Puppy Rescue: My 24 Hour Adventure With Rescue Pups
Puppies in backyard of breeder
"In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money cannot buy … to wit—the wag of a dog’s tail.” Lady and the Tramp 1955
It started as any ordinary weekday morning. I got my daily cup of coffee and settled down to check email, read and respond. I moved onto checking my bank account insuring sufficient funds for timely payment of bills. Finally when my "chores" were completed, I allowed myself a break to check my Facebook wall for new postings.
I have been on FB for several years and have evolved. I am careful who I "friend" and what I post. Having been bullied, berated and beaten up in my infancy on FB, I decided a few months ago to clean house. My "friends" these days are limited to those who are truly friends having eliminated any of those so-called "friends" who were nothing more than political bullies known as people whose enjoyment is to provoke and argue. I realized it was too time consuming and negative; and besides those types of people never change.
My new “friends” are a mix of people or organizations that use social media to promote, educate and gain support for issues dealing with children’s rights or illnesses, animal rescue or victim of violent crimes groups. Although these various groups would appear to be negative by the nature of their FB pages, they actually offer a more positive FB experience because they actually fight to do good!
As I scrolled around the recent posts of jokes, cute baby photos, or serious requests to "re-post this message to every survivor of cancer"; I landed upon a photograph of a litter of pups trapped behind a chain link fence. These cute furry babies were surrounded by tons of garbage and dangerous things like old paint cans, used paint brushes and no water, food or mama dog in sight. There was no shelter and nothing for these puppies to sleep on except for the cold, hard ground.
Sad photos of dogs in need on Facebook
The photograph was asking for help to transport these motherless pups from their deplorable conditions and into the arms of loving volunteers at a rescue shelter in Los Angeles. I stared at the photo of the cute pups for a few seconds, then moved on to other posts feeling like there is nothing I can do to stop such evilness, I mean I am only one person.
The photo kept haunting me. Try as I did, I found myself unable to stop from going back to the puppy picture. I could not silence the plea for help as if the puppies were saying "help me, help me. "So okay, I think to myself," I can help by "sharing" the photo with my FB friends. I hit "share" and there....I have done my good deed for the day or have I?
I do have time to lend. I am currently semi-retired from work or in-between jobs (depends on my mood on how I present my current unemployment). I have free time on my hands. I thought about how many times I read these sort of heart tugging postings but fail to get involved or offer help. And too, everyday there seems to be news stories tragic and sad. Headlines reading:
"Pups found in trash bag on side of road left to die" or "Dog filled with buckshot and stuffed into bag found hanging on barbed wire fence."
We need to ALL get involved and say Enough already! I must do something. “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” (Eldridge Cleaver “Soul on Ice”).
Puppies in Danger
Without further hesitation, I send a private message to the admin person on the ICARE Facebook page offering to help pick up the pups and deliver them to the shelter in Los Angeles.
Within a few hours, my cell phone rang. It was a call from someone named "Lorena". She introduced herself as the founder of I Care Network, (I.C.A.R.E), a non-profit rescue agency that networks with other rescuers nationwide. She says the puppies, eight them total, are living in a desert community near Palm Springs, California called Indio. The conditions are deplorable. The area where the pups are is high crime and known to be a heaven for dog fighting and breeding. Lorena says the breeder is a part time breeder who probably sells the puppies on craigslist for $50 to $100 each. Unfortunately, in poorer areas, people do what they do in order to make money without regard for how inhumane it is. I have lived in California all my life. I know of Indio and I am a bit concerned to travel there to do any “intervention” with an illegal dog breeder, but my apprehension is silenced by my will to save these pups who stare back at me from the photo on Facebook.
Lorena did not provide any details of how or by who the pups came to be found in the backyard of this dilapidated home. I suspect Lorena’s ICARE Network of animal lovers are always on the lookout for endangered animals. Lorena only told me some good Samaritan contacted her to let her know some pups were in being kept in awful conditions and were in extreme danger.
