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Dawn had 20 Puppies in 6 Months


Dawn, a feral dog that we’ve been trying to capture since June, had her second litter, twelve pure black pups on Tuesday, November 25th.

Counting the Magic 8, the first litter ICHBA saved, Dawn’s had a total of 20 puppies in half a year. I mean, I’ve read all the stats before, but to watch the rate of reproduction among homeless animals live and in living color is a whole different level of awareness. What we’re up against is astounding.

ICHBA has told the women of Smith Street– Bernice, Sandra, and Martha – that we’ll take the pups, but only with Dawn. If they allow us back onto their property to catch her, then we’ll help. But if not, we won’t.

It’s a hard stance. Thinking about those twelve pups, supposedly born under a piece of tin in Martha’s backyard, keeps Donna, Mason, and I up at night.

But we all agree we can’t become some sort of “puppy mill” for Dawn. She needs to be caught and fixed. End of story.

Catching Dawn: Update 5

M8 pre Farnival(June, 2014: Dawn’s first litter when the puppies were 2 weeks old)

M8 were born(June, 2014: Dawn delivered eight puppies – a.k.a. the Magic 8 – in the bramble patch under this tarp)

I’ve had multiple people write to me about Dawn, the feral dog living in the ghetto on Smith Street. First let me assure everybody that we haven’t given up on her. Secondly, as always, I’m flattered that so many readers care. Thank you so much.

As of this post, we still haven’t been able to catch Dawn. The problem is that she still hangs out at Martha’s house. Remember Martha – the aging woman that bases her entire existence on a whole trove of sheer humbug? Dawn is buddies with Martha’s cat Blackberry, which is why she’s spending so much time there.

Last weekend, we had a few glimmering days when Donna, ICHBA’s head honcho, convinced Martha to help us catch Dawn. The plan: Martha would put a strong sedative in Dawn’s food, close the gate on her FENCED yard, and let us trap the feral dog.

With a fenced yard we wouldn’t have to worry about her running off, which was vital because the sedative we planned to use needs an antidote administered within hours, or Dawn could die. We even had a vet a few miles away from Smith Street on stand-by that offered to give her the intramuscular shot and spay her no matter what time of night we caught her.

This all was supposed to shake out this week on Tuesday, September 23rd.  That morning Donna called Martha to confirm, and she never responded. By Wednesday Martha made it clear that she refused to help, meaning we couldn’t use her fenced yard to trap Dawn.

I have to give kudos to Donna, a seventy-year-old humanitarian who isn’t afraid to call bullshit when she sees it, yet still manages to negotiate this seesaw of puzzling human actions.

All night I’ve been wondering why Martha is so reluctant to catch Dawn and get her spayed. Does she have an attachment to Dawn? Does she want Dawn to have more puppies? Does she know what happens to homeless animals in Robertson County, TN?

I Don’t Like by Geoff Reed

About a year ago, Melissa and I met at a tutor-training session for the Nashville Adult Literacy Council. Our first exercise was to communicate as much as possible about ourselves to a partner in 2 minutes without either person saying or writing a word.

Melissa went first and started drawing pictures on a piece of paper and pointing to various tattoos on her body. After two minutes, the teacher asked me what I learned about her. I said she had a five- year- old daughter named Lucy.

Wrong. It turned out she had five dogs, and Lucy was a beloved, deceased German shepherd whose dog tag she had tattooed on her forearm. I had two rescue dogs at home that were a handful, and I couldn’t imagine what her life was like. We became fast friends and have remained so ever since.

Currently, I’m tutoring my second learner, a South-Korean young man we nicknamed “Lenny.” Lenny lives with his 2 younger brothers and parents, who run a successful dry cleaning business. He is quite the fashionisto, always decked out in some name-brand skinny jeans, expensive T- shirt and Nikes.

I’ve been meeting him twice a week for about 3 months, and he’s a challenge, to say the least. His English language skills are slowly improving, but his favorite expression is “I don’t like” to whatever topic I bring up. So far, I’ve discovered that his few interests in America, besides wearing stylish clothes, include Taylor Swift, Coca Cola, Marlboros and action movies. He’s obviously not thrilled with me, or his new life in Nashville, and although he’s always polite and cordial, he rarely smiles.

Sometimes, Melissa joins Lenny and I for a little conversation, and like me, she tries to get him to open up but has little success. I had learned early in our friendship that no topic is off limits to Melissa, and a while back the subject of Koreans enjoying the delicacy of young dogs came up.

“Is it true?” she asked. “Or is it just an urban legend, Lenny?”

“Yes, it’s true. I ate dog.” he answered. “But I don’t like.”

About a week after our dog-eating conversation, Melissa brought Meadow and 2 of the Magic 8 puppies to meet her own student Elena at a park across the street from the literacy school. Elena is a sweet Mexican woman who serves up platters of tacos, burritos and fajitas to hungry patrons at a hole-in-the wall joint on Charlotte Avenue that Melissa and I visit on occasion. Elena’s kids had wanted to see the puppies, and so they had gathered under a park pavilion for an English lesson, while the kids played with the dogs.

When I was leaving the Cohn School with Lenny, I called him to come over and chat with Melissa and Elena. He trudged across the grass with his head down, his Abercrombie and Fitch baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, wearing his trademark frown, trying not to get his white Nikes dirty.

It was crazy to watch, but within minutes, Meadow and the puppies worked their magical dog powers, and Lenny took off his hat,  kneeled on the ground and high-fived Meadow with the biggest toothy grin I had ever seen on his face.

