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The Christmas Story of Mary and Maria

Christmas is not much different from any other day at the Dalhart Animal Wellness Group and Sanctuary (D.A.W.G.S.). The Dalhart dogs must be cared for, whether Santa is coming or not. What follows is an account, written by Diane Trull, of three frigid days during Christmas week at the Texas sanctuary, December 23, 2004.

The weather is below freezing, in fact, with the wind chill it is 14 degrees below zero. We worked frantically all day to get hay placed in everyone's dog kennel so they were snuggly warm for the cold night. We have run out of money and food, but received two pallets of canned food. We quickly borrowed three electric can openers, and began the long, tedious task of opening over 700 cans of food to feed the hundreds dogs and puppies in our care.

Six hours and three burnt-out can openers later, we are ready to feed. Out into the cold night we go, and as we feed we wish everyone an early Merry Christmas. Our small house is packed to the limit with 72 puppies and their mommas. Every kennel is filled with at least one dog and in most cases they all have buddies. Every barn and every doghouse is filled with hay. A day that had begun at 9am was finally complete by 11pm.
December 24, 2004.

We awake to even colder temperatures; with wind chill, it is now 22 below zero. We head through the snow to pick up broken bags of food donated by a local supplier. A ride that usually takes one hour stretches out to four, due to the bad weather. When we get back into town, everyone puts on their warmest clothes, masks and gloves.

As we slowly travel to the shelter, through the snow-covered road, we notice two dark shapes by the front gate. As we get closer, we find the shapes are two female black lab mixes. They have yellow rope around their necks as collars, and are tied to the fence on very short leads. We always leave food and water out for the stray dogs that come by, but these two girls are tied 20 feet away from the dishes.

As we gently talk to the girls, they whimper, wagging their tails and the snow begins to fly. We find they aren't much more than puppies themselves, maybe seven or eight months old ? and are tremendously pregnant. Where are we going to put these sweet girls? The house is full and they need to be inside. They are both more than ready to have their puppies. We bring them in, warm them by the small heater, towel them dry, feed them and give them water. Using expandable pens we are able to move two sets of weaned puppies out into the hallway, so we can use the vacant rooms for the new girls. Prior to moving them in, everything has to be sanitized and the small, blue plastic wading pools we use for expectant mothers need to be readied.

Finally we get everyone settled in and the sweet girls sink into their soft beds and take a nap. Since it is Christmas Eve, we decide to name them Mary and Maria.
December 25, 2004. dog mother giving birth

It's a beautiful morning. Once again we get up early and head out to the shelter. When we go in to check on our new girls, we find Mary (top right) has had eight beautiful black lab mix puppies and Maria (below right) has had nine. Mothers and puppies are all doing well. We get their beds all cleaned up and stand for a moment to marvel at life. The last few days have been so horrible with the snow and cold, little food and frozen water lines. Then we are given the wonderful gift of two new mommas and their precious babies.

Since the shelter began there have always been struggles, but tempered with that has been wonderful successes and miracles. We take each day, one at a time, and each animal, one at a time, and find that children (and their mentors) can make a difference. We only hope that others will do the same and make a difference in the lives of the animals around them.

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