17 and counting
Farmer David Distad was driving past his Rock Dell Township property about 8 a.m. Thursday when he saw a bunch of puppies in the ditch.
He counted about 10 of them and called Paws and Claws Humane Society in Rochester.
Tanya Johnson, Paws and Claws' acting shelter manager, drove out to the area near Stewartville with a co-worker. When they arrived, Johnson could see about six bodies in a "puppy pile" near a culvert. They weren't moving, and she worried they might be dead.
"We got down on our knees and we were like, 'come on, puppy, puppy ...' And they all came running. And they just kept coming out of the culvert. There were more, and more," Johnson said.
It turns out there are 17 puppies. There were no adult dogs to be found in the area, and both Johnson and Distad believe somebody dumped the pups in the ditch during the night.
"If this farmer wouldn't have seen them, they probably would have been eaten by a coyote or just died of starvation or dehydration. They were all really hungry and really thirsty," Johnson said.
Abandoning unwanted animals doesn't sit well with Distad, a grain farmer.
"It's pretty low, I think," he said. "If (the owners) don't want them, they shouldn't have a female dog that's going to have pups."
Paws and Claws is now caring for the puppies, which look to be border collie/Australian shepherd mixes. Johnson said they are likely from two different litters — some appear to be about 3 months old and others perhaps 2 months old.
Aside from being very skinny and full of burrs, ticks and fleas, it seems the pups will be fine. The shelter plans to have a veterinarian examine them next week. They will be spayed and neutered before they're put up for adoption in a few weeks.