- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

MANHATTAN, Mont. (AP) - They’re known affectionately as the dumpster puppies.

Their story began as a sad one - 10 puppies, just days old, thrown away last winter and left to die in a dumpster.

“They were dirty and cold when they were found,” remembers Diana Stafford, who runs Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue in Manhattan.

Stafford remembers getting the call about the 10 large breed pups only 8 to 10 days old. Some still hadn’t opened their eyes yet.

Volunteers at RezQ Dogs, an organization in north-central Montana that specializes in rescuing unwanted and abandoned dogs from the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy reservations, contacted Stafford.

The puppies were taken to Helena, where Tiny Tails volunteers were waiting to feed them. They then went to foster homes in Manhattan and Whitehall. When they were ready, permanent homes were carefully chosen by Stafford.

All 10 had adoptive homes waiting for them when they were old enough.

On March 29, a little over a year after they were found in a dumpster along the Hi-Line, the puppies were reunited. Eight of the 10 dumpster pups and their families gathered in a Manhattan park to celebrate the lives of the dogs that went from unwanted offspring to cherished family pets.

Missy and Chris Grinnell adopted the puppy they call Spirit.

The only black-colored puppy in the litter, Spirit stuck out to the Grinnells.

“I love her story. I love that we get to be a part of her story now. These puppies were someone else’s trash and they’re treasure to us,” Missy Grinnell said.

Debbie Harbour, who lives in Manhattan, helped feed the puppies when they were first rescued. She fell in love with a pup she named Gracie.

While at church, the word “grace” kept sticking with her when she’d hear it. She knew that was the name for her pup.

“She was saved by the grace of God and a lot of wonderful people,” Harbour said.

“I think they kept each other alive. They were just all huddled together in a box,” Harbour said of the pups.

Patty Firth of Bozeman adopted “the runt,” Rudie.

“I just couldn’t resist,” Firth said of the little reddish-colored pup.

Last Saturday as rain fell in Manhattan, Spirit, Gracie, Rudie and the other puppies ran and played. They jumped on each other and rubbed up against the people who gathered to celebrate the 10 canine lives that were rescued.

At the center of the pack was Stafford, the woman responsible for caring for the pups and making sure their new homes were ones where the dogs would be loved.

Stafford worked as an electrician for 20 years before retiring and opening up her all-volunteer, donation-run, small breed and puppy rescue in Manhattan. By doing so, she feels she is able to give back to the animals that have been such a big part of her life.

Unfortunately, the dumpster puppies’ story isn’t an uncommon one.

“We get two or three litters a year of what we call dumpster puppies,” Stafford said.

With the need for her services apparent by the number of animals that can often be found staying in her own home, Stafford is committed to helping the small breed dogs, puppies and cats that come into her care.

On Saturday, surrounded by the puppies, Stafford pressed her bent finger to the corner of her eye to dab away the tears, insisting they weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears of joy, she said.

“Today is my pay day,” she said.

___

Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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