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Walker: The love of a stranger
Ditch Puppies

“I love you,” he said, and I knew the soft-spoken older gentleman meant it. This man I had just met stood by me as we witnessed the power of caring people and a faithful God who answered our cry for help. 

Our beautiful experience started one Friday morning in March. Dean and Linda Parker who volunteer with Fostering Foster sent me an “SOS” text. There was a mother dog and a large number of puppies spotted on the side of a (very) busy Kershaw County road. “Could we help?”

“Of course,” I said, if we could find the dogs. 

The race was on. Phone calls zipped around the county for more boots on the ground and eyes on the roadside. Within a half hour there were half a dozen people on site: the Parkers, Debby Marshall, Todd Herderhurst (who had first sent the alert out to the Parkers) and me. Scouring the sides of roads, walking through woods and briars and stopping passersby to see if they had a clue where a lost mama dog and her litter of puppies might be.

It was an unfamiliar area of Kershaw County for me, and I didn’t know any of the residents -- yet. You see it didn’t take long for these kind souls, strangers soon to be friends, to become curious and come out of their homes to see what in the world we were doing. When we told them, they quickly offered to help. 

With a full army of volunteers, it didn’t take long for us to catch glimpses of mama running through the woods. But she was scared and we still didn’t know where she had stashed her puppies. We needed backup. Professional backup. I called Ron Danta with Danny and Ron’s Rescue. Ron sent his trusted employee, Michael Schofield, to us with various traps, smelly food to entice mama, and his past knowledge of trapping.

Then we saw longtime friend Cara Mock’s familiar vehicle ahead and she was standing by a long, narrow, dirt-filled drainpipe. She had that look of “Jackpot!” on her face. I knew we would soon be laying in a ditch fishing for puppies. Seven of them to be specific. Seven cute, fluffy 5-week old puppies. They were scared and didn’t want to come out of that pipe. It was a long process, but fellow volunteer J.R. Knight pulled out a bag of tricks and one-by-one we fished them out. We all rejoiced -- strangers, friends, and volunteers.

The entire time -- almost  four hours -- we listened to the painful wails, howling and mournful barking from a mama dog who was frightened by strangers taking her pups from her hiding place. We couldn’t leave her out there. And those puppies needed their mama. 

How had they survived for two  months outside? Neighbor Virgil Johnson left mama and her puppies food by the drainpipe. He was worried about them, especially on cold nights. Neighbor Joe Alston saw the mama dog every morning when she came by for the scraps he was throwing out with the garbage. Everyone did what they could.

I loved hearing about their kindness, but we weren’t making headway with mama. Traps weren’t working because she wouldn’t come close enough. As we started to get frustrated, I asked everyone to stop and join hands so we could pray. I knew God had the answer. And we needed an answer. Strangers, neighbors, volunteers united in this cause of compassion cried out to Jesus to show us what to do. Then the phone rings. 

It was animal rescue expert Margaret Buckelew and she had some ideas. Within 30 minutes of speaking with Margaret, mama was in the trap and we were transporting a family to safety.

What happens when people come together? You hear “I love you” from Virgil Johnson, you see strangers unite despite cultural differences, and you see the power of God through His caring people and our cry for help. What a beautiful resolution to a “SOS” text. What a wonderful reminder to be thankful for the people in our community. Because it is the people in Kershaw County who make our community great. 

(Andrea Walker is an autism consultant with the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Autism Division, the founder of Fostering Foster Animal Rescue, and now a contributing columnist to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. For more information connect with Fostering Foster on Facebook, at fosteringfoster.com or via email at fosteringfoster@yahoo.com.)