Charlie’s Story — 3: “Puppy by Puppy . . .” #dogs #rescue #teardown #danger #heroes

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Hi there, thanks for sticking with us on this Charlie journey.

I’ll let you in on some details: I still have yet to meet Annie and Mandi. I interviewed Annie over the last weekend on my phone, but I wasn’t able to record the conversation on the phone, so I had to put her on speaker and then record that using my iPad. The conversation lasted about an hour, but the interview was about 45 minutes. So to get this done, I’ve been listening to that iPad recording on headphones while my boys play Led Zeppelin in the background as they play with the dogs. I also have to stop and pause to type and rewind and re-listen because some of it is unintelligible due to an iPhone, background noise and the speaker. Each of these installments is about 7-10 minutes of the conversation.

I tell ya, the life of a reporter is not easy. I’m also breaking up the dialogue a little bit with my own perceptions and also paraphrasing as content rather than quotes to give this story a little rhythm. That’s why it’s taking so long. If it were my story, I’d be able to tell it differently, but I don’t think it’d be nearly as exciting. My version would be like this: “mama dog had babies. dogs were rescued, lots of adversity, cold. the end.”

I’ve heard from a couple of you readers and I just want to agree: Annie and Mandi are special people. They are brave, kind, selfless and naturally altruistic. They are few and far between, they are heroes and they have my gratitude. As I sit here in my warm home watching Charlie play with Murphy, I want them to know how special they are. I also know that Mandi was sad to let Charlie go to me and my family. She had fallen fast and hard for him, which is totally understandable. I want her to know that Charlie is loved, so completely loved here and that Murphy has come out of his shell, so while I only brought in one new dog, I got two dogs out of it. Murphy is very happy.

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If you’re new to this story, please read #1 and then #2 before starting here. It’s a great example of human spirit, animal justice and the unspoken yet unbreakable bonds between people and our four-legged friends.

. . .

We last left Mandi and Annie at the trailer around 8:30 in the evening with the intention of getting the remainder of the puppies and placing them all and Mini, their mama, in the car to head back for the awaiting seven-hour journey home. Annie had discovered after putting two of the pups in her car, that it was actually 28˚ and falling outside.

Whatever the actual temperature was outside, “I felt it was close to 80˚; I was so fueled with adrenaline that it could have been 10˚ out and I would’ve kept going without care. I had no concept of the cold, for hours. I later realized that my socks were soaked through and that was soaking wet from all the puddles. No matter. So we’ve got the puppies in the car and we head back to the gas station to get more food and we say, ‘Yay! We found some puppies! Yay!’ and we got something to eat and headed back to the trailer to try some more to get the rest out, because the Mexican lady said there were six puppies,” said Annie.

At this point, it’s probably close to 10:00pm. It’s a Friday night and these two mothers have been at this for about two hours, but are another seven from home. They get some food into their own bellies to keep them going. Mini is feeling great relief, no doubt from her reunion because her babies have nursed. Meanwhile Freckles has never ceased barking while Tip and my Charlie are curled up in the safety of the hatchback wondering what’s taking everyone else so long to get out of there.

“So after a few trips back and forth between the gas station, the trailer and the puppies, Mini sort of takes on this very relaxed attitude, as if to say, ‘Ok! This is where I live. So uh… you guys, I’ll be here sleeping. I’m going to SLEEP now,’ and it’s about 11 o’clock now. So because Freckles was still howling and growling and barking, after several hours, we knew that there was at least one puppy still alive in there. It’s really hard to see in that hole. Not only are we without any natural light, there is no light inside the hole, but this house is unstable and its cracking beneath Mandi’s steps so we knew that was not going to be the way to get them out,” she said.

Annie had a slightly easier time walking on the decrepit teardown. The problem or more appropriately, the threat was not going to come from walking on top of the wet and decomposing plywood, steel, nails styrofoam insulation and sub-flooring; it was getting trapped beneath it, in the dark and subfreezing temps, so the situation was a little dire to say the least. The women were too large to fit though the “fox holes” into the “den,” under the house and too heavy to stand upon it to find a way in, plus Freckles didn’t trust them in the least, despite what his mother, Charlie and Tip thought of Annie and Mandi.