Lorena who is hundreds of miles away from the area of Indio, immediately went into rescue mode contacting local rescuers in her network asking them to do a "drive-by" to check on the puppies conditions.
Lorena found a local rescuer. The contact person reached the person at the puppies home and learned the mother dog living there had previously given birth to 5 other litters. She was only a few years old. When Lorena’s contact person asked what happened to the other pups, the apparent amateur breeder at the house,said he bred his dog so his kids could have "pets" and that the ones not kept were "given away". Lorena was highly doubtful of the breeder. Lorena has seen this situation too many times. The more likely scenario is the amateur breeder intentionally had his dog bred, she had a litter of pups and he was able to sell them on craigslist. Regardless of the few bucks he may have gained from the sale of the pups, it is more than he had before and the profit with no overhead is probably very attractive. Lorena is sure the breeder does not follow any humane practices such as veterinarian exams, puppy shots or proper nutrition.
Lorena's contact upon seeing the horrible conditions of where the pups and mother were being kept, offered to buy all the pups including their mother. The breeder was very apprehensive saying he could not possibly part with the pups as his children would be “upset.” The rescuer was skeptical of the breeder and felt the breeder was fearful the offer to buy the pups and their mother was some sort of Animal Control department set up. After much persuasion by the rescue contact, the breeder finally relented and agreed to allow the mother dog to be spayed and agreed to “give” the pups to the rescue agency but only if he could keep one pup for a “pet”. It was a small chocolate female. The rescue contact agreed but said she would agree only with the breeder keeping the female pup if, at a later date, the rescuer could return and have the pup spayed too. The breeder agreed he just would not agree to right then and there, telling the rescue contact “Maybe tomorrow. My kids want to say good bye.”
Lorena and her local rescuer continued follow up with the breeder trying to schedule the transfer of the pups and their mom. They were not getting much cooperation. The breeder was politely uncooperative. He kept using work as an excuse claiming he was "too busy" regardless of Lorena offering to come after he was home from work or early morning before he left for work. Lorena feared the pups would not do well if left outside in the elements for too long. Lorena's rescue contact offered to bring food to the puppies but the skeptical breeder would not allow it telling her in broken English "I will feed" probably not wanting too many strangers around his house for fear they might reveal his secret dog breeding operation.
Lorena was able to arrange a tentative pick up date with the breeder for Friday-two days from my first contact with Lorena. My job was to travel to Indio, retrieve the puppies and deliver them to a temporary boarding facility in Los Angeles.
I told Lorena I would be ready whenever she called 24/7. It was not much of a commitment on my part in light of all that Lorena and her network of rescuers do every day. I only forgot one major detail: I needed help with the pickup and that would be my husband whom I forgot to clue in on this mission.
Hanging up the phone I am met with the inquiring eyes of my husband. "Ah...I kind of volunteered to do something, to help out a dog rescue place" I said. He looks at me suspiciously and asks "oh where and when?" "Indio" I say, “oh nice place” he says sarcastically, he too, having lived in California all his life, knows of the infamous “Indio” which at one time was home to the "Date Festival" (date as in the fruit—think it is a fruit), a week long fair that included carnival rides, entertainment and foods made of what else?Dates.Unfortunately, Indio is now known for gangs, illegal dog breeders and dog fighting. My husband looks at the photo of the needy pups on Facebook and like me, is helpless to resist. He agrees, someone needs to do something, why not let it be us!
The following day, Lorena called to let us know, the breeder was still being flaky He refuses to give a specific time for us to pick up the pups. Lorena’s contact in Indio was hoping to go Friday afternoon and then coordinate with our meeting her to pick up the pups but the breeder is vacillating.
Lorena has learned from the breeder the pup’s mother has suddenly "ran away.” Is it a coincidence? What are the odds that just when we plan to rescue the mommy dog and her pups, the mom runs away? Lorena, as did I, felt this was very doubtful. Maternal instincts would never allow a mother to abandon her pups. Lorena was afraid the breeder did not want to part with his prized "mom" who already provided income with her five previous litters, but if all we could save were the pups, Lorena dared not to pressure or accuse the breeder of anything.
