By: Madelyn F. Berson
December 27, 2005
I adopted a 10 week old Dane mix from Gentle Giants Rescue in Norco, California on Dec. 4, 2005. When my son and I were introduced to their "herd" as they call it, I was shocked at how shabby the dogs looked and how disobedient they were (jumping up, etc.) as Tracy Ward claims to be a "dog trainer". I sent my dogs to professional dog trainers that are renowned in the San Diego area. When my dogs returned from their four week training periods, they were like angels and would never jump or be aggressively friendly. My first reservation of the facility was when we pulled up and saw how dirty and unkempt it is. There was a decrepit Dane eating and I thought that must be the ancient one they talk about that is invincible because of their wonderful dog food. None of us were ever allowed to enter the facility. It was very surreal, almost like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. I just chalked it up to them being highly eccentric.
It was very cold and windy that night and Tracy wastes a lot of time trying to encourage you to adopt dogs that are nothing like you are looking for. While all dogs are special and we tried to be open-minded, we had just lost our Mastiff in surgery a month before and wanted a Mastiff. When she brought out the herd of dogs, it was like a circus. None of them seemed to be full bred even though the Ward's were claiming so. Burt seemed to be quite a pathetic person, like a used car salesman telling people what ever they wanted to hear. The poor couple next to us was looking for a specific age and gender and he told them, "no, you don't need that, just get any dog, take several."
One lady commented when she went to use the bathroom, she saw bags of Kirkland dog food when Tracy insists that you can only use their dog food brand, Gentle Giants. She also insists on no free feeding when all the while we were there, the pups she had in a fenced in area had full food dishes for at least 4 hours while were there.
After four hours of this, I was ready to leave. In a period of four hours, by about 7:00, she had only showed us a mangy herd (some dogs had ribs showing) and a dog that had a hare lip and cherry eye. Although he was sweet, I had just lost my dog and didn't relish the idea of constant vet visits. She also brought out a several year old Mastiff that a man from Rialto adopted. Another couple was second time adopters (if that can even be imaginable) adopted a Dane for their son. Another couple was interested in a Borzoi. So after all these hours, this was the progress. I was cold and was thinking these people are nuts. So Tracy, probably realizing she may lose a sale announced that she had three litter mates, all male, but they couldn't be released yet as they were recovering from kennel cough. She went back behind the gate and returned with a Merlequin Dane pup. My son, age 21, was waiting by the gate for her to return. When she came back, the pup seemed desperately to leap into his arms and nuzzle him. The pup was never put on the ground as it was freezing (even in the pictures taken afterward I was wrapped in a blanket that Burt provided). I was also under the impression he was recuperating. She took him back and put him away and my son said he wanted him. I told him that Tracy said we could adopt him but would have to return to get him indicating he wasn't healthy enough. Then she changed her story and told my son we could take him tonight. I asked her the price as it is a mystery until you want the dog and she said $590.00.
We had been instructed to bring $400.00 in cash and the rest would be put on credit card. The LA police officer that adopted the Borzoi was told his would be $990.00. I was surprised that I would have had to pay anything more than $400.00 as this was a mix breed, but at this point, I felt like I was committed. Tracy wrote up our paperwork along with the Borzoi couple. We then had to stand in the yard and yell out our credit card numbers to bumbling Burt, who was in the garage calling out to us from a window where his computer is. We then had to pose for pictures and finally got to leave. He was sent home with three different medications, all dispensed in three Ziploc bags with handwritten instructions. I thought this was odd. One was for kennel cough, antibiotics, one in case of diarrhea, and the third was his worms meds. When we got in the car, my son held the pup and we experienced him cough for the first time. We felt sorry for him and decided we would nurse him back to health.
We gave him the meds Tracy sent home for us and tried to feed the Gentle Giants food. He wasn't eating and coughing more. I emailed her to ask if I needed to wet his food and at the time didn't mention the kennel cough because as far as I was concerned, she knew about it. My son called me while I was at work on the following Thursday, Dec. 8, and said he seemed to be getting worse. I told my son to call our vet, Pet Medical Center in Temecula and they brought him right in. I told Ryan I wanted to leave Gentle Giants out of this because I didn't trust them and the meds may not even be what she said they were. I wanted a professional vet to check him. The handwriting is barely legible and it was written on a folded paper towel. (Whacking a dog with paper towel rolls is Tracy's favorite method of dog training besides screaming at them to attain their "barkless" training results.) My vet prescribed Clavomax for the pup. I since decided to feed the pup canned food as he wasn't eating and I was concerned. Tracy only answered my email by asking for my phone # to contact me. She never did. She claims she did, but my cell phone has caller ID and voice mail. I never received a call from her. She said she couldn't reach me. False.
Saturday, Dec 10, he was experiencing trouble breathing in the PM. My vet closes at 3 on Saturday so I had to take him to California Veterinary Specialists in Murrieta. He had Xrays and determined he had pneumonia. I left him for 24 hours to be treated.
My other two dogs have since contracted kennel cough and are being treated. I've spent around $2,000.00 in two weeks on vet bills and I feel that Gentle Giants is negligent in releasing sick dogs for adoption. I have since reported them to Norco Animal Control.
The foregoing is honest and true to the best of my ability upon penalty of perjury.
Madelyn F. Berson (original signature on file)
December 27, 2005
The signed copy of the original Declaration is available upon request for verifiable animal control agencies and government entities.
Update as of December 26, 2005 (received via email)
Today, I spent another $2400 as both my dachshund and my retriever have pneumonia. I spent Christmas day at the vets. Today my retriever was admitted with a 105 fever and pneumonia. My vet bills are up to around $4K in three weeks and I paid $590 for a mix breed dog (whom we love because we feel he would have died if we didn't rescue him. They are criminals.
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