With his sister and three brothers, Buster was loaded into the pickup to go for his first ride. The sensation of traveling as trees flew by was nauseating as his eyes blurred and stomach churned to the sound of the radio and engine combined. Finally it all came to a stop at a wide place in a narrow road, a dirt turnout with a sign he couldn’t read, tall weeds and loose barbed wire fence beyond.
All five puppies got out, glad to be back on solid ground and feel the dust between their toes. They began to explore beer cans and potato chip bags with their noses, intrigued by all the new scents that preceded their arrival.
Engrossed in their roughhouse games in this strange place, it wasn’t until the pickup engine started, did they notice it leaving. Buster’s big brother Bert gave chase up the road, with the rest of the puppies trailing as night fell, squelching the day’s 100-degree heat.
Exhausted after the quarter-mile chase, they stopped to rest at another turnout while Bert went out into the road to greet the sound of each approaching set of headlights. The third car struck him and he crawled to his frightened siblings huddled around him until he quit breathing. Sally, his sister, led the pack away from the road to cross a cool irrigated pasture to find a mossy pond in the moonlight where they all got a drink and fell fast asleep.
Traveling only at dawn and dusk, the four three-month old pups spent the next week hunting for something to eat up and down the dry creek bed. The pack awoke a feral hog in the thick riparian of alders and willows, barking fiercely at its retreat; then gave a loud chase after four wild turkeys hens and later backed a lone coyote off. They were indeed a pack, but had nothing to fill their empty stomachs but an occasional drink of water.
Desperate and hungry, Sally led them back to where they had been dropped off. They looked like coyote pups to the man and woman who stopped. Buster overheard the man saying angrily, “The most humane thing we could do is shoot them all—goddamn people!”
Thirty minutes later, the man and woman returned with a big dish of dog food and water. “Their ears are full of ticks,” the woman said after petting three of the four pups. “Tomorrow morning, I’ll call Animal Control.”
However, the next morning, another woman stopped and caught all of the puppies with distended bellies pin cushioned with foxtails, and put them in her new car, bringing them to work where there were some empty dog pens. For the next two days, she and her sister picked ticks from their ears and between their toes, dunking them in a tick and flea bath before worming them all.
Within a week, all had found new homes.