Sometimes the streets are quiet, but that can all change in an instant.
I spotted a dirty, white, female engorged with milk. I could tell she was a nursing mom, roaming and looking for food. She stopped and watched me as I put a pile of food down for her. She watched as I walked away, then came up to eat.
I was hoping that once she ate and had a full belly, she would head back to her puppies. There were so many places she could have them hidden. The streets in this area are lined with abandoned houses and thick brush. After she ate, I watched her cut through yards, across streets, and into a brushy area.
I rolled my window down and could hear puppies. As I got closer, it sounded like they were coming from every direction in the brush and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was going on. I followed the sound until I stumbled upon a pipe in the ground. It was about twelve inches in diameter and twenty inches deep. There, at the bottom of the pipe, was a single black puppy, about six weeks old, whimpering and crying. There were long weeds covering the opening, so if the puppy had not made any noise, I would never have found her. She was terrified and screamed as I went to pick her up. But once safely in the jeep, her tail wouldn’t stop wagging.
Mom barked at me, deep in the brush. I made my way in to see if there were more puppies. Although most houses were abandoned, the street was buzzing with people, and I knew it was a matter of time until the puppies were picked up by someone else, and who knows what their intentions would be. I could see the white of her fur and several small, black puppies moving around her. Mom barked but kept moving further away.
At 6 weeks old, they were very mobile. These puppies were not going to make this easy! I had to get one, take it to the jeep and return for the next one as they squirmed in my arms. Once all four puppies were safely in the jeep, I went to get mom. But this time, there was a second, white female adult there too. This one had two black ears. I couldn’t tell if they were siblings or maybe one was an adult pup from a previous litter. They stayed close to each other but made their way through weeds and abandoned yards.
We set two traps in different areas that seemed like their go-to places. Hours passed, and neither trap had been touched. It was starting to get late. I hated to leave them, but packed up and would try again the next day.
We arrived first thing in the morning after a restless sleep and spotted both dogs. We desperately wanted to get both so that neither would get left by themselves. But, things don’t always go as planned. The nursing mom kept roaming off. The other female was comfortably curled up on an old foam cushion. She raised her head to see what we were up to, but didn’t run off. We quickly set the trap and pulled away. Before we even made it around the block and back, she was up smelling the food. Five minutes later, she was in! She was nervous, scared. We wanted to get her in the jeep before she made any distressed noises that could upset the mom. We loaded her up and as we pulled away we saw her friend sitting by herself in the field across the street. It was an absolutely heartbreaking moment. We named the dog in the trap Bungee Bridge since all of the puppies were named after Obstacle Courses. We were determined to rescue mom and not leave her out there by herself. We went back, but after another few hours without success, we left again for the day. It was a quiet ride knowing that mom was now all alone.
Even though mom was skinny, she did not seem interested in going into the trap for food. We needed a new plan. Instead of food, we got a poopy blanket and pee pads from her puppies’ foster home. Once the trap was set, we even played the video of the first puppy crying in the pipe. If she was anywhere close, we thought for sure that would do it. The trap was well hidden in the weeds, so we decided to leave it set overnight to give her time. We don’t like this as an option, but on a rare occasion we will.
We went back early the next morning after another sleepless night. As we got close, we saw mom – she was laying in the trap! She was scared, but didn’t make a sound as we talked to her and carried her back to the jeep. Finally, all the dogs from this pack had taken their freedom rides. It was such an overwhelming feeling of relief. She spent all night alone, but would never have to be alone again. This brought tears of joy to our eyes.