After many phone calls with Lorena and Lorena's contact rescuer in Indio, the breeder finally agreed to pick up the pups on Saturday morning the following day and not a second too soon. Lorena's contact thankfully agreed to pick up the dogs Saturday morning if we could meet her somewhere later for transport to Los Angeles.
We were happy to not have to travel to Indio since it is over 50 miles from our home; and truthfully I am a bit of a coward. I was concerned about traveling to Indio and taking the pups from the breeder whom I imagined was not happy to give away his "product" for free. Whomever this "volunteer" was, she or he must be one courageous dog lover.
The volunteer was Andrea. We made contact with her the evening before our meeting. She is a very devoted dog rescuer. She went to the breeder’s home that evening trying to take the dogs then but was met with resistance. She told the breeder she would be back the next morning. He agreed to let the puppies go then. When Andrea inquired about the mother dog, the breeder again claimed “she ran away”. Andrea was hoping there would not be any delays getting the puppies the following morning as she was combining another rescue of a dog that same day. She sounded like an amazing, dedicated dog lover and one with courage as she refused to take no from the breeder—fearless. Andrea instructs us to meet her around 10:00 AM at the Humane Society located in Hemet, California about a half hour away from our home. She will call us when she has possession of the pups.
We get the Call
Saturday morning we get the call or actually it came in the form of a short, covert sounding text message from Andrea saying "Puppies are secured. We are on time to meet at the humane society". Barely finishing our coffee, my husband and I sprang into motion, ready to deploy “Operation: Puppy Save.”
In our hurry to get on the road and meet Andrea, it dawned on us we had no idea about the size of the puppies. I guess we assumed they would be little pups. What do we use to contain the pups while on the trip to our house and ultimately the two hour journey to Los Angeles?
We quickly found two medium sized cardboard boxes and converted them to make-shift carriers with comfy blankets, placing them into the rear seat of my husband’s small sedan, there was no room for anything else. We grabbed two water bottles for us which turned out to be very useful for the pups and we hit the road at record speed.
We arrived at the humane society located in a rural part of Riverside County in Southern California. We were amazed at how many people and dogs were in the parking lot. Many of the dogs were in carriers and people were looking them over. It dawned on us the dogs in carriers were dogs being surrendered to the shelter by their owners, however, before the owners taking their dogs inside to the shelter office, they were attempting to give away or sell their pets to people in the parking lot who had come to the shelter to adopt a dog. It was a sad sight and not a safe one. Too unsafe. The prospective dog adopter has no idea as to the health of the dog and the dog owner has no idea what kind of home they are giving their supposed beloved pet up to. A no win situation.
The Exchange of Pups and our Journey home
We located Andrea who parked in a vacant area of the parking lot far from the hub bub of the adoption deals going down outside the shelter office. A very smart move on Andrea’s part; obviously she has done this before.
We ask Andrea how it went at the breeders and she tells us she drove to the breeder's early in the morning as she anticipated problems. When she arrives, she does not find the breeder at home, but she refuses to leave. Soon a teenage girl answered the door and in Spanish stated she was the daughter.
Andrea told the girl she was there for the puppies and finally after insisting, the daughter came outside and opened the chain link gate to the enclosure where the puppies were amid paint cans, old paint soaked brushes, paint trays filled with old paint and an assortment of maggot infested trash. Andrea did not see any food or water for the pups anywhere. As the gate opened, the pups scurried out and ran all over the yard. They were quickly picked up by Andrea and her helper and placed in the safety of a carrier for their first car ride ever.Andrea tells us she quickly noticed the pups were thirsty, hungry and very emaciated. The pups were given water but Andrea did not have any food. All of the pups became sick as they rode in the car.
