SAN GABRIEL — Like a mother protecting her young, Scooter, a 4-year-old pit bull, kept her eyes on the new puppies in the puppy ward.
Scooter looked over the puppies, found the frightened ones and licked their faces through the wrought-iron fence. When any whined, she nudged them.
It's all part of the job. As mascot of the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center here, Scooter helps make all newcomers feel at home.
"She really cares about the other animals here," said Joan Coleman, executive director of the center. "And because the animals sense her warmth, they feel less afraid."
Found in Gutter
Scooter has been at the center ever since staff members found her in a South El Monte gutter four years ago, Coleman said.
The dog, a malnourished 2-week-old puppy at the time, had two crippled front legs and teeth marks in her neck. Although she has regained her health and her scars have healed, she cannot use her front legs. Scooter gets around by pushing with her powerful hind legs and sliding along on her chest. Sometimes she stands erect and hops.
"She was literally at death's door, but she wouldn't give up," Coleman said. "Here was this tiny little dog, with an I.V. on trying to scoot around. From that point on she was 'Scooter' to us."
Everyone at the center fell in love with Scooter, she said, including a baby owl named Wally, who was brought to the center by the State Fish and Game Department two years ago with three other nestlings.
Dog and Owl Inseparable
Instead of joining his siblings, who later flew away, Wally wandered around outside the center. After spotting Scooter, the owl flew over to the dog's side. The two have been practically inseparable ever since, Coleman said.
They go to sleep together--Wally in his cage and Scooter outside. But Wally, who is often out of his cage, frequently accompanies Scooter on her afternoon jaunts around the center.
They visit the other animals at the center--cats, guinea pigs, pigeons and a variety of reptiles--and visit with staff members in their offices.
"Scooter likes to poke her nose in and see what's going on," Coleman said. "We don't restrict her, she can go anywhere, so you never know where you are going to find her."
Won't Go Near Rabbits
"She likes being around all of the animals except for the rabbits," she said. "She won't go anywhere near the bunny cages."
Scooter's favorite pastime is waiting near the front door because that is where her visitors--especially visitors bearing dog biscuits and toys--come in.
"She has a group of regulars that come and see her pretty often," Coleman said. The regulars include mail carriers, former employees and children she has met on previous tours.
"The children love to come back and visit her," Coleman said.