Garbage isn’t supposed to wiggle and pulsate with life. On June 3, when a local man approached a dumpster behind a building on Halls Mill Road in Mobile, he knew something was funny about the squeaky plastic trash bag moving beside the dumpster.

A quick investigation revealed the trash bag contained three dehydrated and malnourished puppies; one solid black, one brown and the other white with black spots. Someone had bagged them up and thrown them away like garbage, presumably as nonchalantly as you or I might discard a Popsicle wrapper or empty milk carton.

The concerned gentleman contacted friends who volunteer with a local rescue group, and soon the discarded pups were in good hands, receiving the care and attention they deserve. Sadly the little black puppy, the smallest and most dehydrated of the group, died the day after they were found, unable to overcome the trauma his tiny body sustained after being trapped in a plastic bag in the summer heat without any water.

If that makes you feel like crying and/or punching something or someone, you are not alone.

Dogs have long endeared themselves to humans as our closest and most loyal ally, and it’s hard for most of us to even imagine callously abandoning such loving and vulnerable creatures, particularly in such a brutal and heartless fashion. If you’ve ever had the good fortune of experiencing the enormous and unconditional love of a dog, then you know just how precious these beautiful animals are and how much better those abandoned puppies deserved from the species that bred them to be trusting and dependent companions.

In his touching (and recently viral) video tribute to his dearly departed dog, Denali, filmmaker Ben Moon says there’s a lot people can learn from dogs and he adds (quoting AARP writer David Dudley), “When someone you love walks through the door, even if that happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.”

As lovely as that sounds, most of us will only ever find that degree of pure and unquestioning love and enthusiasm from our dogs. Once you’ve known that kind of special bond, it leaves a permanent impression on your heart.

As of June 8 it’s been two years since Doobie, my best friend of more than 14 years, passed away after a slow and painful decline. I think about him all the time and still catch myself walking around the house singing to him, changing the lyrics of whatever song is obnoxiously stuck in my head to include some variation of his name (i.e., “players gonna play, play, play, play, play and Doobie’s gonna doob, doob, doob, doob, doo”).
 
When I first met Doobs, he was a clumsy and unwanted 6-week-old mixed-breed puppy, covered in fleas and huddled inside a cardboard box beside his siblings, loaded up for a one-way trip to the local shelter. I suppose that’s a heck of a lot better than being abandoned in a trash bag, but it’s still so much less than they all deserved.

That little castoff pup ended up being such a big part of my life and heart that even two years after his death my feet still unconsciously tap the floor beside my bed gently in the mornings, searching for his warm body in the place he always slept and trying to avoid stepping on him. Of course he’s not there anymore, but sometimes the heart and the body refuse to believe what the mind knows is true.

Sadly we’ll never know what might have become of the forsaken little puppy that died after being thrown in the trash. It might have one day saved a life or become the best friend some broken and lonely human has ever known.

The good news in this story is that several weeks after they were found, the two surviving pups are thriving in the care of Save-a-Stray, a local nonprofit rescue group led by Stephanie Williamson. Soon they will be ready to be permanently placed in new homes with loving families.

Founded three years ago, Save-a-Stray is dedicated to enriching the lives of shelter animals in the Mobile County area. They have found their biggest success with their transport program, where they pull dogs from local shelters and transport them to the Helping Hounds Rescue shelter in Dewitt, New York, where they’re placed with adoptive families.

Once a month, Save-a-Stray sends between 40 and 60 dogs from Alabama on an exciting 24-hour road trip to Upstate New York, in search of love and new adventure. The Syracuse area typically lacks the number and variety of unclaimed dogs we see in Alabama, for various reasons (for example, harsh winters make it more difficult for strays to survive), and all of the animals eventually find homes.

The average stay at the shelter is nine days but some lucky pups are claimed even before they arrive. Apparently many of our friends to the north are quite charmed by the idea of adopting a “Southern” dog. It makes me smile to imagine a local pup going to a loving family who gives him a cute name like Moonpie or Sweet Tea.

Prior to their transport the animals are placed in foster homes with local volunteers who provide temporary shelter (two weeks) and positive human interaction before they are sent to meet their new families.

Save-a-Stray relies on support from the community and are always in need of monetary donations as well as volunteer foster homes. If you’re interested in making a donation or submitting an application to foster or adopt, please visit their website at saveastray.org.

They are also planning a local fundraiser event called Tails of Service, which will be held Sept. 24 at the Pillars. The event will feature blown-up portraits of very special service animals, reminding us once again how lucky we are to have such wonderful canine friends.