They started as trash bag puppies, but now they’re grown ladies with formal names and loving families.
Alley and Bell are happy to accept sympathy pats from strangers, but Tacoma animal control officer Kate Madden is not convinced the pit bulls remember the heartbreaking start to their lives.
They weren’t more than 3 days old on April 23, 2015, when a man walking his dog in a Tacoma alley spotted fur in a plastic garbage bag on the frozen ground and called for help.
Sam Lopez, a community liaison police officer, arrived first and tore open the bag to find 11 puppies piled inside. Their mama, who appeared to have died giving birth to her first litter, was double wrapped in a bag next to them.
At first they thought all the puppies were dead, until Madden heard the tiniest squeak and saw a tan puppy move on top of the pile. Another near the bottom was also alive.
“The fact that they’re alive — what else could you want really?” Lopez asked Wednesday.
Apparently, the answer is gluten-free carrot cake cupcakes, tutus, party hats and bandanas reading, “It’s my bark day.”
That’s what the girls got for their first birthday, which their owners celebrated last week with a small party at the Police Department.
The pit bulls had a rough beginning, but they’re loving life these days.
Alley is shy and reserved, suffers from many food allergies, constantly talks and likes to be pampered. It’s not uncommon to see her sporting hot pink nail polish, and she loves when her owners pretend to put makeup on her and blow dry her fur.
Bell, on the other hand, is brash and jumps straight into the action. She hates to get wet, is happy to sleep in every morning and prefers to sit in chairs.
“I don’t think she knows she’s a dog,” said Jana Drew, Alley’s owner.
“She’s a princess and wants to lick your face off,” said Shyanne Brown, Bell’s owner.
The women knew each other pre-pit bull because Brown works for Drew at a local doughnut shop. They’ve become more like family in the last year so the dogs could stay close. They have regular play dates romping in Drew’s backyard.
Madden, who gets to see both pups regularly, even dog sits Bell when her family goes out of town.
Since she helped rescue the dogs and was foster mom for Alley and Bell, Madden got to choose their forever families.
Madden clearly remembers the day she found them.
The puppies’ body temperature initially was so low it didn’t register on a thermometer. It took more than an hour of warming pads, blankets, massages and warm blowing air before the puppies registered near the 100-degree average.
Madden took them home, bottle-feeding them every two hours and allowing her own dogs to help raise them.
She named them Pacific and Bell because they were found in an alley near South 40th Street between Pacific Avenue and South Bell Street.
Now, the pit bulls are formally known as Pacific Alley Lady Kate Drew (Alley) and Lady Bell Katherine Fancypants Boyd (Bell).
Despite a lot of people showing interest in adopting the dogs, the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society didn’t accept applications because it wasn’t sure the pit bulls would make it.
Once the animals were vaccinated, it was decided that Madden would choose their homes.
She knew Brown, 18, desperately wanted her own dog, so she sent her some photos of the pups. Brown showed them to her friends and already considered Bell to be hers.
“I had to convince my whole family to get a dog,” she said. “I threw in a few tears.”
Drew was looking for a dog and expressed interest in Alley.
Madden interviewed both families and decided the dogs would be well cared for. She placed Bell with Brown since the puppy was more outgoing and would do well in a large family, and sent Alley to Drew and her wife.
“Everybody wants to pet them when they find out what a horrible beginning they had,” Brown said.
Drew agreed, saying strangers recognize the story of the trash bag puppies, and even her veterinarian treats Alley as a minor celebrity.
“Everybody knows about them,” she said.
To people outside their families, the girls look nearly identical. They’re both tan with white markings. Bell is smaller than Alley, has more markings on her chest and feet and a shorter tail because part of it was frozen off.
Bell sports a pink rhinestone collar. Alley struts in a pink Western-themed collar.
Lopez and Madden marvel that out of 11 puppies, the two tan girls who look alike were the survivors. The other newborns, some of which still had the umbilical cord attached, were black and white or multicolored.
Police were never able to determine who discarded the pups in the frozen alley a year ago.
The families of Alley and Bell no longer worry about that and instead think about their puppy loves.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653