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The emaciated, yellow Pit Bull darted savagely among moving and parked cars, her liquid brown eyes gazing up into windshields as if to catch a glimpse of a familiar face. With her hips jutting sharply up and out of her spine and her breasts pendulous with milk, swinging as she ran, she presented herself with an embarrassingly pathetic air. She had been abandoned, with puppies.

It was on this freezing, rainy March day that the woman pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot to come full on to this gut-wrenching scene.  Her heart fluttered as she contemplated the nature of the problem, but her instinct to help this dog overtook any reason as she rushed into the store, mind racing as to what type of food could be gotten in a hurry that would be the most nutritious.  Kitten chow, full of protein, would have to do for now. And she flew out of the store, startling shoppers as she went, and began searching for the dog, calling in a high-pitched tone, “Puppy, puppy, puppy,” a tone cultivated from many years as a dog trainer.  The dog appeared, eyeing her suspiciously as she poured a small pile of chow within the enclosure for carts.  Taking a tentative nibble, but too nervous to eat, the dog started off.  The woman called again to no avail.  Then she poured the rest of the chow into small piles near the first in an attempt to keep it from disintegrating too fast in the rain.  Sighing, she returned to the store to finish shopping and when she came out, the dog was gone.

Three days later the woman was amazed to see the dog again and this time went straight into the deli section and purchased a 2 lb. package of cheese-filled hot dogs and a 1 lb. bag ofchicken tenders.  Going outside, she called,”Puppy, puppy, puppy!”  To her delight the dog seemed to recognize her voice and approached close enough so the woman could pitch chunks of meat to her.  The dog greedily snatched them up.  Then –a breakthrough — the Pit took each chicken tender from the woman’s hand.  Calling again, “Puppy, puppy, puppy,” the woman opened her car door, patting the seat, in hopes the dog would get in.  And then what?  Trying again anyway, “Puppy, puppy…” but the dog trotted away out of the lot.

Ms. Susan Porter, 66 year old dog obedience trainer for the small town of Amherst, Virginia, was smitten.  Yearning, sad images of the Pit, now affectionately named by her, Clarice, popped into her head at odd times of day and night–especially when tending her own three cats and ancient Yorkie Poo.  She planned a course of action.  Buy poptop cans of puppy meat, paper plates, bowls and water for her car at all times.  She remembered a remedy for failing puppies and purchased a tube of nutrients at the pet store to add to her moving dog rescue kit.

In God’s hands, the woman’s and the dog’s timing collided.  The Pit was just there time after time and the woman fed her nutritious meals while shoppers and their children watched.  When she tried to approach Clarice to pat her head, the dog would sweetly use her teeth to drag a half-loaded plate away–always just out of reach.  Mother, fathers and their children loved watching this unusual and heart-rending sight and would sometimes cheer. And by now it occurred to Ms. Porter that this dog had at one time been owned by someone.  But how long could she have been feral and survived with puppies?  And could this situation be reversed?

For this reason, she phoned the animal rescue office and spoke with an officer.  He said, “We’ve been trying to catch that dog since January!”  January, February, March…a long time!  She was stunned to realize that the dog must have given birth to pups while out in the bitter cold.  Now a really cruel question arose.  Where could a mother dog hide and nurture puppies for this long in the winter?  Puppies need to be kept warm to survive.  And there were coyotes in this neighborhood.  She was even more determined to rescue this dog and maybe find the pups, too.  Ms. Porter began to comb neighborhoods near where she’d seen Clarice asking neighbors if they’d seen her.  One young man with a healthy, handsome German Shepherd said he’d seen her and thought perhaps other people in the neighborhood gave her scraps.  As to the whereabouts of the puppies, he didn’t know.  He made this chilling remark, “If they can’t catch her, they’ll shoot her, won’t they?”  Ms. Porter grimaced saying she didn’t know and left her phone number in case the man saw the dog.  She tracked other grocery stores in the vicinity and found that in back of Food Lion , they fed stray cats.  One day she found Clarice there, a young boy in hot pursuit.  Ms. Porter convinced him to stop chasing Clarice and called “Puppy, puppy, puppy!”  Clarice came close enough for a hearty meal and then took off–boy in hot pursuit.  She was wanted!  Ms. Porter began to canvas the surrounding area looking for shelter where pups could be nurtured.  Surprisingly there were quite a few, but no sign of Clarice.

The next encounter was at the Wal Mart, and Clarice was beginning to look a little better.  She had put on a couple of pounds, but was still very compromised.  Then, suddenly, just as the Pit had dropped into her life, she was gone.  Ms. Porter placed another call to animal rescue and the officer asked if she had been one of the people who had called about the dog.  Apparently, there had been a few people who had made that call.  When he realized that he had spoken with her before, he told her that he was not at liberty to say what happened to Clarice, but that they had caught her!  Ms. Porter’s heart sank.  It had been two weeks.  Had Clarice been put down?  And what about the puppies?  She scanned notices advertising puppies and called one of them.  The woman who answered told her that her son had a Pit Bull who had puppies but that they had gotten rid of her because they couldn’t afford to get her spayed.  Mind numbing pain crept in as Ms. Porter realized that in rural communities this was not that uncommon.  Dogs were kept outside and not always treated with kindness.  She was very heart-broken and often murmured the name, “Clarice!”

Several months later, Ms. Porter went to the pet supply store with her own Yorkie Poo riding in the basket.  When she spied a dog who surely could be Clarice with the store’s dog trainer, she jumped in amazement.  The dog looked so good.  She approached and stared at her asking the trainer if he had gotten her from the dog impound.  When he told her he made a point of rescuing Pit Bulls, she screamed in amazement and joy.  She spoke to the young man of her journey with the dog.  It was Clarice all right and she looked radiant–happy to be by the side of a young man who knew what he was doing and who would care for her in a way that she very much needed and FOREVER!

Contributor:  Susan Porter

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