- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2016

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - The story could have ended very differently if someone hadn’t called for a welfare check in the Wal-Mart parking lot on April 25, 2015.

However, a year after the Spearfish Police Department discovered 36 toy-breed dogs and six cats in a Chevy TrailBlazer there, thanks to the rescue and subsequent care at the Western Hills Humane Society in Spearfish, all of the animals - which included puppies born in foster care after the rescue - are thriving.

“Everybody is just happy and healthy, and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for any of those dogs,” Becky Rankin, WHHS executive director, said, explaining that the date of the last puppy adoption was March 4, 2016.

WHHS kept all of the animals until they were spayed or neutered, ensuring they never ended up being used for breeding. In addition to the necessary vaccines and medical care, Rankin told the Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/1TywOeF ), the veterinarian costs for the rescues were more than $12,000.

The majority of dogs were Chihuahuas, with a couple of Pomeranians, and one Yorkshire terrier. Of all of the animals rescued in April 2015, only one cat, Jackie, who came in with four kittens following the rescue, remains at the no-kill shelter, living in the cattery as she awaits her forever home.

One adult Chihuahua, Milton, was relocated to a rescue in Colorado due to his socialization needs, and it is expected that he will be a long-term resident there. Rankin said during a check-in two weeks ago, Milton is doing well: his handler is able to hold him, he loves going on walks, and he enjoys “puppy play-time.”

Rankin said the success rate of the adoptions is phenomenal, given the experience of the dogs: most were not potty-trained nor socialized, with the assumption that they came from and were being transported to puppy mills when they were discovered in Spearfish.

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the rescue, owners have been contacting the staff and volunteers at WHHS to provide updates and swap photos to show how the newest members of their families are doing.

Todd and Sheilagh Collins, of Belle Fourche, adopted Tillie, a Pomeranian who was 8 weeks old at the time of the rescue, and they said they couldn’t believe it has already been a year.

“She has been such an incredible addition to our family,” they said, adding that Tillie enjoys playing with Elvis, their sheltie, Boomer, their schnauzer/cockerpoo mix, and Mr. O’Malley, their cat.

The Hayes family, of Box Elder, adopted Gunny, a Chihuahua, and they also said it is hard to believe that a year has already passed. Gunny is a well-behaved puppy, with the exception of squeaky toys, which the Hayes said he is a master at destroying.

“I am sort of proud that he killed a heavy-duty toy meant for hunting dogs in 15 minutes,” Barry Hayes said.

Gunny enjoys being outside and loved bounding through the snow this winter chasing snowflakes. He also gets along well with the family’s other dog, Razor, and he sticks close to the family members.

Roxie, one of the puppies born in foster care after the seizure, was adopted by the Withrows, of Spearfish.

“She has a cat as her best friend, and everyone who meets Roxie falls in love with her,” Dave Withrow said.

Rosie, a Chihuahua adopted to the Markels in Belle Fourche, loves to cuddle and is also doing well.

“We love her so much,” Mandi Markel said. “She is so sweet.”

Rankin credited the commitment of Humane Society officials, volunteers and foster families and added that “Without the generous donations from the community far and wide, including from all over the state of South Dakota and surrounding states, this success story would not be possible.”

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com


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