On a stormy evening in late October, Leslie -- a dedicated HAVA volunteer and board member -- got the call that would forever change the fate of one very sweet little dog.
A concerned lady called the HAVA hot line to report that a near-starving Chihuahua-mix was living under the vacant Seaport Lumber building at the Port of Willapa. The caller explained that the little dog had been living under the building with another small black dog for at least two months. The lady and her husband had been bringing food to them but were unable to befriend and catch them. Now the weather was turning cold. They were worried. Besides, the skinny little dog had started limping, then hadn't been seen in several days.
Distressed by the news, Leslie went out into the stormy night in her PJs to see if she could help the poor, starving pups. When she got there there was no sign of them. Nearby residents reported that they had also seen the dogs and sometimes fed them. But as with the helpful lady caller, they were unable to catch them.
Over the next several days, Leslie spent hours putting out food and watching for the dogs. Finally, she spotted them; baited by the smell of fresh-roasted chicken, they came out to eat. One was a portly long hair black dog that, according to local business owners, had been living under the building for three years. The other, a red and brown- speckled Chihuahua mix, was limping on three legs. Even at a distance, her back bone was clearly visible.
Leslie noticed something else as she observed her. Her belly was quite large; is it possible she was pregnant? She took pictures and patiently waited, trying to gain their confidence. But they were too leery and ran under the building each time she tried to get close.
Leslie alerted the rest of the HAVA board members to see if anyone could figure out how to help this poor girl and her mate. HAVA volunteer and Master trapper Keith McDonald was called upon to put his trapping skills to the test. He had never trapped dogs before, but they were small enough to fit into live-traps designed for cats, so he gave it a shot. The little black male was too clever to go near the trap, especially since he was not hungry; he had been taking the lion's share of the handouts. But little Scarlet, as we later called her, was desperate for food. She quickly ran into the trap. When she was safely caught, Keith transported her to Vetters Animal Hospital for care.
The ladies at the office were unsure how to handle this small wonder. She looked so scared. Would she bite? She looked in pain. How would they get her out of the trap and handle her without hurting her?
Gina Lewis, the vet, finally decided just to open the trap and reach in -- hoping not to lose any fingers. What a surprise; Scarlet crawled out into the veterinarian's arms as if they were old friends.
The doctor could see that the poor girl was limping because a misfitted harness was slicing into the flesh under her left front leg. As soon as she was cut free from the harness, Scarlet began to wag her tail and dance around in appreciation. After an examination, a good bath, and surgery to mend her wounds, Scarlet ate and ate. The clinic staff was amazed that such a small dog, and one that was so pregnant, could put down three bowls of food. Further examination of her blood and x-rays found her to be severely anemic, nearly starving, and pregnant with four pups.
The next day she went home to her new foster family. One of the staff from the clinic who was experienced with welping took her in and made her feel right at home. Just two days later Scarlet gave birth. So it seems she was rescued in the nick of time. If she had delivered those pups alone in the cold in her weakened condition, surely none of them would have survived.
A month later, Scarlet and her pups are doing great. One of the babies, the smallest and weakest, died shortly after birth, but the other three (two girls and a boy) are growing and thriving. Scarlet is a proud mom and happy to be loved again.
UPDATE 1/25/11: Scarlet and her pups have all been adopted!
Thank you Vetters, Leslie, Tammy, Keith, and unknown helpers!