On February 1st I received a message from our local rescue vet Julie. She’d been called out to rescue a dog that people were trying to kill for stealing chickens. Starving, the dog had been abandoned as she was about to give birth to 8 puppies. There was no room at Julie’s rescue home so I decided to try my hand at fostering… talk about jumping into the deep end!

Found in an abandoned shack with day old puppies.

I have a small room in my chicken house with an outdoor pen that seemed ideal for a mama dog with puppies. Yes, among my chickens! In the 12 weeks she and her puppies were there not one chicken was harmed. They occasionally jumped the fence into her pen and walked around her, even under her belly while she was standing and she did nothing to them. Obviously she’d been starving and the people could have simply thrown her some food and called for help – not try to kill her!

Julie gave her and the puppies a health check, observed them overnight and the next day we brought her to my home.

Not the most glamorous den! However, it was safe, quiet and cool during our summer heat.

That’s when I realised how terrified and traumatized she was. For days when I brought food she simply tried to melt into the walls. She’s never shown any sign of aggression just an absolute fear of humans. I chose to call her Maria, it’s a pretty name and sounds soft to a scared dog. I always spoke to her in a sing song voice, as a way to contrast with ‘scary human voices’.

It’s amazing how distressing it can be to encounter such a traumatised animal. Suddenly the world melts away and all that matters is trying to gently break through the fear. It took almost 4 months to break through that fear, and it was worth it!

At first I thought, “Oh a mama dog with 8 puppies is easy, peasy!”. Then they started to grow and grow and grow… what a change that made!

They became more active and when bringing food, it felt like a tidal wave of wiggly piggly’s were rushing at me! The food bowls I brought several times a day got bigger and bigger and my kitchen busier and busier. I rarely feed my dogs dry food because I don’t like it. Too many dogs end up with skin and other problems. Years ago I switched my 13 year old dog with tumors, poor hearing and eye sight and low energy due to aching joints to a homemade diet. The transformation was incredible and her quality of life drastically improved. She lived another 3 years without any medication or surgery.

These puppies were weaned on a combination of my homemade diet mixed in with soaked puppy kibble 3 times a day. This required way more planning and work than I expected. However, the results were great, everyone was amazed at these chubby fast growing wriggly piggly’s puppies.

The diet also worked for Maria, within a couple of weeks she was no longer a walking skeleton, despite feeding 8 hungry mouths!

The puppies at about 4-5 weeks old. Maria is getting chubby and will approach me, as long as I don’t try to pat her.

Adoption Time

I was excited to get the puppies adopted. So when they were 8-9 weeks old, it was time for a puppy photo shoot! What a challenge that was to get 8 wriggly piggly’s into charming poses for potential adoptees!

Eventually all were adopted to families that wanted them. Two families even adopted two puppies each so they went to their new home with a sibling. An awesome result!

Now, what to do about Maria???

Maria’s Finds A Home

After more than 10 weeks I still couldn’t pat Maria but she would come to me for a quick nose dab greeting. I knew if she went to the rescue home she’d be be too frightened of strangers and unlikely to ever be adopted. So I thought that if I could spend time alone with her, she might learn to trust me and be integrated with the pack. If the pack rejected her, then… well there really was no Plan B.

Maria’s first day in a quiet room in my house, she tried to melt herself into the sofa!

After a couple of weeks of adjusting with me Maria learned to leash walk and became so bored she wanted attention! It was time to introduce her to the pack one by one. Easier said than done!

***sigh*** that’s one of my favorite history books she decided to play with!

Although my pack were the dogs mostly likely to be attacked by other dogs at the rescue home; Trixie, Toby, Max and Amber were now a confident and territorial pack after about a year with me. The shivering wreck that was once Trixie, is now the pack leader! Despite having limited mobility she wanted this alien dog out! I was getting worried…

For a few days I stayed home to supervise and hang out with the pack. Even feeding the chickens was a walk too far from them, so a family member helped out. There was one dog fight and poor Maria got a few bites. Nothing too serious but my full attention was needed so I could distract them when tensions mounted. After a couple of weeks… Maria was part of the gang.

She is a completely different dog today. She’s playful, affectionate and very, very happy. She’s also a normal young exuberant doggo wrestling her buddies, not my books!

Maria is now living the life all dogs deserve and it’s a joy to watch. She loves indoor time. Here she is recovering in the sun lounge with Amber after being sterilised. She and her pack sleep in here at night and love it!

And she loves ‘meaty bone’ time with her pack, even sharing a bed with Trixie!

Trixie of course has demolished her meaty bone first, so she watches over ‘her’ pack, which now includes Maria.

Maria is a welcomed member of my animal family and her babies are wanted pets with good families. All thanks to the devotion of our local rescue vet who’s tireless efforts give so many animals a second chance at life!