Champagne wasn’t much more than a puppy herself when she was dumped by an anonymous person at our local shelter. She ducked low as a leash was looped over her head and, sadly, seemed used to being led into a cement kennel with limited amenities. She moved uncomfortably and, before they even had time to do a basic medical evaluation, she gave birth to 10 squiggling little puppies. What was previously only one life that needed saving, quickly became 11 lives that needed saving. While puppies are always cute, the shelter staff’s hearts sank at the sight.
Unfortunately, a shelter, even the cleanest, most sanitary shelter, is no place for puppies to spend the formative and important first 8 weeks of their lives. Our county shelters have a good working relationship with all the local rescues and a call was put out to see if anyone could take a momma with 10 nursing babies into foster care. While one would think that might be a fun task, this many puppies are a 24 hour a day responsibility. Thankfully Pit Bull Rescue San Diego did have a foster parent who maintains a special room for nursing mothers and they were moved quickly from shelter to rescue.
Champagne watched calmly as volunteers and shelter staff carefully packed her babies into a small crate with warm blankets. Happily she climbed into the car next to the crate and allowed herself to be safely buckled in. She gently kissed each of the shelter staff who reached into the car to wish her well. She sniffed at the crate as if to say, “let’s get going”.
During the first eight weeks of their life, a schedule was set up with volunteers in the rescue. Adults, children, men and women came in on a regular basis to help clean up after as well as socialize and love on the babies. Blankets were washed and replaced several times a day. Hard surfaces were wiped down daily with antiseptic wash. All puppies were weighed weekly and smaller puppies were ensured greater feeding time with momma. All puppies were handled and touched everywhere and careful attention was paid to every sneeze or sniffle. Champagne was fed high quality food several times a day and put on a regular walking schedule.
Champagne patiently allowed volunteers to clean and handle her babies, never moving more than a couple of feet away but also using the time to ask for belly rubs, toys and treats. Donors contributed food and supplies and a professional photographer donated her time to document their young lives. It takes a village…
Both momma and puppies suffered from parasites so the family was routinely dewormed. Worms are typically passed from momma to babies in her milk. Champagne was particularly strongly infested. While some parasites might be expected in any litter, her infestation bespoke of the poor care and hygiene in her past. The tiny puppies bore the brunt of this, as parasites can compromise their internal development, and their little bellies were perpetually upset. Clean up was particularly nasty after each bout. Thankfully, the diligence of the volunteers won out and, by the time they reached 8-10 weeks old, all their bellies seemed better.
Unfortunately, because one individual did not bother to spay their dog (either on purpose because they thought they wanted puppies or through ignorance or neglect), there are now 11 more homeless animals in America, adding to the millions that are already waiting patiently in shelters and rescues.
Please spay/neuter your resident pets and please consider donating to worthy organizations so that those less fortunate than yourselves can do the same. Not all litters of puppies that end up in shelters are as lucky as Champagne’s crew.
Your dollars might save a young life from being a young death.