For five puppies born in Indianapolis in December, life almost ended the night it began.
"People heard crying in a dumpster. So, one of the IMPD police officers got out there, he heard the crying, he was digging through the trash," said Tara Harris from Every Dog Counts Rescue. "In the middle of one trash bag, he found a puppy and he thought, 'Ok. I found the puppy.' And then he heard more crying, so he realized there were more. So, he just dug through all the trash bags to make sure he got them all and one by one, took them to his car to try to get them warm."
Officer Scott Charleswood is his name. And his quick action saved the lives of the newborn puppies, now eight weeks old.
A first look at the IMPD "Dumpster Puppies" that are starring in the 2017 Colts Puppy Combine. Stay tuned for more!
"It really feels like a miracle," said Harris. "When they called me that night in the middle of that cold, icy storm, I thought they probably wouldn't survive. I thought, 'Well, maybe we can get a few of them to survive. That will be awesome.' The fact that all of them survived and they're all so healthy and sweet, loving little puppies - it's wonderful. It's amazing."
Last Thursday afternoon, the puppies frolicked their way through the tunnel and onto the Colts practice field for the first ever Puppy Combine emceed by former Colts punter Pat McAfee and actor/comedian Mike Epps.
"Wearing the yellow, quarterback number 12, this is the richest of all the dogs in the history of the dog chasing league – his name is Chase," McAfee announced.
"The pretty boy of the pack." Epps chimed in.
McAfee: "Seven and a half pounds."
Epps: "He's quick."
McAfee: "And he's used to getting what he wants with his stunning baby blue Jeff Saturday eyes."
The first combine drill was the Doggy Dash. At half the distance of the 40-yard dash, it took the puppies just a wee bit longer (and a bit of wee) to cross the finish line.
"She has to beat 1:11 to take the lead here and somehow, I don't think it's going to happen," McAfee said of Harvey Sue, the second largest of the pack whose best move was listed as "falling asleep in her food bowl."
After competing in the agility jump and the three-bone drill, the puppies were all worn out. Thankfully, there were plenty of humans around to cuddle with.
The IMPD "Dumpster Puppies" in action during the 2017 Colts Puppy Combine hosted by Mike Epps and Pat McAfee.
"People don't know, I really love dogs. I grew up with dogs," said Epps. "I had German shepherds, we had a beagle, we had lots of different types of dogs."
And just like people, some dogs – through no fault of their own – just fall into bad luck.
"I can relate to those puppies so much," Epps said. "That's how life is. So many people need breaks."
Epps knows because he was one of those people.
"I started out rough. I don't regret a day of it. I wear it as a badge of honor and I think it makes you even stronger when you have a story."
The same can be said for many of the players who will work out at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis February 28th through March 6th in hopes of landing a spot on a team.
"A lot of these puppies have chips on their shoulders," said McAfee. "Somebody didn't want them. There's a lot of guys in the NFL, whether their college didn't want them or they're undrafted free agents, I think there's a little bit of an analogy."
For these puppies, life got off to a rough start. Good people stepped in and gave them a chance. Now, they'll give back for years to come – as faithful companions providing constant love and joy to those around them.
It's not how you start in life. It's how you finish.
And those you help along the way.