Making the ultimate rescue from Phagia's Dog Farm

Making the ultimate rescue from Phagia's Dog Farm

Sep 01, 2008

My secretary was apologetic but firm.

"I'm sorry, Doctor O., but I think you need to talk to the guy on Line 1. When I told him that you were too busy, he said it was a matter of life and death."

She left me no choice. I picked up the telephone; he started in right away.

Illustration: Ryan Ostrander
"Hello, Doctor, this is Ray Cathode, and I'm really upset by what I just saw on the Oprah show this morning. Were you watching?"

My head filled with a string of sarcastic comebacks, but my better judgment prevailed. "No," I replied.

"Well Doctor," he continued. "Apparently, there are some horrible places that breed and sell dogs. There are dirty kennels with wire floors and other very poor conditions. Do we have those kinds of places around here?"

I informed him that we do not and that, at long last, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is taking steps to legislate such places right off our map. He was pleased, and so was I because that call reminded me to tell you a story about a horrible puppy mill that used to operate in my area.

The story begins one day in 1982 when the Ables were in to see me with their new puppy, Crappy. I didn't have to ask where they got him. His appearance told the whole story. His front legs were too short, his back legs too long. There were teeth sticking out of his mouth at all angles, and his eyes aimed in different directions. Simply based on these astute genetic observations, I decided to take a wild guess.

"I'll bet you got this dog at Phagia's Dog Farm," I said.

"Why, yes we did," said Molly Able. "It's quite a coincidence that you would guess that, Doctor, but nothing compared to the coincidence of how we found Crappy. You see, we didn't really plan on getting a dog so soon. We were just looking, trying to decide what kind of dog we would like."

Gill Able was unable to contain his excitement any longer. "Here's how it happened, Doc," he said. "We told Mr. Phagia that Molly had always wanted a poodle, but that I had a Spitz when I was a boy, and he was a great dog. Well, would you believe it? Mr. Phagia showed us Crappy here. It seems that they just happened to have a litter of purebred Spit-a-Poos. He doesn't have papers, but he's a purebred all right. Just look at those black gums."

Molly Able went on to explain that she wasn't sure if it was a good idea to buy the puppy. The dog farm was a dirty mess, and the dogs didn't seem to be very well cared for. Mr. Phagia assured us, though, that Crappy would look good when we got him all spruced up. The truth is," she confessed, "we wouldn't have bought him except that we couldn't bear the thought of leaving him in that place. It looked like a concentration camp for dogs."

I had never been out to see Phagia's Dog Farm for myself, but had heard many stories over the years about the way in which Polly and Cooper Phagia ran their business. Many people purchased dogs that they did not really want, but could not bear to leave behind in such filthy conditions. As a result, they wound up with sickly dogs like Crappy Able, who looks like a cross between a coyote and an azalea.

The day after that visit with the Ables, I went to talk to my friend Arnie concerning the methods of operation at Phagia's Dog Farm and places like it. Arnie had always been a proactive kind of guy, and he had an interesting tale to tell. Unlike me, he had gone to Phagia's to check out the place for himself. Pretending to be a naive, would-be pet owner instead of a veterinarian, he explained to Cooper Phagia that he had always wanted a German Shepherd, but his wife would prefer a sheep dog. Unfortunately, they felt that either one could be the wrong choice because their house was quite small.

"You wouldn't believe what this man told us, Mike," Arnie said. "Apparently, it was my lucky day because they had a litter of purebred miniature Sheep-a-Sheps. The ugly thing he showed me could have been a mixture of any breeds. As for the farm itself, it really is unfit for dogs to live in. One look at the place, and you would have to be crazy to purchase a puppy there. That was three years ago. I now advise all my clients to stay away from that place."

Just then, Arnie's dog Scruffy came into the room. I had always thought that he was an odd-looking beast.

Don't tell me, Arnie! I exclaimed.

"Yes," he admitted. "The truth is that I just couldn't bear to leave him there."

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.