Officer Alberto Ochoa was on duty and writing up reports in his car when he heard an unusual noise coming from the bushes. It was Sunday July 2 and just after midnight in a Cathedral City, California neighborhood and the sounds were like a woman's laugh or a girl’s cry.
Officer Ochoa got his flashlight and went to investigate and found a cardboard box and a small black puppy walking around it. He told the Desert Sun, "When I looked inside and I saw six more puppies, it just broke my heart," he said. "How can people be like that - be that cruel?"
Three of the puppies had died, no doubt due to the extreme heat during the day, when temperatures had reached a sweltering 109 degrees. But four of the puppies were alive. They appeared to be four to six weeks old but in need of care.
Officer Ochoa took them in and got help from Stephanie Smith, a former evidence technician who was recently laid off from the police department. She took in the abandoned puppies in that evening. She said, "They were pretty dehydrated, and I wasn't sure they were going to make it. But they did..." And they were "happy campers" the following day.
As word got out about Officer Ochoa’s rescue, the department started to receive calls from people interested in adopting the puppies the very next day. "That got me excited," Ochoa said. "It puts faith back in us, and it goes back to remembering 90 percent of people are good people."
But that doesn’t mean an investigation is not underway to find the person(s) responsible for discarding the pups. Officer Ochoa said there wasn’t much evidence left on the scene to help so the best chance they have of charging someone for animal cruelty is if they receive a tip, which can be called in to (760) 770-0303.
Meanwhile, the puppies were taken to Animal Samaritans’ Adoption Alliance Animal Rescue where they coordinated with for the puppies to be fostered with Save-a-Pet, a no-kill shelter in Desert Hot Springs. The puppies will stay there until they are big enough to be spayed or neutered and then will be put up for adoption. The puppies were named Alberto and Stephanie (after Officer Ochoa and Stephanie Smith) and Annie and Michelle (after two of the rescue workers).