Betsy Wagner pulled into Fort Defiance Mobile Home Park in her camper van. Her eyes were scanning the area for stray dogs – she was on a rescue mission. She didn’t see any of the pups, but she did see a bag of dog food on the side of the road next to a culvert. Maybe the locals were feeding them, she thought.
Suddenly she spotted what looked like the momma dog running toward the back of the park. She followed the dog slowly, hoping it would lead her to the rest of the family. The dog circled back to the culvert, and once there, she sat down.
Betsy parked her Storyteller Overland Stealth MODE
and waited, feeling a bit out of place in her adventure van with gear on top. Betsy had just come from visiting her family in California for Thanksgiving, and just before leaving, she saw a Facebook post from Soul Dog Rescue urgently asking for help rescuing seven puppies in Arizona. It was right along her route home to Colorado, so she knew she needed to take on the job.
The mobile home park was located off Route 12, a busy highway with two lanes of traffic in each direction. This made it a “ticking time bomb” for the puppies, who didn’t understand the danger of crossing the highway.
Finally, Betsy saw a couple of puppies scurry out of the culvert and knew she was in the right place. She unloaded two kennels, which she had just purchased hours ago for the rescue mission. But the second the puppies saw Betsy, they ran deep into the culvert, totally out of reach.
So Betsy set up a kennel near the culvert and tossed in some cat food, often the secret to lure stray dogs. Within 30 minutes, they couldn’t resist any longer and jumped in. Closing the door behind them, Betsy loaded them up into the safety and heat of her van.
Next, it was time to save the momma dog.
Throughout her time trapping the puppies, Betsy saw the momma dog running back and forth across the four lanes of traffic. Thankfully, timing was on her side. They were in a school zone, so the afternoon speed limit was 15 m.p.h., giving cars enough room to slow down and keep from running her over. The dog was hard-headed and scared of Betsy’s rescue efforts.
Betsy put a smear of cat food in a kennel. The dog came to eat it, but every time Betsy scooted closer and closer to trap the dog, she would inevitably get too close, and the dog would run away again.
“How can I make sure this dog is safe, how can I get her out of here safely?” Betsy thought to herself. “She was stubborn. She was not going to let me close.”
It was freezing cold outside, and Betsy took a break in the warmth of her van. While she sat inside, she watched as kids being let out of the nearby high school would walk right up to the dog to say hi and move on.
A realization hit Betsy: She was on Navajo Nation land. She looked a lot different from the people whom the dog was used to seeing.
She considered asking one of the high schoolers for help, but finally, animal protection pulled into the park. They easily walked up to the momma dog and helped load her up into Betsy’s van.
“If they hadn’t showed up, I would have been out there for a long time,” Betsy said.
Only one dog was left: a male who had been silently and anxiously watching the rescue mission. This dog wasn’t on the original Facebook post, but when Betsy approached the property manager, she asked Betsy to take him as well and give him a better life. So she loaded up the fourth rescue pup in her van, with the rest of the rescues.
“The post had originally said there were seven puppies,” Betsy said. “I’m hoping that early on, when that post went out, other rescuers had gone and grabbed the rest of the pups. I just picked up whoever was left. I got the difficult ones.”