Jessie Tussing doesn’t usually embark on after-hours rescue missions. But when the foster and rescue coordinator for Heartland Humane Society got a call one Friday evening about a group of puppies abandoned under a barn, she jumped in the car and headed to the remote location.
Arriving at the site with her two teenage daughters, Tussing used a flashlight to guide the way through the dark, old building, peeking in every crack, looking for the pups. With the homeowner’s permission, Tussing removed one of the barn’s floorboards. Finally, Tussing spotted the puppies she’d been looking for. But when she brought the animals into the waning daylight, Tussing couldn’t help but notice that these pups looked … different.
“I was running through my brain trying to remember what breed of puppy had that coloring,” Tussing told The Dodo. “It took me a minute to really realize what I was looking at.”
Tussing and the girls knew something was up. One of Tussing’s daughters took to Google and tried to figure out what these babies might actually be. Eventually, everyone realized.
“She just started running down the list of species that she knew lived in the area, and after foxes and raccoons were ruled out, she looked up coyote pups and went, ‘Oh my God, Mom!’” Tussing said.
The trio hadn’t found a litter of dogs — they’d stumbled on a pack of baby coyotes.
After conferring with an experienced wildlife rehabber and confirming the local wildlife center’s policy on coyotes, Tussing knew it would be best to leave the little family where she’d found them. The animal lover had noticed their bellies were full, indicating that their mother must have fed them recently. The mama coyote was likely waiting nearby, hoping to reunite with her babies.
“I told my girls, ‘We have to put them back,’” Tussing said. “‘These are not pets.’”
Luckily, when the homeowner heard about the mix-up, he was very understanding and agreed to avoid the barn while the coyote family looked for a new home.
Though the rescue turned out to be more unique than she ever expected, Tussing is glad to have straightened everything out, and hopeful that this little family will thrive in the wild, where they belong.