Everything’s Rosie

Rosie after her rescue

Imagine spending the first two years of your life in a house with 40 other dogs, hiding under a piece of furniture to avoid being trampled and never going outside to play in the sun. These horrible conditions are how Rosie, a 2-year-old Chihuahua, lived until being rescued from a backyard breeder in Woodland Hills in June 2012.

“She looked like a rat or an anteater. It was hard to figure out. So when you see that at first, it’s hard to comprehend that that’s a dog,” says Cinnamon Muhlbauer, Rosie’s rescuer, who lives in Malibu. “I knew I had to get her and see what could be done.”

The breeder and animal hoarder Rosie lived with was brought to Muhlbauer’s attention by a friend who noticed a sign in her neighbor’s front yard advertising free puppies. When the friend went into the neighbor’s house, she discovered Chihuahuas who had been inbreeding for years, resulting in a number of puppies with deformities like Rosie’s. When Muhlbauer arrived, she took Rosie and two other pups and went straight to a vet.

Rosie’s recovery

Rosie arrived at the Malibu Vet Clinic with a bad skin condition in addition to her congenital deformities. Luckily, tests showed her heart and internal organs were fine.

“For the most part she’ll have a happy, normal life,” says Dr. John Lupo. Lupo believes that this is largely due to Muhlbauer’s love, but Muhlbauer insists Rosie has helped her more.

“She’s changed my life. I don’t think I had any idea how she was going to wind up changing my life,” says Muhlbauer.

It all started when Muhlbauer announced she was taking Rosie in and posted a picture on her personal Facebook page with a request for help. Overnight she received a huge response from friends and was able to cover the initial $9,000 in medical expenses.

Muhlbauer then created a website and Facebook page for Rosie. People from around the world have made donations to help with Rosie’s care. People who don’t donate directly find other ways to help.

“I’ve literally gotten checks in the mail from strangers across the country that say, ‘For Rosie.’ It’s touched the whole team,” says Lupo.

Inspiring people around the world

Rosie’s story has also inspired people to rescue dogs in similar situations.

“People write me and say, ‘After looking at Rosie, I realized I had room in my home for a dog that is old or looks unadoptable,’ or say, ‘I found a cute old dog, and I’m bringing it home and I wanted you to know,’” says Muhlbauer.

People send her photos and stories, which she posts on Rosie’s page. There are currently 35 rescue stories featured on the website. Dr. Lupo was impressed by the outpouring of love Rosie has received.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. She’s won the hearts of thousands of people. It shows the compassion people have for animals, which is amazing. It is an inspiration for me to see how people care,” says Dr. Lupo.

Backyard breeding in the U.S.

Rosie’s story is also drawing attention to the problem of backyard breeding, which is “similar to puppy mills, just on a smaller scale,” according to the ASPCA.

“They are breeders who keep more dogs than they can responsibly and humanely care for, in order to breed them and sell the puppies for a profit,” says Cori Menkin, Esq., senior director of the ASPCA’s Puppy Mills Campaign.

Menkin says many breeders sell online or directly to the public to avoid regulations, and since they are not required to be licensed, it’s impossible to track how widespread the problem is.

“State regulation is spotty, and enforcement is not always the best,” says Menkin.

If people want to help combat backyard breeding, Menkin recommends adopting from a shelter and avoiding buying puppies in pet stores. Muhlbauer also suggests people look into the dog breeding rules in their community and alert animal control if they find a backyard breeder.

“Rosie is an example of when greed takes over everything in your life, and you don’t think of a dog as a living being,” Muhlbauer says.

Muhlbauer also recommends looking into whether or not you can adopt a special dog like Rosie.

“Rosie is the poster child for how a life can change from knowing a dog like Rosie,” Muhlbauer says. “To know a dog like her can live a full life, a happy life, makes all the difference.”

Learn more about Rosie’s story and how you can help by visiting www.everythingrosie.com. Learn how the ASPCA is fighting puppy mills and backyard breeders at their advocacy center at aspca.org.

This article originally appeared on Vetstreet.com.