When Eldad Hagar, founder of Hope for Paws, a Los Angeles-based charity that deals with rescuing stray dogs and finding them new homes received a call from a concerned woman about a litter of abandoned puppies, he knew time was of the essence.
The news came shortly after Hagar, and his devoted team of rescuers had been informed by the same woman about a case of three female homeless dogs.
In that case, attempts at a successful rescue proved futile because the dogs would immediately run away the moment Eldad and his team got too close. "If you make any move towards them, they run across the railroad tracks and disappear," Hagar told the animal news website, The Dodo.
However, the woman had managed to feed them the odd scraps, and shortly after Eldad's failed rescue attempt, he got another call from the woman, who revealed that one of the dogs had given birth to puppies and that they were hiding in a cave.
Clearly, a rescue would prove problematic. Not only would it present various health and safety issues, but it was also hard to estimate how many puppies there actually were.Nevertheless, the woman monitored the cave for six hours, and throughout the day she noticed the odd fluffy head popping out, and determined there were at least eight puppies.
When help arrived, bits of cheeseburger were used to coax the puppies out of their hiding. One even jumped into the warm arms of a rescue worker, yet, understandably, the little furries were terribly frightened. Having had little-to-no human interaction, they quickly retreated as their baying cries rang loud in the ears of the rescue workers.
This left Eldad with only one option; to go into the cave himself. Though small and highly dangerous, he dug himself more space, or at least just enough to slide into the darkened entrance.
Once inside, Hagar witnessed three puppies nestled together at the back. While he could only go so far, he managed to extend his arms and grab them one-by-one, and take them outside before going back in for the others.
Of course, the puppies were still agitated, and for all they knew, Hagar and his team wanted to cause them physical harm. "They don't understand what we're doing there," he explained, "for all they know we're predators trying to hurt them."
Once the three had been rescued, Hagar went back for the rest — only to discover they resided even deeper.
"I crawled in 6 feet and then there's a left turn that leads to a larger chamber," Hagar revealed. "I was able to get three but then the rest were in that chamber and they were so deep. Because the turn was so sharp I couldn't get any equipment back there."
So just like before, Hagar dug. "It took hours and hours because we had to go slow and try not to shake the earth," he added. "At the end of the rescue I was almost deaf in one ear from all the dirt falling into it. Every time a train went by you could feel the whole ground shaking. It was a pretty scary experience."
When he had dug as far as he could, he went in for the remaining four puppies.
"I had very, very little space," he said, "but I was able to crawl in; I couldn't even raise my head. I just had to feel around and grab for body parts, and once I had a tail, then I had the other rescuers pull me out by my legs with the dog."
Judging from the Hopes for Paws founder's comments, the process was incredibly arduous, but in the end, each pup was pulled to safety.
But that wasn't the end of it. Being a seasoned pro, Hagar realized that going back and checking one last time for any others was essential, and it proved the correct decision as after listening for the slightest of sounds, he heard more whimpers.
Sure enough, a ninth puppy, which later transpired to be the runt of the litter, was lifted to safety, leading to a total rescue time of little over seven and a half hours!
"The puppies are doing amazing, it's ridiculous," Hagar said disbelievingly. "They're just so happy, they're the happiest dogs in the world. They're also the quietest pack of puppies as if their mom had tried to tell them, 'Be quiet, there are coyotes around here,' back when they lived in the cave. They're very stealthy."
Hagar has also devised a new, long-term plan that he hopes will see the biological and feral mother reunited with her children.
For more information about Hagar's great work, you can contact The Dog Rescuers or The Lovejoy Foundation.