From Rags To Riches!

One evening in mid July, a kind hearted woman named Kathilynn was out walking her dog when she encountered a homeless man named John, living with his dog Shepp in a tent along the banks of the American River near Sacramento. According to Kathilynn, many, many homeless folks set up camp along that particular stretch of river but most prefer to keep their distance from strangers. John, however, was an articulate, talkative sort of character – always willing to share stories with Kathilynn and especially those that had to do with the most important treasure in his life – his faithful dog Shepp.   Soon thereafter, the two quickly went from being strangers to being acquaintances.

The puppies and their mom Shepp - living in a campsite along the American River.

The puppies and their mom Shepp – living in a campsite along the American River.

A couple of weeks after their initial meeting, John casually mentioned to Kathilynn that Shepp had given birth to a litter of 5 puppies. Concerned for their health and well being, she asked to meet them. John then led her over to a nearby tunnel located under a roadway where she discovered 5 newborn pups huddled up in a dangerous, filthy place. To make matters worse, the pups were covered in fleas and alarmingly, it appeared that each of the pups had been bitten by RATS!!!

Kathilynn figured she had two choices – call Animal Control and have the puppies removed or, do what she could to help. Fearing that Animal Control would immediately have the pups destroyed (many shelters do not have the manpower or resources to care for newborn pups so many are immediately destroyed upon intake), she elected the latter and returned the following day with a cozy crate to safely contain the puppies, meds to treat their flea infestations and ointments to heal their skin issues.

From that point on, Kathilynn stopped by John’s campsite 3 – 4 times a week to check on the condition of the pups and whenever she did so, she brought along food, bedding and supplies for the struggling canine family of six. John too, benefitted from her kindness!

By the second week in August, the pups, now approximately 4 weeks old and in far better health, were running everywhere and anywhere due to the fact that John had no means to contain them. Not only was he unable to provide them with adequate shelter, he had no means to feed or vet them so the writing was on the wall – something drastic had to be done and it had to be done quickly. Using the power of social media, Kathilynn posted a plea for someone to help and that plea for help landed in HartSong’s email inbox on August 10. Two day later, around 5 o’clock on August 12, the 5 homeless puppies arrived on the grounds of HartSong.

We had a large kennel set up for them in one of the horse stalls, complete with soft bedding, fresh water and plenty of food but we knew immediately upon seeing them, that they were just too delicate and small to spend a night alone in the barn away from their mom. We feared that late-night barn visitors like raccoons could easily put their hands through the wire framing and snag one of the pups. So, we now found ourselves in a pickle: it was around 7PM – too late to take down the kennel and move it to a different location as we still had evening chores to finish, so the only option we could think of was that one of us would need to spend the night sleeping in the kennel with the pups. Now, as crazy as that sounds – over the years, we have spent many a night sleeping in the barn – a necessary effort when we have concerns about a sick or injured animal. It’s just part of what we do.

So, around 9PM, after wolfing down something quick for dinner, Jim returned to the barnyard loaded up with bedrolls and pillows and then, all settled in for a good night’s sleep.

What’s more fun than sleeping with 5 puppies???

What’s more fun than sleeping with 5 puppies???

The next day, we moved the kennel into the front yard. Doing so allowed us to let the puppies out of the kennel to run and play in the fenced yard but it also meant that they wanted to be anywhere that we were – in other words, they wanted in the house! And so, our home quickly morphed into THE DOG HOUSE – 5 puppies + our 5 dogs, 24 hours a day for the next 8 weeks. It was crazy – it was messy and it was downright challenging yet more often than not, it was absolutely DELIGHTFUL!

Thursday, September 17, all 5 puppies were spayed/neutered/micro-chipped/vetted: and today,

We are so happy to report that all but one have been adopted into wonderful, loving forever homes.

Toot Toot and all a’board The UnderDOG Railroad freedom train – a better, happier life for all those on board is just around the bend – PROMISE!!

~ A follow up about the mother dog Shepp ~

Kathilynn was able to convince John to have Shepp vetted and spayed. She kindly covered the expenses involved and even went so far as to arrange a two night hotel stay so that Shepp could recover in a clean, air conditioned environment. Thank goodness that she also had the foresight to have Shepp micro-chipped because alarmingly, since the surgery, Shepp has been picked up three times and returned to John via Kathilynn who is listed as a second contact on the micro-chip contract. It soon became quite apparent that caring properly for Shepp was a challenge for John so Kathilynn convinced him to allow Shepp to go into a loving, foster care home – temporarily. Today, John is living in a shelter and working to turn his life around. His greatest hope is that someday soon, he and Shepp will be reunited. It is our hope, as well, that John and Shepp will soon, have a home of their own.

Photos of Four of the Pups in Their New Homes!

At Hartsong Ranch, every life matters....