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This is The Story Of A Rescuer...

Lady of the Forest

I saw her on the edge of the woods, far across an empty field that I could see from my mother’s house in rural North Carolina, where I was visiting in early October of 2002. My mom told me that she’d seen the dog wandering the roads near her home for months. Apparently a stray, the Dalmatian regularly slipped out of the shelter of the trees to hunt for food when she thought it was safe – and just as regularly slipped away.

Even from a distance, this dog seemed so strong, so self-contained – yet so vulnerable. She was so on edge that I could feel her tension, sense her uncertainty – but I recognized the importance she placed on being seen as totally in control. "I’m alone, " she seemed to say, "and that’s just the way I want it."

I watched her for a time, appreciating who she was and knowing she wasn’t quite what she wanted to seem. The longer I watched, the more I felt I knew her, and the more I ached for her aloneness.

I wanted to take her home, to make her part of my life – to give her a warm, safe place to live and a family of her own. But how?

The Plot Thickens

Though yards away, she was close enough for me to tell that she’d recently had puppies – she had that harried, unkempt, exhausted look that a new mom, human or canine, has after bringing new life into the world.

So where were the puppies? She’d probably whelped them all alone; had they not survived the birth? It was cold and wet in the woods; had they become ill and crossed The Rainbow Bridge well before their time? How old were they? Were they strong enough to wander off on their own, but too innocent to know the ways of the world and the dangers that awaited them?

I had far too many questions and not nearly enough answers. But there was one thing I did know -- I wanted to give this classy Dalmatian lady a home – but not without her puppies.

All too soon, I had to return to my home base in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I knew I had to put my new rescue project on hold for a time. But I also knew I’d be back with my mom in November, to help care for her after a scheduled surgery.

So I promised myself, and the dog, that I’d be back for her. I left North Carolina with thoughts of this "Lady" – that’s what I’d started calling her – filling my head. I just knew I was going to rescue this girl – and her puppies – no matter what it took.

Putting the Wheels in Motion

Back home, I did what comes naturally to me: I got on the Internet and contacted everyone I could think of to tell them about Lady’s situation. I know the power and generosity of the Internet community from my work with IMOM; I’ve seen the amazing things that can result from a single e-mail message or bulletin board post!

First things first: I looked for a rescue group willing to take in a stray mom and her as-yet-unseen puppies. I quickly found Willing Hearts Dalmatian Rescue – just as their name suggested, they opened their hearts and said they’d gladly accept the Dalmatian family.

With my mom’s surgery date approaching, and a rescue lined up, I had a few minor preparations to make, and then I’d be ready to set off on my mission. So I got some food and bowls together – figuring I could use them to lure Lady and the puppies into my mom’s backyard – tossed some blankets into my Jeep, and got on the road again.

I set off for North Carolina with high hopes. I had no idea how many times they’d be dashed before I’d be home again.

Stuck in the Mud -- in a River of Kindness

When I’d gotten my mom settled in after her surgery, I was ready to focus on the rescue. It wasn’t long before I realized that, in my excitement about bringing Lady and the puppies out of the woods and into new homes, I’d seriously underestimated what lay ahead.

The weather was awful. I was sick. I was completely on my own. And I soon found out how terribly naïve I was when it came to the business of rescue. I’d done some transport runs and loved the experience – but now I learned that "transport" and "rescue" are very different things!

I’d brought food and blankets, but Lady wasn’t about to ignore her hard-won survival instincts and run into my mom’s yard to investigate them. I’d brought a heart full of love for Lady and the puppies, but as far as Lady knew, I was one of "them" – and she sure wasn’t going to bring me her puppies, one by one, to thank me for my trouble. And I had a big, comfy, warm vehicle to take Lady and the babies to safety, but what Lady knew about cars was just enough to make her want to stay far away from them.

I was miserable. I’d alerted the world to Lady’s plight, I’d promised myself (and everyone else) that I’d save her and her family – and it suddenly struck me how much closer I was to failure than to success. But I couldn’t afford the luxury of failing; I simply had to make this work!

So I took to the Internet once again. Slowly, my efforts started to pay off. There was a trickle of interest at first, then a river of kindness began to flow – and I was quickly caught up in a tidal wave of support like nothing I’d ever experienced!

Before long, the online community had offered me everything I could possibly need to make this rescue happen – crates, humane traps, rescue advice, partners-in-crime, and so much emotional support that I was completely overwhelmed. Individuals and organizations from all over the country came together to make my dream come true – but they didn’t do it for me or for IMOM. They did it simply to save one Dalmatian mom and her babies. And now I wouldn’t let them down.

A Willing Heart

Feeling a thousand times better, I set up "shop" to watch for Lady. I had seen the puppies, finally, and my heart did flip-flops every time I saw Lady nose her way to the edge of the woods – I desperately wanted to see again, and know they were safe. For days, I watched, waited, and considered my options in the rain, wind, and cold – most of the time, like Lady, alone.

