HILL CITY — As a wildlife rehabilitator, Carrie Newell has helped many animals get back to their habitats or find a new, safe place if their injuries won’t allow for their release. There is one, though, that has literally eluded her.

The young dog showed up one day near Christmas three years ago when Newell went to check on her three horses on some rented land on the edge of Hill City.

“I called my horses in. They’re running, but they’re acting funny. They’re bucking and kicking,” Newell said.

“Then here’s this dog. She’s running with them, she’s barking and snapping. The horses were unhappy,” she said.

She tried to catch the dog, but couldn’t get close enough.

“I went ahead and left, and, shoot, the dog was there the next day and the next day,” she said.

Newell started leaving food for the dog, but unbeknownst to her, so was someone else.

“Another guy had a horse nearby, so he was coming up here and leaving food because he didn’t know I was leaving food,” she said.

The man, Mike Garrison, and Newell eventually found out each was leaving food, and they teamed up to keep an eye on the dog. Garrison had called her Sam, from a Bible verse, Newell said.

“He didn’t know if it was male or female. I said female,” Newell said, so they called her Sammie.

The following February or March, Newell said, they suspected Sammie had had puppies. The weather was still cold, and Newell wanted to find them. One day when checking on her horses, she brought her Chihuahua, Spike, and walked through the area where she kept her horses.

“That little dog found where she had the puppies. She had them under a cedar tree, and there were all these branches like a little cave, and she had them in there,” Newell said.

Newell made sure the pups could stay warm and handled them frequently to help domesticate and socialize them.

But Sammie moved them.

Newell was able to find two of the puppies out in the open. Worried about her horses trampling them, she took the puppies home.

They used the puppies to try to capture Sammmie, rigging up a kennel with a trap door.

“As we pull the door shut, she runs out and she’d be growling and snapping,” Newell said.

Sammie had at least one other litter of puppies, Newell said. She and Spike found two puppies in summer 2016. She took those two home and bottle fed them until she had to get ready for her teaching job in Damar. Her friend, Kandi Jackson, who does volunteer rescue work, took the pups in and eventually found them homes.

Newell’s horses eventually got used to Sammie being around, and the dog is even somewhat protective of them now, Newell said.

“There’s times where I don’t see them, but I hear her barking. I get up on the hill, and I see a pickup down this road. She’s barking at somebody,” Newell said.

In recent months, Sammie has gotten more comfortable being around Newell.

As Newell drives up the dirt road to where she feeds her horses, she honks her horn and the trio comes running. Sammie is often running alongside them, knowing there will be canned and dry dog food for her and maybe some treats.

But strangers with Newell cause Sammie to pull up short, sitting on a nearby hill and keeping a watchful eye on the newcomers. She grew inpatient and barked when the strangers wouldn’t leave.

Sammie will come within a few feet of Newell, but that’s as close as she’s been able to get.

“I think if I grabbed her I’d probably get bit, even though she wags her tail when she sees me. She comes up, and she’s wagging and happy,” Newell said.

“I feel so bad for her because now that she’s coming up closer,” Newell started to say, with Jackson finishing the thought.

“She could be getting lots of lovings if she’d let us,” Jackson said.

But Newell has greater concerns than just being able to scratch Sammie’s ears or rub her belly. She’d like to get Sammie spayed and vaccinated.

She’s talked to area veterinarians and animal control officers about how she could best get Sammie taken care of. Tranquilizers can be left with food, but those take awhile to take affect and she would have to be watched.

Several vets have tranquilizer guns, but only those meant for much larger animals like livestock.

If she does ever manage to get Sammie to a vet, she still will have a home with the horses, Newell said.

“She loves these guys. Several of the people who have brought me hay bales over the years, they said, ‘You’re not going to make her leave. That would break her heart,’ ” Newell said.

“She can stay. I just hope nobody hurts her.”