Three weeks ago, Natalie and Hans were driving down our road early one morning when Natalie spotted several puppies running across the blacktop. Another litter—this one of nine-week-old puppies—had just been dumped on our road. It seems to happen at least once a year during puppy-and-kitten season. Hans pulled over immediately, but Natalie only managed to catch one puppy before the rest disappeared into the woods. We enlisted the help of neighbors who joined us in traipsing through the trees, following the frightened cries of those poor babies who had just been torn from their mother and heartlessly abandoned.
We heard pitiful yelping coming from two different locations. Natalie and I followed the sound in one direction while Hans and a neighbor went the other way. When Hans called that they’d found the puppies, Natalie and I ran to help. We caught four puppies in all, though when I connected with the litter telepathically, they let me know that there had been, at one time, eight puppies. We put those four puppies in a crate I happened to still have in my car after having taken part in a rescue transport the day before. We listened, again, for the sound of more puppies in the woods, but if they were there, they were hiding quietly.
We took the four puppies to the vet, where they got their first-round of puppy shots, wormer, and flea treatment. All females, they weighed-in at just over three pounds each. Back at home, Natalie and I bathed the puppies and used tweezers to pick-off hundreds of fleas and ticks. We kept the puppies in the extra-large bathroom we had built once upon a time for my elderly parents. The plan is to keep the puppies here until they have had all their puppy vaccinations, then put them on a transport to a rescue organization up north.
Fast-forward a week later…
I got a phone call from a neighbor who had just found another puppy from that litter. The little girl puppy had been on her own (or with remaining litter mates who have yet to be found) in the woods, surviving by sneaking into the neighbor’s fenced dog runs and eating from their automatic feeders. She had a bite mark under one eye, and she was severely dehydrated. If not for her ability to steal food at night, she would have been dead long before the neighbor heard his dogs barking and went outside to find out why.
So, now we have a total of five dogs from that litter, safe from harm, and getting fat and sassy and socialized to humans. They have learned to use potty pads (most of the time). They chase tennis balls and play tug of war with rope toys and wrestle each other, teaching themselves how to play with other dogs. This is an important learning time for them, and I’m happy to be getting to know each of them a little better as they lose a little more of their fear and their personalities begin to emerge.
I don’t believe we will get any more calls from neighbors finding more puppies. Any that we haven’t found by now are surely dead. The sadness I feel for their suffering is lessened by the knowledge that these other five now have the chance to live happy lives as beloved companions to people who will cherish them.
I hear, too often, from people who say that they can’t foster animals because it breaks their hearts to know how much the animals have suffered, and then breaks them again when it’s time to let the animals go. But I don’t see it that way. Fostering strays and seeing to it that they get safely to their next-right-place on the way to a loving forever home is a joyful and healing experience.
While I acknowledge the pain and trauma these animals have endured at the hands of humans, instead of a damaged soul, I see an indomitable spirit and the boundless love and forgiveness these creatures are still capable of. I know that when I later see pictures of them happy and cherished in the arms of their forever families, I will feel a deep sense of satisfaction for having played a small part in helping them so they can go on to help others and fulfill their missions in life. Because every worm-bellied, flea-ridden puppy has a mission in life. They come here to spread joy and healing and playfulness, trust and forgiveness and wisdom. We can all learn so much from our animal companions—even those who are just passing through—especially in these very challenging and confusing times.
If these puppies can leap forward into a new and uncertain life with such joy and exuberance, maybe we humans can do it, too. If they can forgive and overcome fear and embrace every new experience with an open heart, maybe we can, too. We learn so much from them about the most important things in life, and all they learn from us is the importance of using potty pads. I’m definitely getting the best end of the deal in this puppy-fostering situation (and I really don’t mind all the mopping).
Fast-forward another couple weeks…
Today I took the puppies to a wonderful woman who runs the Bigbee Humane Society in Marengo County, AL. She will deliver them to a new foster home that is ready and waiting for them, and they will go to the vet later this week to get their last puppy vaccinations and a vet check before they are loaded into a transport van with other puppies on their way to new foster families in Wisconsin. They will be separated from their litter mates at this point so that they can get one-on-one attention from their foster family members. They will form new bonds with humans and learn more about potty training, and etiquette with humans and dogs and other animals. Most especially, they will learn how to trust that from now on, their lives will be an amazing adventure full of opportunities to love and be loved unconditionally. They will stay with these foster families until they are old enough to be spayed. Then, they will go to a rescue organization in Wisconsin that will provide each of them with the opportunity to meet and choose their forever family.
I have explained to the puppies the way this adventure works; it’s a journey toward a fulfilling and happy life with the people and places that are waiting for them to show up and make a difference. Along the way, there will be starts and stops and layovers. They’ll meet kindred spirits and helpers they will never see again, though the indelible imprint of these connections will forever remain in the heart and soul of each individual. We have all played an integral part in one another’s Sacred Contracts.
Rescue transports happen every day through the efforts of a not-quite-underground railroad of organizers, drivers, foster families, financial donors, and others who help in big and small ways that are all essential. Like a bucket brigade, these people do what they can to help, then hand off to the next person who is ready to take over for a brief time. If a person has time to drive, they volunteer to ferry animals on one “leg” of the journey. If they aren’t able to drive, they donate. Or they foster an animal overnight during a journey. Or for longer, if necessary. (Maybe they even let a litter of puppies destroy a spare bathroom for a few weeks.)
If you have room in your heart, your home, your car, or your pocketbook to help these puppies and others along their journey to forever, here are some links to organizations that would welcome your help:
https://www.facebook.com/bigbee.humanesociety/ ~ This is the organization that found a rescue organization for our puppies and will be giving them a ride all the way to Wisconsin! On the Bigbee Humane Society’s Facebook page, you can find a link to their PayPal account for donations.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/194496253963426/ ~ This is a closed group of transport volunteers taking dogs from wherever they are to wherever they need to be, going from or through Alabama. They don’t take donations and nobody gets paid for helping; this is strictly a volunteer organization. If you don’t live in Alabama, you can still join the group and help out if a transport is going through your area. You can also find the transport group for your own state by typing in your state and the word transport in the Facebook search field.