It goes without saying that rescuing any animal is rarely easy. It can be hiding in hard-to-reach places or purposefully resisting rescue out of fear. Sometimes, the animal can even be dangerous.
Hope for Paws founder Eldad Hagar knows this all too well. Despite the fact that his organization, based in Los Angeles, has performed countless incredible rescues, some animals still manage to elude them.
For example, there was a group of three stray dogs that he had trouble rescuing; they were so afraid of humans that they wouldn’t go near him. Yet searching for those dogs led him to a truly amazing discovery!
Eldad Hagar, the founder of Los Angeles-based rescue organization Hope for Paws, knew of three homeless dogs that seemed impossible to rescue due to their intense fear of humans. “If you make any move towards them, they run across the railroad tracks and disappear,” he said in an interview.
The dogs had survived this way thanks to two women who worked nearby; they’d been feeding them for two years.
One day, one of the women contacted the Hope for Paws team to inform them that one of the dogs had given birth to a large number of puppies, all of whom were living in a tiny cave.
The puppies would peek out of the cave from time to time, so it was difficult to determine how many of them there actually were. The women spent six hours watching their movements, and eventually determined that there must’ve been eight in the litter. In any event, Eldad was confident that rescuing the now 6-week-old puppies would go more smoothly than the attempts to rescue their mother and aunts!
The rescuers used bits of cheeseburger to try to lure out the puppies. Because they had such limited experience with humans, the dogs were nervous about leaving their cozy home, but a few pups were curious…
Unfortunately, immediately after Eldad picked up the first puppy he was able to get his hands on, the other dogs quickly retreated back into the cave in terror. Without exposure to humans, can you really blame them?
It initially seemed impossible for anyone to be able to access the tiny cave, but Eldad managed to dig deep enough into the ground that he could clear some space for himself in the tight opening, hoping that he’d eventually reach the puppies.
He crawled as deep into the cave as he could before he spotted three puppies huddling together. It took a great deal of time and care to pull them out of the cave, one at a time.
This was the first time a human had touched them, so the scared puppies couldn’t stop crying… until they were pet long enough to realize they were safe. “They don’t understand what we’re doing there, for all they know we’re predators trying to hurt them,” explained Eldad.
Eldad managed to pull the first three out of the cave, but he couldn’t reach the others. “I crawled in 6 feet and then there’s a left turn that leads to a larger chamber,” he said.
“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 Eldad grabbed a shovel and started to dig. “It took hours and hours because we had to go slow and try not to shake the earth,” he said. “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.”
“I had very, very little space but I was able to crawl in; I couldn’t even raise my head,” said Eldad. “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.”
It was far from easy. Eldad essentially had to blindly grope through the darkness to catch the puppies, who wouldn’t stop whining and howling in fear.
Slowly, and one at a time, Eldad pulled each and every puppy out of the dark, cramped cave. As scared as they were, the pups must have felt at least somewhat relieved!
Soon enough, all eight of the puppies were safe in the sunshine as the rescue staff attended to their needs. Yet little did they know that there’d soon be another surprise in store for them!
The women insisted that there were no more than eight puppies in the cave, but Eldad decided to perform a double-check anyway just in case he might be able to see or hear something else…
Sure enough, he heard an ever-so-faint whimpering sound! After crawling around for a little while longer, he found a ninth puppy, who, judging by his size, must have been the runt. The women couldn’t have known he existed because he’d been too scared to leave the cave.
The rescue totaled roughly seven-and-a-half hours. Each puppy was taken to a separate foster home after getting cleaned up and receiving medical attention. They’re in great shape now!
“The puppies are doing amazing, it’s ridiculous,” said Eldad. “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.”
Incidentally, Tank, the father of the puppies, had previously been rescued by Hope for Paws, so the next step was to focus on rescuing their aunts and mother! The organization now has a long-term plan for the family, and it hopes to have them all in forever homes within two months.
You can watch the entire rescue unfold in the video below! It’s heartbreaking to see how terrified all of the puppies were, but wait until you see what happens once they were out of the cave!
It’s so wonderful that this many dogs are now safe after everything that they’ve been through. Hopefully they’ll all find forever homes soon! Please consider adopting one of these wonderful dogs here or here!
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