It was soon discovered a few of the pups had learned aggressive behavior probably from having to fight for whatever food they were given. A couple of the pups were picking on one pup in particular and Andrea had to pull over her car and separate the picked on pup from the rest. Andrea's helper held onto the pup in the front seat. We were instructed to do the same. We started calling the bullied pup "Spot" because of his all white body with one large black spot on his back. Andrea showed us numerous bite wounds on Spot's legs and back. We could not imagine why the other pups were picking on this very sweet and docile boy, but nonetheless, we did as instructed. Spot rode all the way home stretched out on my lap and seeming to love every second of it.
Andrea’s small PT Cruiser was overflowing with doggies. Her front seat passenger and helper held “Spot” and the back seat was taken up with the large dog carrier filled with the rescue pups. Peering out from the very back of the PT Cruiser was a large Doberman, he stuck his face out begging for a pat and scratch from us, which we obliged. The Doberman was Andrea’s second rescue of that day. The Doberman had been at a “high kill” shelter and was due to be put down that morning. Andrea tried desperately to find a foster for this loving dog but had not found anyone. She rescued the dog that morning and found a Doberman Rescue group willing to foster the boy until his forever home could be found. We admire anyone who can go to shelters and rescue dogs. I do not think we could walk away from any kill shelter without taking all the dogs.
Andrea helped us load the pups one by one into the back seat boxes in our car. There were eight pups Andrea rescued but one she agreed to return to the breeder as he wanted it to be a pet for his children. The pup was a chocolate color. Sadly we left the little chocolate one with Andrea as he struggled to get free to be with the rest of his brothers and sisters.
Did we Lose One?
We thanked her for saving us the trip to Indio and went on our way. As we drove down the street headed for our adventure home, one of the pups threw up. It looked like he was fed a can of green beans--nothing else. Who are these people? We pulled over and stopped to clean up the mess. As we looked into the boxes, we counted "one, two, three, four, five, six"SIX?!SIX?Where was the seventh pup? Frantic, we called Andrea.
Andrea checked her car, the carrier the back seat, no stray pup. "Yes" Andrea said. "I had seven pups, I am pretty sure I gave you seven pups". After much discussion, we finally came to the conclusion there were seven pups plus the mother made for a total of eight. Andrea arrived with seven pups but kept the chocolate one to return to the breeder as agreed thus we ended up with six. Overjoyed our puppy math equation arrived at the correct answer, we carried on to our home. Whew!
We pulled over three more times on our way home. Each time we gave one of the pups a sip of water from our water bottles. They were so dehydrated. They happily drank from the bottles lapping up every drop of water. Our normal half hour trip to our home turned into a journey of over an hour.
Once at home, we "puppy proof" our garage by removing anything that the puppies could chew or eat that may be hazardous. We set up pillows, blankets for them to sleep on. We had a small carpet along with an Igloo dog house set up with blankets. The doggies pile out of the car. First order of business was getting bowls of water and food for them.
Pups get Food and Water-Finally
We knew the dogs were hungry but they devoured the food in their bowls like a pack of wild hyenas. One shy pooch, a small all black one, took his bowl into the Igloo to keep it away from the others. A small all white dog whom we dubbed "Shorty" was being denied food by the larger, more aggressive pups. We took Shorty inside to let her eat. She was extremely malnourished and probably has not had a lot of food because the breeder fed the pups sporadically and when he did, she was too small to fight for her share.
We let the pups settle in and after about two hours, one by one let each pup out to the back yard to explore. Each pup was very timid. They did not know how to step over the door thresh hold. How could they when they have spent their entire lives-about 9 weeks-inside an enclosed chain link fence. Once outside in our back yard they were free to run and explore. Having been nourished and hydrated we could see the physical change. They were happy but not always.
