Gregory Foster scanned the conveyer belt carrying past the world’s castoffs; stuffed animals, crumbled sheet rock, jagged strips of metal siding, chunks of wood. He nimbly plucked off a bike tire and heaved it down a chute, returning his gaze to the moving lines of trash.
“Our job is to pull off as much material as we can,” said Foster, a trash sorter at the San Francisco’s Recology recycling yard, “and save things from going into the landfill.”
On Friday, Foster noticed a flash of movement in a trash bag. Then he saw a head – a puppy’s head covered in blood. Foster dove for the emergency cord to stop the belt.
Workers pulled the badly injured puppy from the line. Arturo Pena cradled it into his arms, trying to bring comfort to the shaking and terrified dog.
“I imagine myself being all beat up like that,” said Pena, shuddering at the memory. “She needed somebody.”
The small poodle was taken to San Francisco Animal Care & Control where it was expected to fully heal. Someone named the puppy “Gem.”
The dog had large bites behind its ears - its back legs were damaged and it appeared to be terrified.
“She’s under treatment by our veterinarian staff here,” said Captain Le-Ellis Brown. “She’s expected to make a full recovery.”
Gem’s story inspired an outpouring of public support over the weekend. Brown said the Animal Care and Control had received more than a hundred phone calls of people wanting to adopt the amber-colored puppy. Josephine Messina and Rich Cook drove from Martinez to add their names to the list of prospective adopters.
“I just could not believe how upset I was,” Messina said. “I just want to make her life happy, she deserves it.”
Brown said the agency would likely hold a lottery to place the puppy in a new home, if its owner doesn’t turn up within five days.
Investigators said they would like to find and question the owner, though Brown said the agency hasn’t determined whether anyone would face criminal charges. He said the massive amounts of trash arriving at Recology every day made it extremely difficult to track where the truck hauling the dog may have come from.
He said investigators are trying to figure out the origin of the dog’s wounds - and exactly which wounds were sustained before the dog was picked-up by the garbage truck. The department was also looking into possible reports the puppy might have been used as bait in dog fighting.
Workers at Recology were amazed by the dog’s survival, which included a ride in a garbage truck, getting scooped up by a massive tractor, and dumped onto shaker before plummeting nine feet onto the conveyer belt where it was discovered.
“It’s a miracle dog,” Pena said. “There’s no other words to describe it.”