Whether it’s smoke, ash, or collapsing buildings, firefighters accept the hazards of every call and tackle the danger every time. Though their response covers a wide net of emergencies, sometimes situations turn pretty hairy. See, your average fireman can fetch a cat from a tree in his sleep, but one team of rescuers had to go even further.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department prepared for a routine neighborhood animal rescue, but once they reached their arms into the drain trapping the animals, they found the furry creatures inside weren’t at all what they’d suspected.
On a stormy March afternoon, a phone call triggered the firefighters of the Colorado Springs Fire Department into action mode. Each man suited, booted, climbed into the truck, and sped off to help.
The caller gave little information. Hurriedly, the woman had explained several animals were trapped during a flood, but what she couldn’t be sure of was exactly what the stuck creatures were.
As career first responders, the crew had seen their fair share of animal rescues. There might not be the life-threatening danger of smoke and fire, but the unpredictability of a panicked animal poses its own set of problems.
On first glance, when the firefighters surveyed the scene, nothing looked out of place. But then, after a few seconds, pained cries turned all eyes to a lone storm drain in the center of the road.
Richard Melarvie / Flickr
Gathering around the grate, they peered between the bars to get a good look at the source of the wailing. Nothing stirred, just some damp leaves, so they prepped to lift the lid to spot the hidden animals…
The sharpness of the cries made the firefighters agree that whatever these things were, they had to be babies. Their cries were unique, and one of the firefighters speculated the creatures might be possums. Of course, that changed the situation slightly.
Reaching a gloved arm into the drain was a gamble. Who could be sure a protective mother wouldn’t lash out and strike at any disturbance of her already frightened children?
So, the company split in two. Firefighters paced through the brush, searching for any sign of the mother animal. Perhaps she’d been injured or was hiding out of sight of her struggling offspring.
No mother animal revealed itself, so the other half of the team proceeded with removing the drain grate. Still, the animals, though heard, remained out of sight.
Given the icy temperatures of the water in the drain, they needed to act quickly. But weighing on the game plan was the absence of the mother.
Either she’d abandoned her unreachable young, or she’d left in search of a meal to feed her children. The firefighters mulled over the options.
Removing the creatures from the area could mean that the mother would return to find her babies had vanished. Time determined the course of action; they began the rescue.
Bob and Sue Williams
There was no other way but to make the plunge, so one fireman braced for impact and reached his arm into the L-shaped drain.
His fingers grasped a soft little body, free of fangs or claws. He pulled the little critter into the daylight so the team could see what type of animal they were dealing with.
A fuzzy palm-sized whimperer had yet to open his eyes. Clearly just days old, the animals in need were revealed — it looked like a little black puppy! The firefighters softened under the undeniably cute spell of the wriggling little pup.
Quickly, they worked to remove the tiny fellows from the drain. No one needed to voice it, but the firefighters collectively understood the sad reality of how such innocent beings ended up facing death.
They were positive this was an act of animal cruelty. Only human intervention would result in a pack of newborn puppies wedged into a storm drain.
One, two… in total, eight feeble puppies were pulled from the freezing drain water. Anger at the culprit responsible for discarding the animals pulsed in the rescuers’ minds.
It was safe to say the survival of all 8 newborns was a miracle, one they owed to their own survival instincts. The pups, for lack of a better term, dogpiled to maintain warmth in the frigid water temperatures.
Following the lone tip they had to go on, firefighters approached the woman who’d called in the report, hoping to get to the bottom of the crime.
Her explanation proved this wasn’t an act of cruelty after all. She’d seen the puppies from her home and watched as they were washed down the drain during a rapid intense bout of flooding, but it was too late for her to intervene.
Tim Herrick / Flickr
Feeling relieved that the dogs weren’t harmed by human actions, the firefighters resumed their efforts of bringing the pups to safety. Next stop was the vet’s office.
On the drive over, the fire company guessed the wee dogs were black Labrador Retrievers, their age made the breed hard to determine, but the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region broke some unexpected news…
Blair Alley / Flickr
Mark Jenkins, one of the responding firefighters, took the call from the Human Society hours after dropping off the litter of puppies prepared for a grave medical update…
The other guys, quietly listening in, felt their stomachs unclench when Mark burst out in a hearty laugh! The little pups weren’t the family pets they’d believed them to be…
One quick exam by the vet determined the dogs were on the undomesticated side of the canine spectrum — they’d rescued a kite of baby red foxes!
Birder Girl / Flickr
Apparently, newborn red foxes are dead ringers for popular family dogs, for their first few weeks of life anyway. Learning this news, the firefighters knew their rescue mission hadn’t concluded just yet.
Storytrender / YouTube
Soon, they were back scouring the scene for any signs of mother fox. They’d obviously taken the necessary steps to save the kits, but if there was a chance of a possible reunion, the firefighters hoped to make it happen.
The fastest road to recovery involved their mother’s love, the vet told Mark, so the firefighters diligently combed the area. There was no sign of mama fox during daylight, but they hatched a plan.
Foxes are nocturnal, so the company prepped for a stakeout. This go round, they hoped to lure mama fox back by returning her young to the scene of the incident.
Andrew Marshall / Flickr
Carefully, the firefighters lowered each kit back into the drain, the chilly water since washed away. Still, they hoped their mother would return quickly, so the pups wouldn’t remain exposed.
CBS Denver / YouTube
All night long, they waited with bated breath for the mother fox to make an appearance. That first evening, she never revealed herself, but they still held hope for her return.
Nights of disappointed no shows forced the responders to form another plan. Something must’ve prevented the mother from finding her litter, so they proceeded to secure the newborns with the next best care.
Hinterland Who’s Who
Animal Clinic of Woodland Park specialized in rehabilitating wild animals, so the firefighter’s bid their fragile little friends farewell and sent them off to the Park’s loving arms, secure in the knowledge the kits would be safe after all.
The Animal Clinic of Woodland Park / Facebook