The Case of the Wandering Puppies

Five blind and deaf puppies were found in rural Missouri, likely discarded.

Neville Dobby puppies
Neville and Dobby were the first two puppies found.

Speak St. Louis

The first puppy showed up in a rural area in Missouri.

He was a 12-week-old all-white dog with huge, flag-like ears that were way too big for his gangly body. The sweet puppy also had vision and hearing impairments. Someone found him wandering the road and brought him into a vet’s office for help.

A vet technician there reached out to Speak St. Louis, a rescue that works with special needs puppies, and they immediately took in the stray. While there was much discussion (and an online poll) about whether he deserved to be named Yoda (from “Star Wars”) or Dobby (from “Harry Potter”), the sweet looks and the flopping ears earned him Dobby for the well-loved house elf character.

As Dobby settled into his foster home, just days later the rescue got a call about another vision and hearing impaired puppy found in the same general area as the first puppy. This one has uncannily similar ears and the same gentle personality.

“Coincidence or kin?” the rescue posted on social media. “Stay tuned. We will be picking him up today.”

Neville arrived that day and the puppies looked exactly alike. There was no need for introductions as they seemed very familiar with each other. Their size, age, temperaments, ears, and the sounds of their cries when they were upset were incredibly similar.

But the thing that was the most upsetting involved their ears.

When Dobby was found, he had a black, tar-like substance on both of his ears. The rescuers originally thought it was residue from flies. 

Neville puppy
One of Neville's ears looks like it has been superglued. Speak St. Louis

But one of Neville’s ears was rolled and folded and seems with what looks like superglue. Rescuers had heard stories that sometimes people use glue instead of tape to try to hold a dog’s ears in place, and that looks like what someone had done.

“Wasn’t it bad enough these two were born with preventable vision and hearing impairments, but then to try to cosmetically glue their ears? We are a bit horrified,” the rescue posted.

Neville and Dobby went off to the vet where the medical team fell in love with these two sweet boys. They both had hookworms, which come from walking on infected soil. Those are different from typical puppy roundworms. That’s likely another piece to the puzzle that these pups are related.

The Same Litter or the Same Breeder

Tonks (left) and Albus (right)
Tonks (left) and Albus (right). Speak St. Louis

While Neville and Dobby were getting settled in their foster home, the rescue got another shocking call just over a week later. Two more deaf and blind puppies were found wandering in the same area where these pups were rescued. 

Tonks and Albus were scooped up and reunited with what everyone thinks might be their siblings. They look uncannily similar and immediately began playing and snuggling with each other like family.

While the rescuers took a deep breath and thought the saga was over, a week later they got yet another call. A fifth puppy was found in the same area.

A rescuer went to get him later at night and found this pup was in worse condition than everyone else. He was very thin. His inflamed skin and ears were covered inside and out with fleas, ticks, fly eggs, and burrs.

Lupin before and after
Lupin, before and after. Speak St. Louis

Named Lupin, this pup no doubt felt so much better after a visit to the vet where he was bathed and all the irritating things have been removed from his fur and ears. He’s now a happy, healthy dog like the other rescued pups.

It’s all pretty unbelievable, Jen Schwarz, one of the directors of Speak St. Louis, tells Treehugger.

“We don’t know what to make of it. What happened? Did they dump the whole litter at once? It was weird how puppies just kept being found.”

The rescue group thinks that they’re either from the same litter or there’s a chance they came from the same breeder. They are doing DNA tests on all the puppies to see if they are related.

They’re the same age, they have the same personality and generally look similar.

The puppies are likely double merles. Merle is a swirly pattern in a dog’s coat. But when someone breeds two dogs with the merle gene together, there’s a 25% chance of their puppies being blind, deaf, or both. All these Harry Potter puppies are hearing and vision impaired.

Are There More?

Tonks and Neville napping
Tonks and Neville napping. Speak St. Louis

Rescuers are worried there are other puppies out there. 

Local volunteers are searching the area. Others are spreading the word on social media and posting in local lost and found groups.

Rescue workers are concerned that with so many shelters at maximum capacity, people may be dumping unwanted animals when they can’t find a place for them.

Best Friends Animal Society says many factors have combined to overwhelm shelters across the country.

There has been a drop in adoptions in 2021, shortages in shelter staffing, and an increase in animal intake compared to 2020, reports the national animal welfare organization. Adoptions are down 3.7% so far this year and, for June, take was up 5.9% compared to 2020, according to data from 24PetWatch.

When shelters are full, they often won't take dogs that are surrendered by their owners. If shelters do accept pets from owners, those animals don't have to wait for any mandatory stray hold at some shelters if they have to euthanize for space. That's because they know that their owners aren't going to show up to claim them.

Some people might believe that letting their animals loose is the only alternative they have.

“Being deaf and blind and left out to fend for themselves in rural Missouri, it is a blessing these puppies survived and they wouldn’t have had people not stepped up to help” says Speak director Judy Duhr.

“This whole story has been surreal to us at Speak! St. Louis, but we are so grateful each finder of one of these puppies found us. Each puppy was such a lost soul when they first arrived, but each one melts in your arms as they know they are now safe and loved.”

View Article Sources
  1. Judy Duhr and Jen Schwarz, directors, Speak St. Louis

  2. "What is A Double Merle?" Deaf Dogs Rock.

  3. "Best Friends Animal Society Urges Adoptions in Wake of Pandemic-Related Shelter Challenges." Best Friends, 2021.