Stray dog finds shelter for her litter in Everett

The call came into 911.

Vicious dog, owner unknown.

The stray had been hanging around rural property near Granite Falls and sleeping under the house for a few weeks before the March call.

The dog was vicious and aggressive, the homeowner told an animal control officer. It bit his adult son.

The animal control officer noted the dog was a female shepherd-Labrador mix on an incident report. She wore no collar. There were signs she’d recently given birth.

The officer flashed a light under the house but couldn’t find any puppies. He used a catch pole to capture the mama dog and placed her in his truck for the long ride to the Everett Animal Shelter.

This kind of call often doesn’t end well.

Aggressive dogs aren’t fit for adoption. Those brought into shelters are often euthanized.

This dog story doesn’t end that way.

* * *

Shannon Delgado’s biggest worry was for the puppies.

Delgado, the Everett Animal Shelter manager, has worked with animals 14 years.

When she first laid eyes on the mama dog in late March, she noted the physical signs of a nursing mother.

Young pups aren’t yet ready to fend for themselves. They need their mother’s milk and they need it frequently.

That first evening at the shelter, the staff quarantined the mama dog in a kennel. She came in scared, body quivering, tail tucked between her legs.

The next morning, the animal control officer arrived with a welcome find: the puppies.

Eyes barely open, the five pups were soft, squiggly and fat as butter.

Four shared their mother’s toffee-colored fur. The fifth, a male, sported a chocolate coat that suggests Rotteweiler.

When mama dog caught sight of her progeny, her tail thumped wildly. The staff placed the puppies inside the kennel, and mama dog sniffed, licked and inspected all five. Then she flopped down on her side to let the hungry puppies nurse.

The animal control officer watched for awhile to make sure all was well.

By then he had questioned the man who was bitten and learned the bite didn’t break the skin. He asked the shelter staff to remove the dog from quarantine.

It’s not unusual for nursing mothers to be protective of their babies, especially with strangers.

That’s what Delgado thinks happened in this case. Mama didn’t want anyone near those babies.

“She’d probably been on the run awhile,” she said. “When she had a place to bed down, that was her area of protection.”

It took several days before the dog learned she could trust the shelter staff.

Delgado started by cracking open the kennel door, and throwing a bit of hot dog in. By the end of the second day, the mama dog trusted enough to take a bit of hot dog from her hand.

“I knew when I opened that door and she didn’t lunge or growl that she would be fine,” Delgado said.

Soon the staff were able to enter the kennel to walk the mama dog and handle the puppies. The staff and volunteers who worked with her found her to be sweet and gentle.

The staff named the puppies Moon, Rain, Wind, Cloud and Sun.

They named the mama dog Star, since she gave birth under the sky.

* * *

Last week the staff gathered at the shelter front desk.

They wanted to get a look at the family adopting Star, the dog everybody had grown to love. And to say goodbye.

Other stories don’t end well. Working at the shelter can be stressful and sad — sometimes because of the way other people treat animals, and sometimes because animals can’t be saved.

“It’s extremely rewarding because this is what we are here for,” Delgado said. “We are here for that extra bit of work to make them adoptable.”

Two female puppies should be available for adoption Tuesday. The males should be ready in the next week or so.

The mama dog has already found her new home.

Billie Brandon’s daughter begged for years for a dog. Now that the family finally had the OK from their landlord in Kenmore, it was time to adopt one.

“I got down on her level and scratched her ears,” Brandon said.

That’s just about all it took. Brandon and her daughter, Jane, 14, have renamed the mama dog Ginger. It just seemed to fit.

They say she’s adjusting beautifully to their home, even letting one of their cats snooze on her doggy belly. They found her shy but ready to play. At night, she sleeps in a dog bed next to Jane.

When Brandon first brought the dog home, Jane held her hand out and let Ginger sniff.

Then Jane threw her arms around the dog and squeezed.

And mama dog thumped, thumped, thumped her tail.

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com

Adoptions: The five puppies featured in this story should be available for adoption shortly at the Everett Animal Shelter, 333 Smith Island. Two females are scheduled to be ready Tuesday and the males will be ready after they are neutered in the next week or two. More info: 425-257-6000

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