Six puppies stumble over each other in mad dashes from one end of the makeshift pen to the other and look happy and healthy. Many of them look like they belong to entirely different breeds; some of the dogs are small and black while others are larger and lighter-colored. They're awkward and curious, wandering around the temporary space at Muskogee's Petco with twitching noses and unsteady gaits.
It's almost easy to forget that the day before Thanksgiving these dogs and their 11 siblings were shivering, abandoned, on a chilly riverbank when they were found by a passerby.
The woman who found them, Jessie Jones, immediately called local rescue organization Fur Babies Rescue and Adoption founder Delsie Lewis in a bid to save the 17 puppies.
"They definitely came from the same house, if not the same mother," Lewis said. "We rushed over and gathered them up. They would have been killed by coyotes that night if we hadn't found them."
Now the dogs have been spread out among Fur Babies foster homes while Lewis and her organization look for potential adoptive families. First, however, they have to ensure the dogs are spayed or neutered, as well as given their shots. The cost could approach $1,000.
"We were fortunate enough to have enough foster homes," Lewis said. "It's going to be costly to get all these puppies fixed up, though — and we don't offer them up for adoption before they're vetted and fixed."
Lewis' subsequent Facebook post on the subject drummed up some eager support from people like Linda Brown, who visited the puppies Wednesday afternoon to deliver a donation of food and some cash.
"There's just a need here," Brown said. "Plus, there's the fact that I simply can't understand why someone would just abandon them like that. It's just beyond comprehension."
Lewis is hoping that support continues through to the Fur Babies annual Spaghetti Dinner held Friday night at First United Methodist Church, she said. The dinner begins at 5 p.m. and each plate includes spaghetti and marinara or alfredo sauce, a dessert, a salad and a drink. The plates will be be $8 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
The event also will feature a silent auction for between 40 and 50 gift baskets whose contents range from dog treats to wine to products from Bath and Body Works.
“We thrive on donations,” Lewis said. “This is one of the biggest fundraisers we have all year.”