“So instead of trying to get into the house, we’re spending most of our time trying to coax the puppies out. But I think they’re stuck. So I take my fingers, and again, I’m totally unaware of being cold, but I want to say I was lifting or trying to lift about six inches house, y’know of floor, linoleum, plywood, nails, carpet padding, aluminum, rugs … it was all wet and rotting. It was a mess. Mud, dirt and cement everywhere, but it was still hard, so I could use my fingernails to make a hole, to dig through it all several times for the puppies to climb through because they’re stuck, right? So Mini’s no help at all. She’s feeling better, her babies are safe and she’s fallen asleep,” Annie said, laughing in recollection, but I can hear the exhaustion in her voice too. She sighs lightly.

Annie said at this point it was at least midnight; maybe even 1:00 in the morning. She was exhausted but full of hope too. This is where those dogs lived, they weren’t likely to leave it and they had survived in it since birth. To them, it was adequate. To them, it was shelter and had yet to let them down. Humanity, the form of the lovely neighbor, the older Mexican woman, had shown them — shown us all actually, including you who are reading this story — that spirit goes on and that good things happen, we just need, as Dumas wrote, to “wait and hope.”

Annie is resourceful. She’s been down this rescue road before. She had a plan.

“So I despite my fatigue, I said to Mandi, ‘why don’t we tie all these leashes together, go get more wet food, throw wet food as far as we can into the den and that will lure Mini in, she will start to eat and then they will start nursing and then you, Mandi, slowly pull out the leashes and I will hide and snatch a puppy….”

AND IT WORKED! For two more puppies, “Drama” and “Sleepy,” they got them out of the hole and put them with Charlie and Tip to rest inside the car.

Why is Drama named Drama you ask?

“When we got Drama, she screamed, so loud and so long I thought that many ribs must’ve been broken. She was like a feral cat. She would put her head down as far as she could whenever you tried to pat her and you know, they’d never been touched by people, and that is why we named her Drama, she just screamed all the time.”

So they’ve got four of a reported six pups out of the hole. It’s late, sports fans. It’s close to 1:30 or 2:00 am. Remember, Annie and Mandi left their homes 12-15 hours earlier, and traveled close to 420 miles from home to bring these puppies out of danger. They are soaked through to their skin. They’ve run through fields, scraped at tear downs, eaten who knows what to fuel them through this effort. All by themselves. I like to think that St. Francis was watching over them, helping them out, egging them on. For me, it’s the sweet smell of puppy breath that would keep me going on each one that came out of that hole.

“Freckles is still screaming and howling and growling and snarling. I don’t know what to do. I have determined that he’s either blind and confused, mentally ill, has rabies or is just generally wrong in the head…”

Annie explained that throughout this rescue effort, she made numerous phone calls to the local authorities: the fire department, a local police department, the animal control people and no one cared or even bothered to help them, even out of a public interest in someone’s personal safety. She also explained that she told a police officer at the gas station that she and her friend were going to an abandoned teardown to rescue some dogs and he sort of said, “Mmm, ok!” and didn’t ask any further about it. While I understand her confusion, based on a liability consideration because she was on someone else’s private property, I can also understand that unless the person who owned the property had a problem with it, she was likely not going to elicit any attention, inquiries or assistance from anyone. After all, as frustrating as it is, I would’ve loved to have helped them, we must admit that we are all grown adults here, and this was her and Mandi’s adult and conscious decision to embark on and / or continue the effort.

“So we went back. We were totally tired and we had no more ideas. Freckles was still barking and growling. And we were just spent. Mini is happy and asleep for the night in our car, the other puppies are content. For whatever reason, Mini simply didn’t care about this dog. She was not interested; even his mom didn’t want to rescue him. So we just sit there for a long time. And the cold is starting to have an effect on us. I am starting to realize that I’m wet and tired and cold and emotionally and mentally spent. But I’m not leaving, so I make trips between the car and the dog, this barking snarling dog that I still didn’t know was a puppy. He just sounded so fierce, but small, but angry, so … you know, I didn’t know what was really going on.”

Annie decided to go back to the house and take another stab at it. She went back to the hole she created with her hands a few moments before and even though it was dark, she could see these tiny little white paws and two dots for eyes, reflecting whatever light there was, back at her. She knew it was a puppy at that moment and crazy or not, she was not going to leave without it. But she was out of ideas. This little dude was stubborn, terrified and very defensive.

She had a friend back at home, the vet tech who first saw Mini when they brought her back home without knowing she had puppies (back in the first story), who was an animal catcher extraordinaire. If anyone knew how to catch a reluctant dog, her friend the vet tech did.

# # #

I am sorry! I have to stop here. I’m exhausted!

Well, no, I don’t have to. But again, it’s another great spot to stop. Tomorrow… I think that will do it.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

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