Crysta, about 6, the long-haired Chihuahua, is starting to shed the trauma of the accident and her former life. She stays mostly out in the open and allows people to approach her. Such is the case of over 64 Chihuahuas aided after a collision.

But Flora, 3, the blond Chihuahua about to give birth to five puppies, and Tinker Bell, 1, the red Chihuahua, also pregnant, prefer the presumed security found beneath the furniture.

“I am pretty sure they are from a puppy mill,” said Debbie Stubblefield. She’s the one providing a foster home for the three small dogs in her Edgewood house. “None of them have been spayed. All three have had puppies.”

Crysta, Flora and Tinker Bell are among 64 Chihuahuas rescued from a head-on crash between a van and a tractor-trailer truck. That happened near Vaughn last week. Stubblefield named them after characters in animated films because who knows what their names are or if they had names.

As many as 110 Chihuahuas are believed to have been in the van. Eighteen were killed and more than 25 may be missing.

There were five people in the van and two in the truck. All were transported to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

The 64 Chihuahuas

The dogs were put in the care of area animal rescue operations and shelters. Most have now been placed in foster homes. Stubblefield got Crysta, Flora, and Tinker Bell from East Mountain Companion Animal Project, where she serves as a volunteer.

“All of them were covered in feces,” Stubblefield said. “I’ve only managed to bathe Crysta.” Flora and Tinker Bell remain too frightened to submit to a scrubbing.

image 7 3
image 7 3

“They have been through a lot,” Stubblefield said. “Crysta has an eye infection. Tinker Bell has road rash on her nose and belly.”

In addition to the three Chihuahuas, Stubblefield has eight dogs in her Edgewood home. They’re all former rescues that are now part of her family. On this day, Goliath, 13, an Irish wolfhound crossed with something else, and Philo, almost 6, a dachshund/Chihuahua mix, are close at hand. They remain to observe their three small guests at a respectful distance.

Stubblefield said she believes the Chihuahuas had been kept in cages. That’s because they confine themselves to small sections of a room.

“When I put food and water out, they fought over it. That was until I refilled their bowls and they realized there would always be more.”

A lot of dogs

According to information released by the New Mexico State Police, officers were notified at 12:45 a.m. this past Tuesday of a collision on U.S. 54, about 2 miles north of U.S. 60. Investigation showed that a 2000 Chevrolet Astro Van, driven by Missael Rodelo, 40, of El Paso, was traveling south on U.S. 54 when it crossed into opposing traffic and slammed into 2022 Freightliner tractor-trailer rig driven by a 41-year-old man.

Besides Rodelo, van occupants included a 46-year-old woman in the front passenger seat and a 4-year-old boy, 9-year-old girl and 28-year-old woman in the rear of the van. The driver of the tractor-trailer was accompanied by a 21-year-old male passenger.

Rodelo was cited for failure to maintain a traffic lane and for having no insurance.

At about 4 a.m. the day of the accident, Santa Rosa Mayor Nelson Harrison Kotiar got a call from a tow-truck company.

“They said they are picking up this wreck, but there are dogs in it,” Kotiar said. “I said bring them over to the (Santa Rosa) dog kennel. They got here about 5:30 or 6.”

Not long after that, Kotiar started getting calls from city employees.

“They said we got 25 out, but there are a lot more in there,” the mayor said. “Then 45, but there are a lot more in there. Then 55.”

Kotiar said his final tally was 82 dogs — 64 survivors and 18 dead.

But the mayor said information gathered at the accident scene indicated there may have been 108 to 110 dogs in the van.

“I saw a picture of the van and the driver’s side was torn open,” he said. “A bunch of dogs might have jumped out and be out there somewhere.”

Signs of neglect

Santa Rosa’s kennel has a total of just 11 spaces, nowhere near the room needed to properly care for such a large number dogs, even when they are as small as Chihuahuas. City officials reached out to area shelters and rescue operations, including the East Mountain Companion Animal Project, which took in 48 of the Chihuahuas. All of those dogs are now in foster care, according to Keenan Foster, a director at EMCAP.

64 Chihuahuas, Rescue Ops Aid 64 Chihuahuas after Crash

ff dogs that appear to be litter mates, or at least appear to be comfortable with each other. We do separate males and females, because we don’t believe they are spayed or neutered. None we have checked have been.”

He said at least 12 of the dogs are pregnant, five are eight to 12 weeks old, and three are just days old.

“Overall there were signs of neglect — emaciation, dehydration, eye infections and poor skin conditions — and some had injuries resulting from the accident,” Foster said. He said some female dogs are suffering from pyometra, an infection that fills the uterus with pus and is caused by overbreeding and neglect.

Dogs that are healthy will be put up for adoption, Foster said, and those that are not healthy will be cared for until they are.

“We don’t euthanize, except to spare animals needless suffering,” he said. “We take care of everything until we can find them a forever home.”

How to Help

  • The link for a GoFundMe account set up to provide financial aid for Chihuahuas in the care of the East Mountain Companion Animal Project is
  • East Mountain Companion Animal Project is sponsoring an adoption event for more than 20 of the Chihuahuas, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Jan. 15 at Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming, 9780 Coors NW, Suite F. For more info, call or text 505-378-9616 or 505-519-4151.

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