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  • Writer's pictureColby Jacques

Including puppies in our rescue adventures

This week we visited a Country Livestock Auction in rural South Carolina.  While our mission is always to save equines in distress, it became apparent that we needed to expand our mission to include canines when we parked next to a landscape trailer with three howling puppies climbing amongst the landscaping tools and machines. The cardboard sign read "Puppies $100" and a cellphone number.

We returned several hours later with a menagerie of distressed animals to load on the trailer. It was hard to ignore the cries of a lonely, scared and unhappy single puppy left alone. We already had a sick pony, crippled donkey, and an ornery mule on the trailer. The last thing we needed was a puppy, so we tried to convince each other that the puppy was beyond our compacity.

In the end, we left the parking long only to turn around called the number and meet a boy in his late teens at the trailer. He had only one answer for all of our question which was "I don't know". How old is the puppy? Has the puppy eaten solid food? Any shots? What breed?

We drove away with the small puppy snuggled in a blanket between us. It quickly become obvious that the puppy was too you to be separated from his mother. He was still sporting a little puppy-milk-belly and appeared confused by a bowl of water and solid puppy food. The poor puppy had been howling for hours and was clearly exhausted. He curled up immediately on my lap and fell asleep the entire drive home.

We headed back Aiken with a total of five equines.  The most challenging to handle was a stallion mini mule.  A handsome little fella, standing proudly at only 32 inches tall. He was difficult to catch in the pen, dragged Janine around the parking lot and required us to recruit several strong strangers to drag him on the trailer. The good news is he only bit Janine once.

Next on the trailer, were two large sized donkeys with filthy coats and atrocious feet.  The older of the two donkeys had arrived at the auction sideways.  Meaning, when the trailer door opened, she was lying on her side in a sea of urine and feces.  She struggled to her feet and was dragged off the trailer by the dealer. She was thin, haggard with three hooves overgrown and the fourth rotated under so severely she was actually standing on the front of her hoof instead of the bottom. Given her condition, we decided it was best to also purchase her companion who was an oversized, overweight, unhandled gelding. Given that Janine had just been dragged through the parking lot by an undersized, overpowered mini mule, I thought it best for me to give it a go and try to get the two donkeys on the trailer. Fortunately, the female donkey was too unbalanced to put up much of a fight to get on the trailer and her companion donkey followed her right on the trailer.

Someone once said "if you ever are required to eat three frogs, start with the biggest frog". You may wonder how this applies to rescues? In my experience, start with the most difficult, arduous task, and end with the easiest. Using the "Frog Theory", the last on the trailer was a tiny mini horse who was barely taller than my kneecap, severely underweight with green goopy snot dripping from her nose. This would be the easiest to load and cause the greatest worry.

No one likes to bid on sick animals at auction except the true rescuers. Therefore, the sick ones end up purchased by dealers who buy them cheap and shoot them with penicillin and hope they survive the trip to the next auction. This was indeed the case of this poor mini. The dealer who had brought the mini horse to the auction stopped us as we left with the mini and said she had already received her morning dose of penicillin. He gave us a syringe and said to inject her that night. I reluctantly took the syringe but decided not to trust the contents. I would stop at Tractor Supply and purchase a syringe of penicillin for her evening injection.

We rolled out of the parking lot for the second time with a full and delicate load of animals and a puppy. The auction was in rural South Carolina so it was quite a long drive past dilapidated mobile homes, wired fences of cattle and long windy roads before the GPS delivered us to a Tractor Supply. I ran in to hunt down a syringe of penicillin with no luck. I asked the staff where the penicillin was kept. She explained that this Tractor Supply did not sell penicillin because the animal activists had complained that the sale of penicillin supported local dog fighting. I failed to see the connection between dog fighting and penicillin. She explained that dog fighters inject the "bait-dogs" with penicillin. My imagination ran with that, and I left the store horrified and questioning the fate of humanity. She suggested I try the local feed store which we did. The local feed store had also removed penicillin from the shelves for the same reason. We realized that we were in unknown territory;  Dog fighting, something I know nothing about. 

On the remaining drive home, I sat in silence researching "Dog Fighting" using the ASPCA as an introductory guide.  What I read confirmed our quick, seeming irrational decision to take the little puppy home. He was an 'unwanted dog in rural community' and therefore subject to the underground, inhumane sport.

We would take the puppy home, let him grow a bit, give him proper training and find him a safe home just like we do for horses, donkeys and mules. A well-trained dog is more likely to live their best life than a puppy at a livestock auction.

Rescuing animals is a delicate balance. You can't save them all, but you can save a few, here and there when capacity on the farm allows. Puppies are challenging. Unlike equines, we can't just tuck them in for the night in the barn. The puppy needs to come into the house and keep us up all night like a child crying for its mother and siblings. Janine and Wanda smartly disappeared into their bedroom. I had a long night with the puppy. He finally fell into a deep sleep on the top of my head. I woke in the morning feeling tired but satisfied that we had done a good thing.

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