You need to get a beverage and sit for awhile to read this story.
While on outreach one day, we were down under a bridge and we saw a very, very pregnant cattle dog mix drinking water out of a puddle in the street. We turned around and started following her. There was pretty much nothing but junkyards and railroad tracks down there. We saw her go through a hole in a fence and go into one of the junkyards. At least we knew where she was hanging out. She would not come to us, so we left some food and water and knew we’d be back the next day.
We did go back the next day with some smelly, tasty food. We were hoping that she’d be hungry enough that we could coax her to us eventually. When we got down there and started throwing hot dogs, etc., another very, very pregnant dog appeared. This one looked like a rottie mix and she had a hurt leg. We could not believe it-there were 2 extremely pregnant dogs living in the same junkyard. Their bellies were huge! We put more food down for them. Neither one of them would get close to us. We decided to come back the next day with our traps. We had to get these mommas before they dropped their litters in the junkyard!
We went back the next day with two large traps. We baited them and left to do outreach for awhile. We had a guy watching them for us, too, and he said he would call if either of them got in there. We drove down during our other outreach calls halfway through our day and checked on things. The traps were still set, but the dogs would not go in them. They were way too smart for this. They would eat the bait food all the way up to the entrance of the trap, but they both refused to go in.
It wasn’t looking very good for getting these mommas before they dropped. We held our breath everyday as we went back down there that they’d both still be pregnant and we could try again with them. However, we didn’t see the cattle dog momma for several days. We still went down and fed everyday and saw the rottie momma, but we didn’t see the cattle dog mix. I knew she’d had the puppies and sure enough, about 4 days later, we saw her in the daytime and her teats were very heavy with milk. She’d dropped her litter somewhere in the junkyard. It was a large junkyard-no telling where she had them. We continued to feed every day and then one day, the rottie mix momma was not coming out. A few days later, we saw her come out from under some heavy iron posts of some sort. I got down on my belly and looked under there and there was a big nest of puppies, down in a hole that momma had dug out. They were well protected.
Now that both litters had been born, it changed things for a bit. The weather was not horrible yet (this was in early Nov.) and the best thing for the puppies was to be with mom and to nurse. We didn’t want to upset the mommas, so we decided to keep the mommas fed and watered well so they could make the milk for their babies. We decided to leave them there and let the mommas take care of them. The puppies were well hidden. We were there everyday, trying to befriend and feed the mommas, but they were protective of their litters, of course. We knew if we could keep the puppies there for at least 4 weeks with their mommas, then we could take them, get them squared away and then work on capturing the moms to get them spayed. We went everyday and fed and watered the mommas.
The cattle dog was definitely more confident being around us than the rottie mix. The poor rottie mix mom with the injured leg was very wary of us. We planned for the day that we could get the puppies out of there. We had no idea how many they each had. First, I had to figure out where the cattle dog momma had hidden her litter. This was a big junkyard and I knew they were in a certain quadrant of it, jut not sure where exactly. I got into the junkyard and starting walking toward the large corner area where I knew they were. The cattle dog momma was pretty nervous about this. She was keeping herself between me and that whole area. As I approached an upside down, long, heavy metal beam or something, Momma became very agitated. I knew they were under there. I backed off because I was not trying to upset momma anymore than necessary.
Now we knew exactly where both litters were. The day finally came that we could take the babies out of there. Then we would spay the mommas and put an end to all of this reproducing under the bridge. We had hot dogs for the mommas, knowing that they would probably get pretty upset. We reached into each den of puppies and started pulling them out of there. We couldn’t even count them, we just kept pulling them out and putting them in buckets that we had with us. The rottie momma pretty much stayed pretty far away. The cattle dog momma, however, was getting increasingly upset. She bit my boot a couple of times. The babies had started running way back under their steel fortress as we started grabbing. We didn’t have them all, but we decided to retreat, let the mommas settle down, and come back another day for the rest of them. When we got to our vehicle and counted, there were 17 puppies!!! And there were still some more there that we hadn’t gotten yet. We thought there were 4 left with the cattle dog mom and none left with the rottie. I felt sorry for her, but I knew that we’d work very hard on getting her after the puppies were safe and sound.
We waited a week and went back for the remainder of the puppies. This time, cattle dog momma was pretty upset from the beginning. She knew what we were there for. It was the only way to save the babies and stop the reproducing. This time, I had to get her on the control stick. She was fighting it and biting the pole, etc. We hurried and grabbed the remaining babies, which were 4. Twenty-one puppies total between the two mommas! I had been thinking all along that I would release momma off of the catch pole, let her settle down and continue feeding her, let her milk dry up and then we’d get both of the mommas in for spays. Donna hung back with me while I had momma on the pole. We were waiting for the girls to get all the way out of the junkyard with the puppies before releasing momma. Even though momma was fighting the pole, I looked at Donna and I said, “should we just get her, too?” and Donna said, “yes!” It wasn’t pretty and it probably scared her to death, but we had to pull momma all the way back to the van on the catch pole. But we got her! As soon as we loaded her into a kennel, we held a couple of her babies up to her and told her that it was all going to be ok.
The four puppies that had stayed with mom for an extra week, were very fat and healthy. We decided to pull them off of her and put 4 of the smallest rottie looking ones on her, which actually belonged to the other momma. She accepted them, cleaned them, nursed them. These tiny ones still needed some TLC from a momma. The remaining 17 puppies were all together in our isolation room and let me tell you-it was constant cleaning. They ate, slept and pooped over and over again!
I emailed some reputable rescue groups and people for help and a fabulous, local rescue group stepped up and took 18 of these little ones!!! Thank you, T.A.R.A., you guys are the best! Thank you so much for helping us out! Look at how happy the volunteers are to be loading them up after a couple of weeks of caring for 21 puppies!
Three of the rottie babies went to a rottie rescue up north that we’ve worked with before, Wisconsin Rottie Rescue. They had twice as many approved applications than they did puppies. We thank them for their help.
We named the cattle dog momma Molly. Molly turned out to be a delightful girl! She is the sweetest, most loving dog. She only weighs about 40 lbs. and she had 12 puppies! Molly plays with other dogs and seems to really be enjoying just getting to be a dog and play and go for walks, without the responsibilities of caring for a dozen puppies. She’s about 1 1/2 yrs. old and is just a wonderful girl. Molly is up for adoption and needs to find her forever home.
This was an overwhelming intervention at this junkyard. I can’t tell you how many hours that this took, week after week after week. We will not forget about the other momma dog. I go down about 4 nights a week and feed and water. Sometimes, she’s there and sometimes, she’s not. If you know anything about Chain of Hope, it’s that we’re tenacious. We will continue to work on this.
This is just one case out of hundreds for Chain of Hope. We took care of this in addition to addressing the 20-30 phone calls a day that we receive. We work very hard. Thank you for supporting us and keeping us out there everyday for the animals that need us so badly.