It started innocently enough. With time on my hands I decided to volunteer for a local dog rescue group. I had never actually worked with a rescue group, but my husband and I had rescued plenty of dogs on our own, fixed them up, made sure they were neutered or spayed and found good homes for them, that is, when we didn’t keep them ourselves.
I had read about Corridor Rescue, Inc. in the local paper, their founder had recently been recognized by CNN for the work she was doing, and I liked the idea that they took on one of the worst areas of town for animal dumping and cruelty. The area is off of a major freeway and is so bad that it is known as the Corridor of Cruelty. Corridor volunteers visit the area everyday looking for abandoned animals and have many feeding stations throughout because it takes a while to get an animal off the street as most are very skittish and you must gain their trust to even get near them.
Beyond all they do for the animals, Corridor is committed to making a difference on the front end, before cruelty or abandonment can happen. They go into the community and talk to people, build fences so dogs don’t have to be chained, educate pit-bull owners on the horrors of dog fighting and even offer free spaying, neutering, shots and grooming. Corridor provides dog food for low-income families so they can keep their pets, and they go into the schools and talk to the kids about caring for animals.
My first work with Corridor was at one of their Saturday adoption events, setting up the crates, showing off the dogs to prospective adopters, walking the dogs and giving lots of head and chin rubs. I loved it and decided to do a bit more so I started visiting some of the rescued dogs at the boarding kennels that were waiting for foster homes and transporting dogs to and from events. One day a call went out, they had found thirteen lab-mix puppies dumped in the Corridor to die. At the time, Corridor didn’t have any place for the puppies to go as foster homes are hard to come by, boarding is horrendously expensive and the puppies needed treatment for mange and ringworm. Corridor’s founder was getting ready to remodel a house so she put up a wood fence and we set up rooms for the puppies in the house – thank goodness it had tile floors. The Baker’s Dozen project was in business.
The coordinator set up a volunteer schedule so that there would be someone at the house with the pups from very early in the morning to very late at night and I agreed to mornings on the weekdays. If you’ve ever had a puppy you know how much work they can be and the seemingly endless pee and poop you have to clean up, now multiply that by 13 puppies.
That first day as I unlatched the gate to the house, I heard them, I opened the sliding glass patio door, went to the rooms and opened the doors, puppies poured out, jumping all over me, running around, barking. I couldn’t move, trapped by 13 balls of fur, running around my feet, so I started scooting my feet along the floor instead of trying to actually walk so that I didn’t step on one of them or trip and break my own legs. I herded them towards the living room where they scattered and they are masters at hiding or running off into another room, so I had to count them to make sure they all went out. More than once I only counted twelve only to look down and find a puppy sitting by my feet. It wasn’t long before I figured out how to block off every room entrance so they could not divert off the path on the way to the back door.
While the puppies play, I clean their rooms. Rooms are cleaned and fresh papers put down at pretty much every shift, as was done the night before, but when I walked in that room, my jaw almost hit the floor, except I would not have wanted my jaw to hit that floor. The puppies had used the papers and puppy pads, but they had also torn up all the newspapers, so with newspaper scrap mixed in, I was dealing with a really nasty paper mache mess. Luckily, their bed and food area on the other side of the room appeared to be their no pee/poop zone – smart puppies. At this point I go in search of rubber gloves and, thankfully, find a box in the kitchen, but when I get back to the rooms, I am also wishing for rubber boots. After picking and scraping up the debris, including the food and water that they tossed around and the toys and beds, the floor is cleaned with a special antiseptic liquid. I fill the huge bucket with the cleaner and water and with a gigantic industrial mop, start at one corner and mop my way backwards to the door. I repeat the process for the other room and then I wait for it to dry, put down clean newspapers on half the floor and close the doors until I’m ready to put the pups up when I leave. You figure what works after you’ve done it a few times– I got pretty good at it.
During the cleaning, the pups have been playing outside so I scatter dog beds in the living room, put out huge bowls of water and some food and treats, and pee pads because I know that even though they have been outside for an hour, the first thing some of them will do is poop or pee and do not want to haul out the big yellow monster and mop again. I brace myself and approach the back door. Thirteen puppies are jumping on the glass barking so I slowly slide the door back and as soon as the door is open a few inches they are pushing and climbing over each other to get in like the mobs on Black Friday.
Finally everyone is in the living room, wait, no, there’s only twelve, so I go into the backyard and sure enough, there’s Cadence sitting by the corner of the fence, without a care in the world. I scoop her up and go inside, trying not to let the others back out. By this time in the living room there’s lots of running, slurping, crunching, fighting over treats, toys, beds and me, but suddenly like magic they all pass out. While they nap I sit on the floor, several pups snuggled against me, or I sit on the brick hearth and marvel at the scene before me. There are puppies everywhere, making small sounds in their sleep, some on the beds, some on the cool floor, but almost everyone is sleeping next to someone else. Occasionally someone will get up and then plop back down somewhere else, but peace reigns for about 30 minutes.
Soon they are awake, re-energized, and before they can begin to chew on the beds and walls, I shuffle them outside to play a little more and this time I go with them. I toss toys, hold them, play tug of war, stop a few fights, and occasionally yell “Puppies!” just to see thirteen sweet faces running at me. Soon it’s time for me to go. I get up off the grass and they think it’s a game, I now have puppies chewing and tugging on my pant legs so I drag my feet and the attached puppies back inside and start trying to catch them and put them back in the clean fresh rooms. As I slip them in the rooms, one at a time, the puppies already in the room are trying to get back out. And, of course, you have to count them again and make sure Sam doesn’t go into the same room with Tansey who chews on Sam’s ears.
I am exhausted, filthy and reek of puppy poo, but I’ll be back. In an hour or so another volunteer will be there and the routine will begin again, but I’m always sad to leave them, however I’ve got a pack of my own waiting at home. As the weeks go by, the pups heal from their various issues, they get their shots, all are spayed or neutered and they grow huge. Each day more of them find foster and permanent homes and there is less to look after and then one day they are all gone.
Every now and then I see pictures of some of the pups, Lark, little Ellie, Angel, Bella, Sam – they turned out beautifully and I am grateful to have been a small part of that. Before being adopted or fostered, some of the puppies were part of a short program for juveniles at risk – once again Corridor Rescue did not forget the people of the community. Under the close supervision of Corridor volunteers, the young men and women handled and played with the pups, were taught proper animal care and made to realize that animals are not possessions to be used and disposed of at will, that they feel love and pain. I suspect for many of those kids those puppies gave the first unconditional love and acceptance of their life. I hope if nothing else, maybe a little healing took place, a softening of a heart or opening of a mind, you just never know what sparks a soul.
So many people, noticing what needs to be done and doing it, buying supplies and dog food and transporting back and forth to the vet, all to save some mix-breed puppies tossed out like trash. Maybe we didn’t change the world, but those thirteen puppies challenged and changed me, and that’s where all real change starts, hands on, one person at a time.
For more information on Corridor Rescue or how to adopt, foster, donate or volunteer, visit their Facebook page.
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