By Tim Eberly
Triscuit looks like a furry cookie with a bite taken out of her. About seven weeks old and only two days removed from the Dumpster from which she was recovered, the puppy has a shaved spot on the left side of her neck, where three deep, infected lacerations haven't closed.
In comparison to her siblings, Triscott got off easy. Three other puppies were dead their throats slashed in a cardboard box in the county Dumpster 14 miles north of Havre.
After cleaning out an airplane hangar Tuesday morning, 74-year-old Jack Norman prepared to throw some garbage into the trash bin, located on St. Joe Road.
"I heard some howling, so I looked down," said Norman. "I couldn't see anything, but I kept hearing it."
Norman hopped into the Dumpster, ruffled through some refuse and found the box.
"There were four dogs in there and three of them were dead," Norman said. "That little devil wanted to live, though. It was chirping away."
Without delay, Norman transported the dog, which he temporarily and aptly named Dumpy, to the Eastside Animal Hospital east of Havre. Veterinarian Tari Mord could not give the puppy stitches, but provided warmth and fluids.
"She was extremely cold when she got here," said Mord, who bought the animal hospital five years ago. "She was filthy, dirty and coated in her siblings' blood. She was also extremely thin."
"They couldn't stitch her up because she was so contaminated and infected," said Renee Lanoue, the sole operator of Ren's Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue organization.
Mord's assistant had visited the same Dumpster earlier in the morning when Triscuit was found, but heard nothing out of the ordinary.
On Wednesday afternoon, Lanoue picked up Triscuit from the animal hospital and took her to her Kremlin home for recovery before attempting to find the puppy a home.
Almost 300 pets mostly dogs have been through Lanoue's home in the last three years. Other than the pets she kept, Lanoue has found all but one of them a home. That lone dog was put to sleep because of an anger problem, coupled with a penchant for biting people. Twenty of those dogs have been found in trash bins, alive but barely old enough to open their eyes. Ten others have been found shot to death.
"Stuff like this happens all the time," Mord said. "It's extremely common. We see animals that have been abandoned; we see animals that have been neglected. There are puppies in the dump all the time. I don't know how often, but I hear the stories."
One month ago, four puppies were found in a trash bin because a dog had been barking at it, attracting the attention of a man. Unlike Triscuit and her family, no violence had befallen the heelers, but they were near starvation.
If that dog had not barked at the Dumpster, the puppies would likely be dead, rather than keeping each other warm in a roofed straw dog home in Lanoue's back yard.
"It's all the ones that are in the Dumpsters that have already been crushed or mutilated," said Lanoue, who currently houses 32 pets, including 20 dogs, eight hamsters and two tortoises. "If they're not whining, you're not going to find them. It's kind of sad because they're out there and you just don't know."
Mord and Lanoue have reached a point where they do not notify the Havre Police Department or the Hill County Sheriff's Office. There's nothing law enforcement can do.
"There's nothing to trace," Mard said. "There's no owner."
Both the Havre police and Sheriff's Office are unaware of a serious problem with abandoned animals or animal cruelty. Police Chief Kevin Olson said that, as far as he knew, it was an isolated incident.
Sheriff's deputy Steve Marden said, "We find it once in a while. When we find them, they're 2 or 3 weeks old and they're usually alive. It's pretty rare to find one with its throat slit like that."
Lanoue brought Triscuit to work with her at Tilleman Motors today. She has the puppy on oral antibiotics and lathers her wounds with a cream to draw infection from the still-open lacerations. Triscuit will stay with Lanoue for two months "to make sure her wounds are healed and so she's a little bit older. Then she'll be up for adoption," Lanoue said. "But I want her to be 100 percent before she goes anywhere."
Mord has a theory about such heartless abandonment and cruelty. One is that owners do not want to pay for the cost to euthanize a dog. Some owners, she theorized, continually mate their female dogs until they find the male that, in their minds, produces a desired litter. The result is litters of unwanted dogs.
Puppies like Triscuit are rarely found.
"She won't let me let her down," Lanoue said of Triscuit. "She likes to be held. I'm sure she misses her siblings."