Working in the administrative offices of the Humane Society, I don't get to see a side of the work that we do, the most important part. On a special day in the beginning of December I saw firsthand what our Animal Control Officers do to rescue animals in need. I was most impressed and extremely happy to be part of this particular rescue.
They named her Sassy and everyone who worked on Passaic Street in Newark knew her, a small black and white dog who trotted confidently up and down the street of the industrial area. Everyone also knew she had given birth, although she carefully hid her puppies from sight. She appeared every morning to have breakfast with Mike, who always had a can of food ready for her and every afternoon when the lunch truck arrived.
She would gently take food but it was clear that she wasn't eating all of it; she was taking a portion back to her growing family.
We kept receiving calls all through the month of November from a woman who lived in the area and was also feeding Sassy. She was becoming more and more concerned, not only because the weather was changing but because demolition in the area was coming closer and closer to where Sassy seemed to have her babies hidden. Many attempts to locate Sassy and her babies were made but this was a street-smart dog who always managed to avoid our ACO's.
After receiving another frantic phone call because the demolition was getting closer, Animal Control Officer Marisol Torres and myself went out to look for the elusive Sassy. We drove up and down the block with no sight of her and finally got out and went inside some of the buildings. Evelyn who worked at Perlen, one of the companies in the area, knew Sassy well and clued us as to her daily habits. Since it was noontime, we decided to wait for the lunch truck. We no sooner parked the van and Sassy was strutting down the street. Marisol started feeding her and when she gave her the last bite, Sassy held it in her mouth and glanced to the left. She darted into the construction area and Marisol knew in an instant the location of the puppies. We climbed up a muddy embankment and down into a gully of sorts.
Beyond some prickly underbrush was a concrete slab that had fallen during the demolition. It created a cave and this was the spot Sassy had chosen to hide her pups. About 20 yards away was a bulldozer. It took some maneuvering and a lot of slipping and sliding on our part but Marisol was able to get Sassy out and into the van. The puppies all scrambled to the back of the cave, understandably frightened, so Marisol slid into a space a couple inches wide and started handing out Sassy's babies. One by one, nine healthy chubby puppies came into view. White ones, tan ones, black ones and one feisty Shepherdly looking pup. It was amazing that this tiny Mom had this large vigorous family and kept them safe and well in an incredibly vulnerable spot. By now a crowd had gathered, everyone cheering and oohing and aahing over the puppies.
We kept telling Sassy that she was fine and she and her babies would soon be warm, dry and in a safe place. She seemed to understand -- her tail never stopped wagging and she thanked us with dozens of kisses, in between counting her brood to make sure we left no one behind.
Mom and babies are now safely tucked into Puppy Palace. Sassy and her gang have their own room and the puppies are sleeping on a thick comforter instead of the dirt floor of the cave. The weather is really cold now and everyone is relieved they are inside, warm and safe.
Sassy has since been named Lunchtruck Lily and is an incredible Mom who did an amazing job of raising her puppies under difficult circumstances.
In the photo above right, you can see Sassy in her little cave in the weeds under the red arrow.
Update 3/2/05: Lucky Lily is now on the way to her forever home!