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In Kenya, spotlight stays on baby, dog

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Offers to adopt an abandoned newborn girl found among a litter of puppies are pouring in to the Kenyan hospital where she is being treated, and the stray dog credited with her rescue has a home and a name -- ''Mkombozi" or ''Savior."

As police searched for the infant's mother, a government spokesman expressed some skepticism yesterday about the story of the dog's role in rescuing the child, dubbed ''Angel" by hospital workers, and said authorities were investigating.

Mary Adhiambo, a resident of the compound where the dog lives, said Mkombozi apparently found the baby Friday wrapped in a plastic bag in the nearby Ngong Forest.

Published reports said the dog dragged the baby across a busy road and through some barbed wire to a shed in the poor Nairobi neighborhood where puppies from two stray dogs were sheltering. ''I saw a dog carrying a baby wrapped in a black dirty cloth as it crossed the road," witness Stephen Thoya was quoted by the independent Daily Nation newspaper as saying. ''I was shocked at first, and when I tried to get a closer look, the dog ran through the fence and disappeared along a dirt road."

The infant was discovered after two children alerted adults that they heard the sound of a baby crying near their wooden and corrugated-iron shack. Residents found the baby lying next to the dog and its own pup.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said authorities were investigating the rescue story.

''This is a very interesting development, and the government is looking into it because if it happened the way it has been relayed, it is one of those amazing things that happens in life that defies human explanation," he said. ''It indicates that there is somebody out there watching over us."

Well-wishers from Kenya and as far as the United States have sent e-mails to The Associated Press and called the country's main hospital to inquire about adopting the child.

''The publicity on the way the baby was rescued has sparked a lot of public interest in helping her," said Hannah Gakuo of Kenyatta National Hospital, where the infant is being treated for exposure and an infection in her umbilical cord.

''People have been calling the hospital, asking about the possibility of adopting her," Gakuo told the AP.

Officials in the government's Children Department were not immediately available to comment on Angel's fate or the widespread problem of abandoned babies in Kenya, where poverty and failed relationships are frequently to blame. Kenya's weak law enforcement and poor social security system mean most people who abandon their babies are never caught.

The stray dog also was being cared for yesterday, a day after its last surviving puppy died for unknown reasons, said Jean Gilchrist of the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals.

Animal welfare officials named the dog ''Mkombozi," or ''Savior," and gave it its first bath and de-worming. ''She looks a bit depressed, so we'd like to examine her to see if she has a temperature or any other problem," Gilchrist said of the dog. ''She wasn't happy when we all poured into the compound. She decided to leave, but kids in the compound brought her back for the bath because she was full of ticks."

Felix Omondi, 11, and his family, who live in the compound, have taken the dog in.

The dog, a tan short-haired mixed breed who was heavy with milk from nursing, was possibly trying to care for the child because most of her puppies had died, Gilchrist said.

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