KILAUEA — As John Teschner ducked into the bushes along Koolau Road, he heard gentle crying. As he continued to dig though the deep brush, Teschner found the source of the sound: five pit bull puppies.
“It was awful,” the Moloaa resident said. “They were very cute and it was awful.”
The dogs survived, despite being away from their mother for what is estimated to be about a day.
Teschner found the puppies scattered throughout the area on June 3, including one inside a den, another on top of the brush pile and two huddled together beneath the middle of the brush.
“They were basically buried in there,” Teschner said. “They must have crawled through or something. So I grabbed them and then I had these five puppies and I was frantic because they were all crying and desperate and hungry and they were all trying to suck on my fingers.”
A few days before the rescue, Teschner and his girlfriend Liz Hagen saw an emaciated female pit bull, which appeared to be pregnant, on the side of Koolau Road. They provided the animal with food and water and soon realized they weren’t the only ones who had seen her.
A friend sent them a link to a picture of that same dog on Facebook from a post by a woman named Petra Ceccacci. She had seen it too, near the Moloaa Sunrise Fruit Stand, looking for something to eat.
Because the animal was slightly lactating, there was speculation she may have been pregnant or that there were puppies in the area.
Ceccacci saw the pit bull again and took the animal with her as it had tried to crawl into her car. She and a friend checked the area for puppies, but didn’t find any.
A day after the mother dog had been picked up, Hagen encouraged Teschner to take their dog, Matilda, for a walk along the road. It was then Teschner heard the whimpering in the bushes.
“He called me 15 minutes later and he’s like ‘I’ve got two and I hear more whimpering, come here and help me’,” Hagen said. “So I left work and by the time I got there he had found all five.”
The week-old puppies were found about 300 yards from the fruit stand. Teschner said the puppies were in a den the mother most likely made for them.
“You could immediately hear puppies crying and they can’t really walk or anything but they can kind of drag themselves,” Teschner said. “I found one, he’d wedged himself or herself between two little vines and it was like stuck and crying.”
Hagen couldn’t help but love them.
“It was pretty crazy showing up there and having John, he’s all scraped up and muddy a little bit from digging through this pile and he has these five little babies and, I don’t know, I felt like my maternal instincts just came out,” she said. “I didn’t know I had them so much and it was just that it felt urgent, we need to reunite these babies with their momma.”
The two contacted veterinarian Scott Sims. He told them to give the puppies goat milk as quick as they could because that’s the closest to dog milk and they needed food immediately.
So they drove to Healthy Hut just up the road.
“We get there and we pull in and I see these two women (Ceccacci and Lulu Streltzer) with the dog and I’m like ‘that’s the momma,’” Hagen said.
It was a wonderful reunion.
“I have the five puppies in a box with a towel and the momma tries to climb in with them and there’s no way she’s gonna fit so we dump them out in the yard with her and she was immediately licking them all over,” Hagen said. “So it was just so much crazy energy.”
Hagen and Teschner were touched by what they saw.
“The moment that really got me was when we put the pups all out in the yard and the mom was, you could tell, relieved but really anxious, too,” she said. “She suddenly has her pups and she picks one up and she puts it in my lap and I just felt like she was asking for help and that got me.”
Many people have also donated money, services and dog supplies for the canine family. The rescuers are trying to find homes for the puppies.
“When I let go of needing money or needing to figure out my own life and just let go and be kind of here for them, it’s beautiful and amazing and I love it,” Streltzer said.