The warm light inches up her body, drawing the dew from her coat.  She closes her eyes to the frequent rush of stale air and grit, there in the gravel and blood at the edge of the highway.

For a while she had lingered unseen, dozing in the deep grass where they left her, paws and muzzle facing the concrete ramp, watching for their return, waking occasionally to forage the air for familiar scents. Memories come to her in senses, smells of soiled dirt and puppies, the rough bottom of a bowl against her tongue, a metal weight tying her to earth.  As day falls away to shadow, a stirring mingles with the emptiness in her belly, urging her to leave the open space before the dark catches up.

Morning brings reprieve from the lonely night, her first without the curled-up comfort of pups and other dogs. She creeps out of hiding and makes her way back to the ramp, raising her brown nose to the wind searching for the smell of them.  Buried instincts tap at her brain: eat when you can, conserve energy, mask your scent, stay hidden; she obeys and follows her stomach to the rotting bags of garbage.

Camouflaged in the foliage of the tree line, she watches the truck leave before lumbering toward the food mounded on the dimpled concrete. She eats quickly and returns to the dugout hole beneath the hull of an old fishing boat.  Drowsy and full she naps, curled around herself in the soft dirt, sleeping away the restless daylight hours.  The sun ebbs, brackish drafts carry sounds of fishermen calling out to one another as they prepare to leave and she is tempted to follow their voices to the smell of fresh fish, but predators are stirring; she burrows deeper in the makeshift den.

The night air along the river is thick and sweet with decay and danger, roiling in waves off the swamp. Faint faraway rustling catches her ears and she freezes as the excited stench and musk drifts closer.  The hair on her back stands up.  In terror she flees the boat, bounding across the turnaround road over broken glass and debris, adrenaline spurring her up the ramp to the noise and blinding lights.  Disoriented, she pauses at the entrance to the roadway, turns left to the oncoming traffic; the world goes dark.

The sun is higher now as she tries to raise her head, pain rebuking the movement. She shivers, willing the benevolent blackness’ return.

A shadow falls across her and unseen hands caress her head and thin broken body.  She feels herself lift from the pavement, crushed and exposed bones grinding and screaming as she’s laid in the truck.

Through the fog she sees nothing, the pain has taken her senses.  She presses closer to the blood-soaked comfort embracing her and her body goes slack and cold, veiling itself in shock.

Nausea scolds her awakening, a haze of white and silver, murmured voices and acrid odors assault her. Through slit eyes she considers a face, but her eyelids are too heavy; she

An unnatural numbness and imbalance confound her efforts to stand.  Dizzy and shaking, she sinks to the cold floor.

This bed is soft and deep, she smells a faintly familiar human.  Someone sits beside her, rubbing her head and offering cheese. She likes the cheese.

It is difficult, this altering, this learning to walk again. She hops, once, twice, and goes down.
Looking back to the woman for encouragement, she wags her tail and wrenches forward again, slow and awkward towards the patch of sunlight she covets a few steps away.  Exhausted, she finally makes it and slumps to the soft sweet grass, rolling to her side, the warmth blankets her body.  She sighs, closes her golden eyes and bathes in the healing light.

UPDATE:  Sandy was a small pittie left to fend for herself beneath a freeway next to the San Jacinto River.  She was spotted by a local rescuer who was providing food until a rescue could be arranged.  Unfortunately, Sandy was hit by a car and discovered the next day with a compound fracture and many cuts and bruises. The vet was unable to save her leg and Sandy lost one of her back legs, but after she healed, she learned to walk and then run again with the help of her fosters.  This sweet girl was adopted by a loving family in Michigan and is living a wonderful life and has left all her pain and tragedy in the past. 

Copyright 2020 Rhonda Alford Owens


I had never worked with a rescue group, but my husband and I had rescued 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 a major freeway and is so bad that it is known as the Corridor of Cruelty. Corridor volunteers visit the area looking for abandoned animals and have feeding stations throughout.

Beyond all they do for the animals, Corridor is just as 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 to free dogs from chains, educate owners on the horrors of dog fighting and 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 step up a bit, 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, that thirteen lab-mix puppies had been dumped in the Corridor. At the time, Corridor didn’t have a place for the puppies to go as foster homes are hard to come by, boarding is expensive, and the puppies needed treatment for mange and ringworm. Corridor’s founder was getting ready to remodel a house that had air conditioning and plenty of room, so she put up a wood fence and we set up rooms for the puppies in the house. 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 one can be, now multiply that by 13 puppies.

That first day I unlatched the gate to the house, and I could hear them as I opened the sliding glass patio door and went to the rooms.   Carefully, I opened the first room door and puppies poured out, jumping all over me, running around, barking as I opened the second door. I couldn’t move, trapped by 13 balls of fur, running around my feet.  I slowly scooted my feet along the floor so that I didn’t step on one of them or fall and break my legs. I herded them with my feet like soccer balls towards the living room where they scattered in the open, running off into other rooms – when I finally had them out the back door, I had to count them to make sure they all went out. More than once I counted twelve only to look down and find a puppy sitting at 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 to the back door.

While the puppies play outside, 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 extensively in the designated area away from their beds and food, but they had also torn up all the newspapers and spread them around the room, like nasty papier-mache. 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 for fun, the floor is cleaned with a special antiseptic liquid. I fill the huge commercial sized 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 clean 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 and whining, 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.   There are puppies everywhere, making small sweet 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, awake, re-energized, 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 little faces running at me. Soon it’s time for me to go. I get up from the grass and they think it’s a game, I now have puppies chewing and tugging on my pant legs so I drag walk the attached puppies back inside and start trying to catch them and put them back in the clean 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, I must 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 and filthy, but I’ll be back tomorrow. In an hour or so another volunteer will arrive, and the routine will begin again and all the pups will get baths – I kind of hate to miss that.  As the weeks go by, the pups heal from their various issues, they get their shots, all are spayed or neutered and 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.

Before being adopted or fostered, some of the puppies were part of a program for juveniles at risk and under the close supervision of 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, pain and cling to life as we do . I suspect for some those puppies gave the first unconditional love and acceptance of their life.  If nothing else, maybe a little healing took place, a softening of a heart or opening of a mind; you never know what sparks a soul.

Just a group of ordinary people, noticing what needed to be done and doing it, buying supplies and dog food and transporting back and forth to the vet, all to save some thrown-away mix-breed puppies. It didn’t change the world, but it was decent, and it was good.   It was humanity at its best.

©2011-2012 itsa5doglife All Rights Reserved.Note: Photo 2 and 3 are the property of Corridor Rescue, Inc. All other photos are the property of itsa5doglife