Matching Tattoos: Sending a Message of Solidarity for Puppy Mill Survivors

Toby the puppy mill survivor and Vanessa- why this woman's matching tattoo is so inspiringVanessa Marie Rose never expected that a small gesture she made for her beloved dog, Tobias Funke, would get her the kind of attention she’s gained recently. Who would have though a matching tatoo would inspire so many- but she’s truly touched.

‘I am honestly overwhelmed by the amount of support for Toby. I wish I could tell him somehow how happy he makes everyone he meets and everyone that hears about him.’

Tobias Funke in his new home. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Tobias Funke in his new home. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby’s Story

Vanessa rescued Toby in September 2016. Now, 6 months in, this is the longest that he’s ever had a real home since he was rescued from a puppy mill where he spent the first 6 years of his life. Vanessa says she might have made a mistake in researching the specific mill that Toby was rescued from after she got him.

‘ Over 300 dogs were rescued from the mill, all abused with teeth issues and in poor health. He was rarely let out, only to breed, and had to do everything within his cage.’

Little Tobias Funke, unfortunately, was rescued from a horrible situation and then put into a shelter in Ohio with a very high kill rate. Vanessa tells us some shelters in Ohio are reported to have euthanization rates as high as 80%.

tobias and vanessa

Toby and Vanessa. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

‘It’s such an alarming number. I knew I had to adopt or rescue a dog as there are so many in need that deserve to be given a chance.’

Vanessa got Toby from Snookie’s Society, a volunteer run rescue that specializes in small breed dogs and stepped in to help.

Toby’s Tattoo

Vanessa says that she has a few tattoos and the moment that she saw Tobias Funke’s, she just burst out crying. The tattoo in Toby’s ear was put there when he was at the mill and marked him forever as “Number 05 of the male Westie Breeds”.

‘He may have 05 on his ear but he is 01 to me. Branding any animal is just morally wrong. They cannot speak for themselves.’

Toby and Vanessa's matching tattoos. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby and Vanessa’s matching tattoos. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

So, Vanessa made the decision to get a tattoo behind her ear to match. She says she wanted to get the tattoo as a permanent sign of solidarity and an acknowledgment of the years of pain and neglect that Toby went through before he came to her and his forever home.

What Finding Your Forever Home Really Means

The most heartwarming part of Vanessa and Tobias Funke’s relationship, though, isn’t their matching tattoos but rather the mutual support that these symbols now represent. When Vanessa adopted Toby, they were both in a fragile spot. Vanessa told us that she suffers from depression and anxiety. She explained how the general stresses of life, her job, a recent breakup and an overall fear of death had really set her back and she needed to make a change. Toby was so scared and timid that he wouldn’t come near her or even sleep on her bed at first.

Toby and Vanessa ready for winter. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby and Vanessa ready for winter. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

‘I was having quite a hard time and having no luck breaking my lull. I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t get out of the house, and it was like one thing after another. Thankfully, I had just adopted Toby about a month earlier. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. He made me get up every day because I knew he relied on me to take care of him. He got me out of the house and into the sunshine. I will forever be grateful for him. I threw my whole heart and soul into taking care of him and he ended up helping to heal me in return.’

Toby and his feline friend. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby and his feline friend Tyler Durden (we think their names are awesome too!).  Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby has had a quick learning curve settling into his new life.

‘As much as his foster was there for him, you could still tell he’d been through the ringer and needed someone personally invested in him daily. Patience continues to pay off as he has done a complete 180 since. He sniffs everyone and will walk right up to them. He has started licking people and he lets them pet him now! Because of his past, I knew I had a lot of work to do in building his confidence and training. He now knows basic commands and has started to go to the park off leash! He came to me at a time when I had just broken up with my partner, didn’t really want to see many friends, and was quite distant, so I threw everything I had into him.’

Toby has now even started going to work with Vanessa. All her colleagues just can’t get enough of him!

