Calm, but anxiously expecting the unknown, the neighborhood conducted normal routines while waiting for the animal control officer. Of all days, this was the day Pretty Girl decided not to come out of her hole at all. She had not been sighted for over 24 hours. Was she still under the house? Had she sensed a foreboding energy in the air? Did she silently move over night? The animal control officer was late. She had said she would be there by 8 in the morning. It was 10 when she arrived with the humane trap. We set it up four feet from Pretty Girl’s hole and baited it with canned dog food. There was nothing else to do but wait. The officer left to attend to other situations but said to call immediately when Pretty Girl took the bait. Linda had to go to work, Bob had appointments to keep. I went back to my studio to work.
But to work was difficult. I kept worrying about Pretty Girl’s reaction to being trapped in a cage, especially since I was convinced she had puppies under the house. Would she get aggressive? Would she fill with dread? By separating a mother dog and her pups (even temporarily) her behavior could be unpredictable. An hour passed, then two, still no Pretty Girl. It was lunchtime, and so I mixed up a new batch of kibble and canned food. I replaced the original food inside the trap, all the while talking to an absent Pretty Girl. I hoped dogs could not feel betrayal. Somehow, even though she did not show it, Pretty Girl had learned to trust and now we had to capture her (and her pups).
I left the food and walked to the street as Bob drove by. We talked and speculated and shared our common worry. Clunk. A clear sound of metal meeting metal. We ran back to the trap and there she was, our very Pretty Girl sitting calming inside the humane trap. Her soulful eyes looking at ours, a quiet puzzle on her face. The animal control officer was called. Linda too. I sat next to the trap contributing peace to the situation. The officer had to finish up her current task before she could get back to us and that could easily be an hour. Bob drove home. Just Pretty Girl and I, alone, two feet from each other. I wish I could say that at that point she licked my hand or showed some sort of dog/human bond, but she didn’t. If I placed my hand on the cage, Pretty Girl backed into its farthest corner. She stayed quiet, accepting fate, but wary.
Was it 30 minutes or more? I don’t know how long I stayed next to Pretty Girl until Bob came back with supplies to crawl under the house. It was lucky for us that Bob fit easily into Pretty Girl’s crawl space. He entered the low, dark space crawling on his stomach, just as Pretty Girl had done. Most crawl spaces under old houses are a labyrinth of stone and cinder block holding up the house. Bones and bottles, dirt, webs and imagined slinky, slimy things love the dark undisturbed space. This house delivered all that. Bob slid a few feet at a time, rounding a supporting block wall, hitting a dead end, backing up and trying a new route. Fifteen minutes passed when Bob finally reached the farthest side of the house from the “entrance.” He called out, “I see puppies. Three, no four football sized puppies.” “Healthy and asking for mom.”
The animal control officer arrived and so did Linda. The puppies were as far from the entrance as possible. We pushed open a crawl space vent opening closer to the puppies and one-by-one Bob lifted each pup out of the hole and into waiting arms. Tears, lots of tears ran down faces as the neighborhood witnessed each miraculous rescue. The pup’s eyes were still closed, making them approximately a week old. They were big, round, well fed and extremely clean. Pretty Girl could see none of the rescue. She was still trapped in her cage on the opposite side of the house. The four puppies were placed into the cool (yes, air conditioned) animal control truck. They squirmed and squeaked, searching for momma.
Back to Pretty Girl with a leash and in minutes with no fuss or stress, she was tied and seemed more domesticated than we could imagine. Now sitting next to her, I could finally touch her pet her. You could call me crazy but as I stroked her, I felt Pretty Girl send out a powerful feeling of overwhelming relief. It was as if she thought, “this is what I missed, this is what I hungered for.”
The animal control officer walked Pretty Girl to the truck. Before reuniting with her puppies, the officer opened the cab door to get the necessary paperwork. Pretty Girl jumped into the cab and took position next to the driver’s seat. She was ready to ride, ready to go home now. “This is not the place for you, Pretty Girl. Come on down.” She was led around to the back of the truck. Puppies in view now, she made her way into the cubby where her babies waited, but right before she left Pretty Girl turned and gave me a lick on my ear.
Pretty Girl and her puppies left for Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida. The four puppies have grown to adoptable age and are already enjoying new forever families.
Pretty Girl is in foster care with the loving caretakers of Lab Rescue. She is waiting for her forever family.
Look for Dazzle, her new name.