Litter of rescued puppies thriving, finding new homes

Monday, August 27, 2007
Marilyn Olson Neville fed two of the puppies from a litter found under an abandoned home in Essex, Mo. (Sam Blackwell ~ semissourian.com)

ZALMA, Mo. -- Noah's the liveliest. Four-Toes has a dachshund face. Two-Toes has white markings on two paws and was the litter's smallest puppy. She sits when offered a piece of hotdog. Someone in Arizona wants to adopt Faith, who's white with black spots. Patience is so named because she has none.

Three months ago their lives were in danger.

The puppies and four of their siblings were found under an empty house in Essex, Mo., after Tricia Carroll, a real estate agent inspecting the house, discovered three dogs and two cats, all of them starving, locked inside. The puppies' mother was in the garage.

Carroll brought out a 50-pound bag of dog food and reported the situation to the Sikeston Humane Society. She saw the mother dog had recently given birth but didn't see any puppies.

Investigators went to the house fearing the worst, but when Sikeston Humane Society director Lanette Baker crawled under the house with a flashlight she found the puppies. They were less than 10 days old.

The adult animals were emaciated, infested with fleas and covered in sores.

Baker said a bag of cat food was on the counter, but the dog in the same area couldn't get to it. No water bowls were set out. "I felt disgust that somebody would be cruel enough to lock animals up in there," she said.

The house's previous occupants, Ronald L. Hyten, 54, and Shirley A. Hyten, 53, have been charged with five counts of animal abuse each. Steve Hyten, 31, has been charged with animal neglect. Their trial is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Stoddard County. All the charges are misdemeanors.

All of the animals have survived. "It's a miracle," says Marilyn Olson Neville, a dog trainer who is fostering the pups at her farm near Zalma.

Karen Barlow, a Marble Hill, Mo., dog rescuer who has 13 dogs of her own, initially fostered the eight puppies, but the care they required was overwhelming. Neville and her husband, Michael, a retired FBI agent, took them in. Neville's sister-in-law in Chicago adopted the puppies' mother, a beagle-Walker hound renamed Angel.

The three other adult dogs, two cats and three of the puppies were adopted by local people.

Neville has seven dogs of her own. She and Michael also have three horses, five goats, ducks, chickens, cats, a parrott and two cockatiels on their 180-acre farm.

She butchers the ducks for food. She isn't a PETA-type of animal lover. But tears erupt when she talks about another litter of puppies she fostered, abandoned by someone who called Neville to give her a choice of taking them in or letting them starve.

Neville is part of a network of people who make it their business to rescue abandoned animals, a mission that costs them lots of money in veterinarian bills and dog food.

She e-mails a newsletter to 350 like-minded people. She has taken the puppies to Petco in Cape Girardeau twice trying to find people to adopt them. They are listed on petfinder.com.

A potential owner for Faith contacted her from Arizona. Neville investigated the costs and problems associated with shipping the puppy by plane or truck. She found a local pilot willing to fly Faith as far as Oklahoma City. How to get her to Phoenix?

On Friday, the problem was solved. A friend of Neville's daughter and stepdaughter in Scottsdale, Ariz., offered to drive the puppy home after she visits Missouri next month.

That leaves Noah, Four-Toes and Two-Toes, all of them predominantly black.

Black dogs are always the hardest to adopt out, Neville says, because people consider them ordinary.

"It's hard for the human eye to see the detail, the love in the eye," she said.

The Sikeston animal shelter currently has a half-price sale on black dogs.

The eight puppies had a least three different fathers.

Neville says the black puppies are more human-oriented than the lighter colored puppies were. She attributes that to the dachshund in their faces.

The puppies will weigh about 50 pounds when grown. They have had all their shots.

They are available to be adopted through the Sikeston Humane Society at (573) 471-4801.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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