When Lexi Johnson, a volunteer foster for Ruff Start Rescue, was presented with the opportunity to take in pregnant pup Poppy, she was thrilled. As a dog lover, and as someone who studied animal behavior, she had always wanted to foster a pregnant mama dog.
Her heart was bursting, and she excitedly shared the news with her friends and family.
Then, about one week after she came to live with Lexi, the beautiful Lab Mix birthed ten healthy puppies. Lexi even appointed herself as her “doggy doula” and helped mama Poppy through it all. Poppy was an amazing mother, and was so strong during her long labor.
But unfortunately, shortly after she had her precious puppies, Poppy unexpectedly passed away. This left all ten newborn puppies motherless. Lexi’s heart was shattered.
“We frantically started figuring out our next move with the babies. Another volunteer was over until 11:30 that night helping bottle feed. And throughout the evening my husband and I were up every three hours getting food in their bellies… and it was taking over 1.5 hours each time,” wrote Lexi.
When newborn puppies are left without a source of milk, they need to be fed a special formula every couple of hours. Because Poppy had such a large litter, this task was requiring close to constant care. So, in order for them to best tend to Poppy’s ten puppies, some of them had to be spread out among multiple volunteers. An entire team of fosters had to come together to care for the large litter of orphaned pups.
Not long after Poppy passed away, another mama dog within Ruff Start Rescue was experiencing her own heartbreak. Pepper, also a Lab Mix, had given birth to her own litter of precious puppies. But sadly, they did not survive. Rescue volunteers shared that after losing her litter, Pepper was “devastated” and she started to “grow very depressed.” They hoped that Pepper could be the miracle that Poppy’s puppies needed.
“When she got to our house, we brought her in the puppy room and she immediately sat next to the litter. I started placing puppies around her and she laid down and the puppies instinctively hobbled towards her and started nursing,” shared Lexi.
Under Lexi’s watchful eyes, they introduced Pepper to the litter of puppies. And after only five minutes, she started tending to them as if they were her own! Pepper didn’t hesitate to immediately begin cleaning and loving on them. They even instinctively began nursing. It was a match made in heaven.
While all the puppies were thriving with their foster humans, the best place for them is with a mama who can give them milk, and teach them behaviors and “puppy things” that we as humans simply cannot. Pepper was exactly what these lucky puppies needed, and with them, she got to be the mother she hoped to be. It’s hard not to shed a couple of tears thinking about how appreciative Poppy would be of Pepper taking on her mama role.
“I couldn’t have done it without a village of people- and everyone is simply so grateful for the happy outcome,” wrote Lexi.
The puppies will be at their foster home with Lexi until they are adoptable at eight to ten weeks old. Then, they will be listed on the Ruff Start Rescue website.
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