying at the stories Kohl shared or rethinking what I knew about puppy mills.
Kohl calls herself an accidental activist. After she lost her dog Blue to cancer, Kohl began the search for another dog. Innocently, Kohl began browsing online breeder sites. An animal welfare friend tried to warn Kohl that dogs sold at pet stores typically come from breeding factories, and to sell her on the idea of adopting from a shelter of a rescue group. Kohl didn’t listen. Perhaps that’s just as well, because what happened next changed Kohl’s life.
Desperate cries of dogs barking reached her ears as soon as she stepped out of her car at the home of a so-called reputable Texas breeder. The breeder first showed Kohl the smaller of two sheds, which housed several wire cages with puppies in each one. The larger shed, however, is what most impacted Kohl. In it, adult breeding dogs were crowded into cages and trampling each other. Some were spinning endlessly from having gone crazy, while others were maimed, and some were near death…. Kohl walked away, determined to stop puppy mills, no matter how long or what sacrifices it would require.
The first half of A Rare Breed of Love is mostly about Kohl’s discovery and adoption of a toy poodle named Baby, whom Kohl found through a rescue group. Baby had a missing leg, no vocal cords, a nervous tick, and a number tattooed on her ear, the latter marking the date Baby would have been killed at the puppy mill where she grew up. In the loving care of Kohl, Baby reveled in her new life where she felt grass on her feet, received baths, and felt the comfort both of warm blankets and human love. In the middle of telling Baby’s story, Kohl sidetracks to talk about other animal welfare issues such as the sale of foie gras. While I appreciate Kohl’s passion for animals on every level, these asides take the focus away from the topic of puppy mills.
The second half of A Rare Breed of Love is mostly about Kohl’s journey to Washington, where she introduced Baby to the men and women of Congress as a living example of the cruelty of puppy mills, and her eventual realization that laws are not enough. Kohl next turned to celebrities, in an attempt to broaden public awareness and inspire change amongst the public. In her showcase of photos of and speeches from politicians and celebrities, the material is dated. I understand her reason for reaching out to the famous; their support delivers more “bang for the buck” than that of any average person. And of course her gracious response for their support is to honor them in the pages of her book. At the same time, it’s not exactly material that I want to spend money to read. (However, all proceeds from the book are given to the Human Society of the United States to support their fight against puppy mills, and so do know a purchase will be for a good cause.)
Although my husband and I have long supported a local no-kill shelter and its campaign against puppy mills, Kohl’s descriptions of her crash course in puppy mills proved tough to read. What I’ve shared in my review barely begins to covers the horror of Kohl’s tales. As a result of reading A Rare Breed of Love, I have recommitted our family to continuing to help financially with the costs of petitioning against puppy mills. Moreover, the next time protesters picket against puppy mills, I plan to stand with them. I encourage you to educate yourself about puppy mills and to help with this critical fight–for the sake of all the animals that can’t speak for themselves.