One very warm September afternoon in 2002, my family and I were spending time at the river. We always found treasures on the riverbank from great rocks to awesome pieces of driftwood. This particular day, we were searching through a larger-than-normal mound of river rocks for that perfect find. The girls joined me and my husband as we sifted through the pile. I looked out at the mirror-smooth surface of the river. The sun reflected off the water in a spectacular show of light. The heat was more like that of mid-August; only the continuous breeze off the river kept us from being too hot. Standing over the mound of rocks in the direct sunlight soon became a task too warm to continue. We started to stroll on up the bank.
Between water's edge and the tree line, is sandy, rocky beach. Strolling along, it's hard to take your eyes off the water and the sky. Luckily, the girls were at ages that didn't lend themselves to getting lost in that particular kind of beauty. They were more interested in running back and forth between the water and the willows. They shot off toward the shade of the trees and my eyes followed them, a giant smile on my face at the simplicity of their young lives. I watched them up into the willows and then scanned ahead at the sparkling sand stretching out ahead of us. And something caught my eye.
I know you've done this. You're moving along - your brain is continuously taking in your surroundings and giving you feedback that all is as it should be. Then suddenly, your eyes pick up a shred of information that doesn't fit. Your brain analyzes it immediately, but your eyes have already moved on. All you know in that split second is that something was wrong - something didn't compute. I knew I had just picked up something in my scan that wasn't "river". My eyes shot back over the ground I had just perused. What had I just seen? I couldn't find it. I knew there was something up ahead that wasn't supposed to be there, but I couldn't even decide what it was. We were steadily walking as I tried to study the area we were moving toward. And then it registered. My eyes landed on the oddity again, and this time I comprehended.
I guess if the girls hadn't broken away and raced toward the trees, we might never have discovered the treasure that day. Because that treasure was situated in a depression in the rocky sand, and it wasn't moving. It was stone still. I've seen this many times. Absolutely no movement. A defense mechanism. Without looking directly at it, this particular treasure would have been missed completely. But there it was. Just the very tops of two tiny, furry heads. Puppies. One black, one blond.
I stopped in my tracks. I called up to the girls, and when they looked back, I put my finger to my lips to let them know we had to get quiet. Of course, my girls knew exactly what that meant. Animals. They didn't know if I wanted to show them a bird perched nearby or a deer near the bluff. But they knew my "animal" face, and they both stopped and waited. I motioned them toward me and their father. They eased down to us. Then I pointed toward the two little heads that were barely visible in the shallow hole they were hiding in. We quietly talked about what to do next. We knew they might bolt and run. For sure we would lose them in all of this space. We decided to slowly surround them. At least we would have a chance at grabbing them no matter what direction they might run.
We all took our positions and started easing toward the rocky nest. Still no movement. Their mom had taught them well. As we inched closer and closer, four little eyes began to dart back and forth. The fear was taking over. I knew, at any moment, they were going to make a run for it. We kept moving in. The closer we got, the more fear I saw in those eyes. But still no movement on their parts. When we were only a few feet away, I was becoming convinced that the fear had paralyzed them and we just might get the chance to get all the way to them. I motioned to the girls to move on in. Each daughter carefully crawled toward a pup. They got all the way to them, and reached down and scooped them up simultaneously. We had them.
We made our way back down the river to our vehicle. It only took one look to know how needy these two little pups were. They definitely had some type of mange. And they were so skinny that their ribs and hips nearly poked through the skin. Each sat in a girl's lap on the way home, not moving a muscle. These guys had a long haul ahead - they were in terrible shape.
The black one was a boy, the blond was a girl. Very little hair, very little muscle mass, NO fat. These guys should have been roly-poly, fat little puppies. Instead, they were starving to death. Certainly, the lack of fat and fur would not endanger their lives in the kind of heat we were having. But warmer temperatures cause extra itching when a dog is suffering from mange. Oh, the poor little things. Thank goodness we found them when we did. Assuming we could bring them back to health, they now each had a chance at a good life. The girls named the boy Rocky and the girl Carmel.
The rest of the story is the same one you've heard me tell over and over. Small meals throughout the day. To the vet. The skin test diagnosed sarcoptic mange - contagious to us, but easily treated in them. The socialization process didn't take long at all. They became happy, healthy pups. I even had a place to move them to once the treatment for mange was over - we just happened to have built a small shelter area that very summer. The rest of their story tomorrow.
I didn't take any pictures of them when they were scary skinny and nearly bald. These pictures were taken in December, 2002. They were so tiny in September. Nearly three months later, they were big pups with full shiny fur.