Mitchel Craddock was getting married and his best man had planned a long, fun-filled, 4-wheeling, beer-drinking good time for him and seven friends at a cabin in Tennessee. Little did they know their plans would be altered in the strangest of ways.

Mitchel and company arrived at their cabin on their first night, ready to relax after a long day of driving. They checked in and went to the nearest town for their “supplies” (bacon, eggs, beer…). On their first morning at the cabin, they cooked up the bacon – a little too well, as the cabin filled with smoke. So they opened windows and the door. Soon afterwards, a dog sat down on the porch of their cabin. She wouldn’t enter the cabin, even though it was obvious she was starving.

They decided to share bacon with the dog. One by one, they approached her, not knowing how she would react, although, as Mitchel stated “She didn’t look like she wanted to kill us.” She seemed to respect them – she didn’t snarl or jump on them. They noted she’d had puppies, although she was so starved she wasn’t producing any milk. Because of her manners, they guessed she lived at a home near the cabin and simply smelled the bacon. Therefore, after giving her bacon and water, they left her to go back to her home. They headed out for some 4-wheeler fun.

When they returned later, the dog was there. This cycle repeated itself for three days. The guys would feed her, go out to have fun, and come back to the cabin to find the dog on the porch, sleeping under one of their trucks, or she’d come out of the woods within minutes. After several days, she started producing milk.

Once the dog started producing milk, the friends started keeping a closer watch. They noticed a pattern. Whenever a car or other animal approached a spot near the tree line across an open field, the momma dog took off, barking. She was protecting that spot, and they could guess why. A drive-by confirmed their suspicions when a puppy popped out of a hole in the ground.

On the third day, the guys headed out across the field. One stayed behind to distract the mother dog. The group discovered an old den filled with puppies. Mitchel stated “When I tell people it was a hole in the ground, I mean it was huge. One of my friends crawled in up to his waist, and reaching his arms out still couldn’t touch the walls.” They started pulling out the puppies.

“After we had three pups out of the hole, the momma showed up. She could hear the pups and our guy couldn’t keep her contained. We weren’t sure what to do. Was she going to get nasty because we were messing with her pups? So we set the first three down in front of her. She nuzzled each one, checking them head-to-toe, before going to the next. After each one, she’d give us this look like approval.”

After that, the momma dog lured the pups out of the hole. She’d stand at the edge and when one would exit, someone snagged it, then set it down for the momma to check.

Mitchel said “It’s sounds crazy, but we were certain she was grateful. I mean, she was so helpful, and she’d always give us this look like ‘Thank you. I was failing but you are helping.'”

They pulled six puppies out of the hole. They checked back in case there were other puppies, and found one more. “Every single one had a big fat belly on them. The mom had given the pups literally everything she had,” Mitchel said.

He stated “I don’t think it crossed anyone’s mind that we should take them to a shelter. Everyone’s first thought was ‘How do we get these pups home?’ We’re all dog lovers and it just spiraled out of control – or into control. The mood of the bachelor party switched from ‘Let’s party!’ to ‘Let’s play with puppies!'”

That was Saturday afternoon. The guys had already told people back home about the mother dog. Now they sent pictures of the puppies. Kristen, Mitchel’s fiancée , wanted to know which one they were keeping; however, Mitchel argued that they already had a chocolate lab, a wedding and honeymoon, and other expenses to take care of.

That night, Kristen called from her bachelorette party. She was “out on the town” and wanted to know what wild thing the guys were doing with their Saturday night.

Mitchel summarized their adventures with “We’re watching puppies” to which she replied “You guys are so manly.”

Mitchel said “When we arrived, we pooled money for food, fuel, and beer. Once we found the puppies, the beer fund went to the dogs. Literally. We went to town and bought food, toys, and carrying crates. We drank significantly less beer than planned.”

The guys still enjoyed another day of 4-wheeling. They simply planned shorter excursions so they could come back to check on the puppies.

On the final day of their trip, the group packed their bags, eight dogs, and themselves into their vehicles. The return trip took longer because they stopped periodically to let the dogs out.

Mitchel stated “By the time we left Tennessee, Kristen had convinced me that we needed another dog. I had my eye on the momma or a female pup. My grandparents ended up taking the mom and a male. I took the female pup. Our chocolate lab didn’t know what to do with her. Now they are best friends and the lab watches over her. What’s neat is that seven of the eight dogs live within a five mile radius of my house. ”

Mitchel said the dogs made memorable party favors. “It’s like ‘Thanks for coming to my bachelor party. Here’s a puppy.'”

Picture courtesy of Trevor Jennings, friend of Mitchel Craddock.

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.