I put out food for Lady, hoping to bring her to me by moving the bowl just a bit closer each time. After a while, she took the "bait" – but only after I’d left her range of vision. Slowly (so slowly!) she sensed that I was no threat – that I was different from the humans she’d learned were dangerous, the evil ones who’d yelled at her, thrown things at her, even shot at her. Finally, she began to come for the food while I was still in view.

On the sixth day I’d spent in the rain, Lady came within three feet of me. I was so excited, you would have thought I’d won the lottery – but I couldn’t let her feel it. Though she was still frightened, I could tell that she wanted to trust me, and I couldn’t risk scaring her off.

She wasn’t willing to look me in the eye yet, and she wasn’t ready to get close enough to let me touch her. But by this time, I believed she wanted to be rescued as badly as I wanted to rescue her.

And I was right!

Through an incredible sequence of events, and with the help of some very special people – for a detailed description of the rescue operation – Lady and her four puppies were brought to safety from the cold and dangerous world they’d known.

This dog showed strength and character like nothing I’d seen before. In due time, she was willing to put aside her deep-seated fear of people to give her babies a chance at a better life. She was willing to trust me with everything she had, and more.

So, as much as anything, it was Lady’s "willing heart" that made the rescue possible.


Lady and her puppies returned with me to Washington at Thanksgiving.

The puppies are being cared for by Willing Hearts foster families on their way to forever homes. And Lady herself has already found a forever home.

She has a home where she will never again be ignored, or threatened, or hurt, or thrown away. She has a home where she will be fed when she is hungry, warmed when she is cold, and nursed when she is sick. She has a home where she can overcome her fears, and where she can grow old surrounded by love, and patience, and kindness.

Lady lives with me now. When I look in her eyes, I no longer see fear. When I look at her and say, "I love you, Lady Bug!" her eyes tell me that she loves me, too. And when the tears of joy flow down my cheeks, Lady gently licks them dry.

To the low life who "dumped" the most wonderful dog in the world:
I have often wondered about you. Who you are and what reason you had for dumping your dog. I don't think there is any reason you could give me that would justify such a cruel act. Animals are not disposable. They are not to be thrown out like the trash.

I told myself she must have been lost because no one with a conscience would dump an animal and leave them to fend for themselves. Silly me! People who are cruel to animals have no conscience. They are scum.

Did you dump her before or after she whelped her pups? Maybe you dumped her because she was going to have pups. I'm surprised that someone like you wouldn't have put an ad in the local newspaper to advertise "Dalmatian puppies for sale". After all, thanks to Walt Disney they are very popular dogs.

I cannot even assume you dumped her because she was a bad dog. She is the best dog ever!

Would you care?
If I told you the dog you dumped is safe now? Were you even concerned?

Would you care if I told you she was found living in the woods with her four pups? They're safe now as well.

Would you care if I told you she was tormented by the local farmers while she so bravely took care of her pups? She had things thrown at her, she was yelled at and even shot at.

Would you care if I told she is terribly frightened of thunder storms? Can you imagine what it must have been like for her to live outside during the time of year when thunder storms are frequent, and severe?

Would you care if I told you she hunted every day for garbage to stay alive so she could take care of her pups?

Would you care if I told she dug a hole under an old rotted barn to keep her pups safe?

Would you care if I told you it took two weeks before I could gain her trust enough that she would even come within 3 feet of me?

Would you care if I told you that she was afraid to get into a car? Maybe she was afraid she was going to be dumped again. She's gotten over that fear now.

Would you care if I told that she has overcome many other fears? Fears instilled in her from simply trying to survive and care for her pups after she got dumped.

Would you care if I told you she has now learned to trust again? Given what you did to her that is quite an accomplishment.

Would you care if I told you we call her "LuvBug" because she is so lovable?

If I passed you on the street I wouldn't know who you are. She would know you though, and she would probably greet you with her tail wagging. Dogs are like that. They are loyal, forgiving and caring. Qualities that many of my human counterparts are lacking.

Did you say to her, "I'm doing what's best for you" when you left her? That seems to be a common phrase among people like you.

What you did to this precious animal was wrong - do you care? I doubt it. You do not have the ability to care.

You are evil and heartless. I hope you rot in hell.

For the animals - especially "Bug",
Jacki Hadra, Founder

The End Of Bugs Story

On February 7, 2004 our sweet Bug went to Rainbow Bridge. She was only 3&1/2 years old. Her life was too short. Many hearts are broken.[/url]

936 Posts
Wow that is really deep...I really have no words to describe how I feel. Sad?...not strong enough. Angry?...not harsh enough. Happy?...not for what the dalmation had to endure. Geez there really are no words to describe it, but thanks to people like her I know some animals can be given a better life.

1,355 Posts
What a very touching story I am at a loss for words. So sorry for your loss. you gave the best years she had as she did you
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