Learned Aggression needed for Survivial
As the puppies ran around, it soon became apparent that some had already learned aggressive behavior. When Andrea told us the pups were picking on Spot is was an understatement. Suddenly and with no provocation, two of the pups pounced on Spot. Spot immediately went to the ground and rolled onto his back in a submissive pose. The pups growled and bit him, all of the pups except for Shorty bit Spot on his legs, his stomach and his penis. We tried to pull them off but they were aggressively attacking. Learned aggression we assumed probably from fighting for food or worse yet, maybe the breeder had other dogs he was training for fighting and using these pups as bait? Our mind ran wild with awful scenarios.
We quickly separated Spot and Shorty from the rest of the litter. Spot and Shorty would spend the night inside with us. The rest of the litter would be safe in our over-sized garage which is basically another room of the house. We did bring the garage pups in, one at a time, to allow them to explore the house. It was obvious these little guys had never been inside anywhere-house or garage. Once inside the house, the pups would sniff and look around very timid.
The pups enjoyed the outside as well exploring and smelling new smells. Curious like any puppies.
Night time arrived and the garage pups were all snug in their comfy beds. Shorty and Spot were upstairs with us and our dog, Lou. Lou is a rescue himself coming from equally deplorable conditions as these puppies. Lou still deals with "issues" with other dogs. He is getting much better but is not too sure about sharing his bed with Shorty and Spot. Eventually everyone settles down and finds their own part of the bed. Spot snuggles up against me during the night and my heart breaks thinking this poor little boy misses his mommy. I wish for him a forever loving home.
Time to say Good Bye
Finally the morning arrives. Spot and Shorty slept with us on the bed. They yawn and smile. Their eyes sparkling. It is time for us to load them up to venture on to their next destination.
We check on the garage pups. They had a busy day finding rawhide chews but once bored with those, began to tear up some cardboard and paper towels. We give them their breakfast and more water. All the pups eat with delight and lick the bowels clean.
Once more, we load the pups into a box in the back seat of my husband's small car. This time, I sit in the back next to the box which contains the two aggressive pups and the four others are on my lap or next to me. My husband comments the pups look a 100% better than when we picked them up from Andrea. Amazing what food and fresh air can do!
Driving from our home in South Riverside county to Los Angeles on a Saturday morning, the pups settle into a nice nap. The trip takes longer than we expected although we expect traffic in Los Angeles regardless time of day, there is never a slow traffic period in Los Angeles! The pups do not seem to mind. Spot lays over my lap and periodically looks up at me, staring into my eyes as if to say "where am I headed now" "will they like me there". I am growing attached to him and the little runt girl "Shorty". By now we are convinced Spot and Shorty are from one litter and the rest from another litter because Shorty, Spot and the all black pup seem bonded with each other and the other pups do not seem to like them. The other three pups are a mix of Beagle, Blood Hound and Shepard or they seem to be.
We arrive at Londoloza Dog Den and Cattery in Culver City, California, the boarding facility who so graciously agreed to board the puppies temporarily until they are transported to Oregon and the sanctuary there. Lorena has told us she has better luck getting puppies adopted into forever homes up in Oregon rather than California. The reason is Spot and Shorty are part pit bull and lots of cities in Southern California have banned pit bull ownership. Additionally, insurance carriers are no longer writing homeowner's insurance if you own a pit bull. It is hard to imagine a puppy like "Spot" ever becoming a vicious dog when he is so loving and docile now. It is bad dog owners who perpetuate the vicious pit bull dog image. We hope someday this wrong can be corrected.
The helpers at Londoloza take the puppies from us, one by one. They immediately give new names to Spot and Shorty. Spot is now called "Rufus" why we do not know. The helpers did not seem to think he was a "Spot". "Shorty" has been renamed "Pearilita" I guess Spanish for "little Pearl" cause she is the runt and she is all white, like a pearl. We sadly kiss and say good bye to our furry over night visitors. We wish them a loving, forever home as we return to our empty and very quiet car for our trip home.
We are exhausted but it is a good exhaustion. For once we feel we were part of the solution. As for the pups, we miss them dearly. They will probably not remember this event in their lives but we will never forget.