Toby masquerading as a 'nona' to go outside. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby masquerading as a ‘Nonna’ to go outside. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Like us here at Talent Hounds, Vanessa is a strong believer in the invaluable comfort our pets offer us and the comfort we offer them back. Sometimes, you rescue a dog and they end up rescuing you. Toby has served as a sort of emotional support animal for her since he came into her life.

Vanessa left us with a beautiful sentiment about that saying simply: They make your life, they really do”.

Toby all bundled in his bed. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

Toby all bundled in his bed. Courtesy of @pizzathepuzzle

For more information on why we all need to fight to end puppy mills and what you can do to help, check out our past article in tribute to the brave mill survivor, hero and advocate Harley .

Has Vanessa and Tobias Funke’s story inspired you? Has your dog helped you? What have you done to show your love for your dog? Tell us in the comments.

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  • Beautiful story and I can definitely relate. My husband and I adopted a puppy mill rescue we named Saffy. She spent 8 years in a chicken coop breeding, and by the time she was freed she was such a wreck I don’t have enough room to write that traumas that poor girl suffered. If you looked at her she peed, it was so heartbreaking. I loved Saffy and worked with her every day. After 7 months she finally let me pet her and I cried, because I know how hard it was for her to get to that point. Sadly the vet I took her to turned out to be incompetent and she died during dental surgery. My heart breaks for the life she never had, but I’m so glad she knew 9 months of love and peace with me. I adopt senior dogs and I would definitely love another puppy mill survivor. I give you so much credit for giving Toby a wonderful home after the years of suffering he endured.

  • What a remarkable story of love. As a Westie lover, it breaks my heart to think of Toby’s life in a puppy mill. Thank you for sharing this happily ever after tale. ♥

  • That’s quite a statement to make, getting a human tattoo to match your Toby’s one. Of course, I completely understand the motivation and applaud Vanessa’s commitment to her own dog, but also to raise awareness and fight to end puppy mills. Bravo!

  • That is the sweetest story! I’m glad they both found each other and changed their lives!

  • That’s a moving story. I really didn’t know there were so many puppy mills around. I know there’s a petition into the Prime Minister to get attention about the issue national wide.

  • Now this made me cry. I definitely have to share this on my FB page I’ve been thinking about getting Lola’s and Lexy’s paw prints as a tattoo, and I think I’m definitely going to do it now. Tobias is a lucky dog to have such a great mom.

  • Love the story, Layla was rescued from a shelter where she spent her past life outdoors, I could not see my life without a dog and I sometimes say we rescued each other

  • What a beautiful rescue story! Toby is just the most adorable little dog, I’m so glad he was saved. My girl Phoebe was also extremely fearful, we worked with her for months on her fear issues and now she’s an amazingly happy & confident pup! Puppy Mills are the height of animal cruelty, they need to be Stopped.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  • This brought tears to my eyes. I had a puppy mill rescue dog. She had so many health issues her entire life and I would not trade her and those memories together for the world. Seeing those numbers made me so sad. Thank you for shining the spotlight on this.

  • I love this! My dog Hudson was from a puppy mill and I’m so glad he wasn’t tattooed. They’re just awful.

  • I think this is a great thing to do, and it is great proof of ownership!

    Puppy mills should be illegal – they make us so mad!!

  • I am so glad that Toby found his special person. While his tattoo is horrific, I am inspired by Vanessa’s. It is so disturbing to me that the much of the information on animal cruelty and infractions is no longer available on the USDA website. Puppy mills are an atrocity and I feel like the USDA has made a critical error in the removal of so much information. The USDA should be dismantling puppy mills, not protecting them!

  • What a touching story. My friend has a poodle who was used for breeding and had little contact with humans. She worked with him and now he’s a little love bug.

  • What an amazing story! I’m so glad that Toby made it out of that puppy mill. There are far too many of those left. It sounds like he and Vanessa were meant to be. I think the matching tattoo was very sweet and meaningful. Us humans are always in need of rescue too!

  • What a sweet story.
    My girl Folly has a blue line tattoo which she got after her spay. I have always wanted to get the same one