7 min read

Dog Leads Rescuers To Puppies Hidden Beneath Branches On Roadside

“When we finally got all the pups in a crate and got them and Momma into the car she put her face next to the crate, she let out a long breath and closed her beautiful eyes. She was finally able to rest.”

On Sunday, Brooke Rapozo was painting the walls of her workplace when she got a phone call. A woman had caught a stray pit bull wandering along the road near Lemoore, California, who’d been seen in the area for the last three days. It looked like the dog was nursing, but there didn’t seem to be any puppies, the woman told Rapozo.

Rapozo, who is the vice president at Kings SPCA Halfway Home, didn’t waste a minute — she put down her paintbrush and jumped into her car. The woman, Kelly Tarlton, gave Rapozo the address of her mother’s home, where Tarlton was staying at the time.

Woman hugging dog
Rapozo hugging Darla a few days after the rescue took place | Kings SPCA Halfway Home

When Rapozo arrived, she found Tarlton with a 1-year-old pit bull lazing in her lap, getting rubs and scratches from Tarlton.

Rapozo quickly saw that the dog, later named Darla, was full of milk, so she played a YouTube video of puppies crying on her phone.

“Her ears perked up and she got up from Kelly’s lap, and [Kelly] put her on the ground, and went walking at a decent pace,” Rapozo said. “We followed her.”

Dog leading rescuers into the bush
Darla leading her rescuers to her puppies in the "burn pile" | Kings SPCA Halfway Home

They walked on for a bit until Darla led them to a pile of trees and bushes on the side of the road. “[It] was a burn pile,” Rapozo said. “Farmers and ranchers will pile up cut-down trees and brush to burn.”

Darla headed into the pile, and Tarlton stayed right behind her.

“Kelly didn’t hesitate,” Rapozo said. “She jumped in. She just went over branches and under branches to the point where I could no longer see her anymore. And that’s when she was like, ‘I found them, I found them!’ And I asked, ‘How many do you see?’”

Dog leading woman to puppies in branches
Kings SPCA Halfway Home

At first, Tarlton only saw six puppies. But when she looked closer, she found four more tucked beneath the branches. Ten in total.

“Their umbilical cords had just come off, so they were probably only a few days old,” Rapozo said. “We’re assuming that she [Darla] was dumped out there being very pregnant.”

Darla waited patiently as Tarlton picked up each puppy and handed them to Rapozo.

Dog smiling in front of kennel
Darla sitting in Rapozo's car after the puppies were loaded into a kennel | Kings SPCA Halfway Home

“She was just gently wagging her tail and looking at us,” Rapozo said. “It was the sweetest thing. It was almost like she knew, ‘OK, these people are going to help us.’”

Once they gathered all of the puppies, they went to Rapozo’s car, and the women loaded the puppies into a transport kennel. Then Darla jumped into the car, too, and settled onto the floor.

“When we finally got all the pups in a crate and got them and Momma into the car, she put her face next to the crate, she let out a long breath and closed her beautiful eyes,” Rapozo wrote in a Facebook post after the rescue. “She was finally able to rest. She didn’t have to worry about herself and her pups being attacked. She didn’t have to worry about finding food. She was safe with her babies.”

Dog relaxing with her eyes closed
Kings SPCA Halfway Home

Darla and her 10 babies are now at the shelter run by Kings SPCA Halfway Home, and they’ll remain there until the puppies are big enough to leave their mom. All of them are in excellent health.

When the time comes, they’ll all be up for adoption, and Rapozo believes that Darla will make an especially good companion.

Mother dog and her puppies
Darla and her puppies living more comfortably at the shelter | Kings SPCA Halfway Home

“She loves when staff come in to clean,” Rapozo said. “She just wants love. She’ll climb in your lap and definitely put a halt to your cleaning for a solid 10 minutes before she lets you finish cleaning.”

“She’s just perfect,” Rapozo added. “She’s a good dog. She’s forgiving, and she trusts so easily, even after everything. She hasn’t held a grudge against humans.”

To help Darla’s puppies grow up big and strong, you can make a donation to Kings SPCA Halfway Home.