“They’re up for adoption, Lenny,” I kidded him about the puppies, then glanced at Melissa, knowing by the look on her face she was remembering the dog as entrée story. “But there is NO WAY you are getting one!” I added.

We all laughed, even Elena, who liked Lenny, but thought eating raw fish was bad enough, so she really didn’t understand eating canine. Even though Lenny’s English skills are shaky, I think he got it that we were busting him because he laughed as hard as the rest of us.

Watching Lenny laugh, I realized that with the magical help of dogs, my student just might have turned the corner. Maybe we had finally found something he did like.

Lenny and Meadow(Lenny and Meadow)

photo-17(Lenny and Meadow)

Cody and Megan Garcia(Megan and Cody Garcia holding Livia and Adriana)

The Magic 8’s Magic

My girl(Adriana La Cerva)

When the Magic 8, eight homeless three-week-old puppies rescued from a Tennessee ghetto, came into my life, I had no idea that I would need them as much as they needed me. But a week after they arrived, my dog died, and in those days immediately following Miss Annie’s death, I felt like the entire universe was f-king with me. Like I did something to deserve such a harsh judgment. I stopped eating real food, instead living on honey cough drops and green tea, and slept approximately four hours a night. I looked and felt terrible.

At first, I swear I tried to ease my grief by observing the M8 in action, but frankly, they seemed more like a burden than anything else; all I really wanted to do was crawl into bed, surround myself with my remaining pack members, and watch The Sopranos.

My mind was in no place to write about the M8’s devious and silly antics, let alone care about them, but unbeknownst to me they had already started to knit their magical healing powers into my vulnerable heart.

With EIGHT four-week-old puppies crying, eating, peeing, chewing, running, and playing, I was forced to take an active role in life, whether I wanted to or not; like mopping when several wormy poop piles greeted me every morning, or sitting outside in the blaring southern sun, herding the M8 away from the road, or even just the act of bathing, feeding and medicating them kept me from crawling into my own “den” and obsessing about my best friend being dead.

After about two weeks of moving through the motions, feeling nothing but numbness, the M8’s magical healing powers began penetrating my haze, and I started to notice small things that didn’t exactly make me laugh, but they sure caused a smile.

How could I not smile when Junior, a six-pound beast, squatted over his food bowl, all four legs spread wide for optimum balance, protecting his grub from his seven siblings? Or when Jeannie bowled over poor Charmaine while she was taking a poop or when Gloria got into a determined tug-of-war with a spruce tree a million times her size?

As they grew bigger, as their energy increased, their magic grew exponentially until one afternoon their antics caused me to burst out in laughter. I hadn’t laughed for two weeks, and I forgot how good it felt.

It was a game of chase that did it. I had thrown a bunch of wilting sunflowers into the yard for compost earlier in the day, and Livia, the ferocious, intelligent one, had found one and dashed over the grass, around the magnolia tree, leading the scrambling pack with that sunflower – the stem twice as long as her body – gripped in her tiny maw.

A few times she flipped ass over teakettle, but she always hopped back up and bolted forward, flower in mouth, while her litter mates chased in mad pursuit, ears bouncing, tails wagging, wearing stubborn, excited expressions. Nothing about what they were doing was complicated. It was a game of chase with a sunflower, but that’s exactly what made it so special.

Later that night, after eating my first real meal in fourteen days, a pound of strawberries and a Swiss cheese and tomato sandwich on sourdough, I crawled into bed with Adriana, the beauty of the M8, who curled up like an elbow noodle in the crook of my neck, her stinky sweet puppy breath washing over my face, and the idea struck me that their magic was so powerful because it involved finding joy in the simplest, cheapest things that the world has to offer, like playing tag with a sunflower, tug-of-war with a spruce, tearing apart a magnolia leaf, chasing a frog, or leaping into a cardboard box.

The M8 were feverishly alive, and it was contagious.

Could Livia and Bentley share blood?

BentleyLivia(Livia Soprano and Bentley)

By far, the most intelligent, spirited, and ferocious member of the Magic 8 is Livia Soprano. She’s unstoppable.

For the past three weeks, something about her extraordinary intelligence and indomitable courage was so familiar that it nagged at me like a forgotten item on my to-do list.

Then, one day last week I was flipping through some old pictures and ran across shots of Bentley (the Farnival foster dog that we almost had to euthanize because of aggression but now lives in Alaska) when he had been six to eight-weeks-old.

The puppy on the right of the split screen is Bentley a few days after I found him in a tree on the Springfield Greenway last summer, almost exactly a year ago, at a spot on the trail less than a mile from Smith Street, the place where Livia was born.

Down to the white stripe between their foreheads, they look like mirror images. Am I crazy? I don’t know. You decide.

Upcoming ICHBA Events

DSC_0407(Adriana La Cerva, ICHBA foster dog)

I Could Have Been Adopted (ICHBA) has two events planned that I wanted to share with everybody. Next weekend, Donna, Meadow, Sara, Floyd, The Magic 8, and I are going to Camp T.A.G. (Teaching About Grief), which is a 4-day, 3-night grief camp for children between the ages of seven and sixteen who have lost a loved one. During their time at camp, grief counselors teach children how to deal with their feelings during the grieving process. And word on the street is that dogs can play a miraculous role in this process, so we are very excited to participate.

Our second event is our annual fundraising event, which is the “5K Run/Walk for the Cause” in Springfield, TN happening on Sept. 13th starting at 8:30 AM, so if anyone out there happens to be in the area that weekend, please come and join us. Click here for the entry form and details.