It may be Father's Day, but because we don't know the identity of the rascally father, we'll focus on mom and the nine little hungry mouths she has to feed.

It may be Father's Day, but because we don't know the identity of the rascally father, we'll focus on mom and the nine little hungry mouths she has to feed.

Again.

Readers may recall a tale in this column 18 months ago about a feral dog and eight pups found on a snowy January evening by elk hunters in the mountains near Butte Falls. Nearby residents Anna Diehl and her husband, Rick Martin, who were tipped off by the hunters, rescued the pups from a wet and rotting hollow log at about 3,000-feet elevation.

With a foot of snow on the ground that January day, and another foot about to fall, their humane actions likely saved the furry tykes' lives. The couple kept two of the pups and were able to find homes for the others.

But they could not get near the wily mom, who invariably darted off whenever they approached.

Until two weeks ago.

Diehl was walking near their barn with Kola and Wasche, the two pooches they adopted from the first litter, when she heard a ferocious bark.

She figured it was the neighbor's mastiff.

"I went looking for the mastiff but couldn't find him," she says. "On the way back to the barn, I got barked at again."

She tracked the sound to a hollow log about 100 yards up the hill from the barn.

You guessed it: There was the same mom with nine new pups in a different hollow log.

"I knew it was her — I could see the front of her in the hollow log," Diehl says. "And I could hear puppies in there. I was completely amazed."

This log is three-quarters of a mile away as the crow flies from the one discovered by the elk hunters. But there is no doubt it is the same short-haired, 60-pound black dog with a bit of white on her muzzle, Diehl says.

They had caught fleeting glimpses of her in the vicinity but hadn't seen her for a while. They figured she had perished, given the assorted fierce creatures found in the Cascade foothills.

Yet they had noticed the cat food in the barn periodically disappeared faster than normal.

"She is an amazing survivor," Diehl says.

Not wanting to scare her off, Diehl first sat quietly nearby. She eventually approached the oak log, which she estimates is at least two feet in diameter and about 15 feet long. She brought food and water, of course.

"After I gained her trust, she started letting me pet her," Diehl says of the mother. "I started putting the food bowl in the log. It was a major breakthrough. She pushes her head against me now to have her head and ears rubbed. She so longs for affection."

When Diehl brought a flashlight to peer inside the log, she spotted the pups' furry little faces. Most are black but two are brown, suggesting there could have been a brown pooch paddling in the gene pool. They are all cute as a fuzzy bug's ear.

The wriggling youngsters are about 4 weeks old, roughly halfway to being weaned, Diehl reports.

After turning an empty stall in the barn into a kennel for the single-parent canine and her pups, the couple carefully moved the brood out of the log and into their new home Friday afternoon. They are looking for good homes for the pups as well as the mom. They will have her spayed to end the puppies-in-a-hollow-log episodes.

The mom has the body of a 4- or 5-year-old pooch but her muzzle has white hairs, Diehl observes.

"Her teeth are worn down a little and she is missing one in front," she says. "She has some little scars. It's apparent she has had a really hard life.

"But she's a good mom," she adds. "She protects those babies. They are well fed. She also picked a log that is still dry after all this rain. She is smart and clever."

One day when the dogs were still in the log, the pooch revealed a little of her mysterious past to Diehl, who had been petting her.

"She walked over, picked up a stick and brought it over to me and dropped it," Diehl says. "She must have been someone's dog at one time. You have to wonder how long has she been out there and where she came from. I bet she has quite a story to tell."

You can help write a happy chapter in that story by adopting a hollow-log puppy or the mom. Hey, nothing says Happy Father's Day like a fuzzy little puppy settling down for a nap in dear old Dad's lap.

To commit to a furry friend, call Diehl via her cell phone at 821-1905.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at pfattig@mailtribune.com