I was recently asked by one of our local animal rescue groups to help them out by fostering some puppies belonging to a mother with a large litter of 11 puppies that they had just picked up. They asked me to take some to hand-rear and leave some with her. I went to the kennels where she had just been taken to go and see what the situation was, expecting a poor skinny female in bad condition and struggling weak puppies. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
The female was a medium sized mixed breed in very reasonable condition, not ribby, no sores or wounds, but with lots of fleas and a tick. Her pups were all strong, all sucking well and obviously being kept very clean by her. But considering this was supposedly a “street dog”, not too bad at all. She had obviously been a popular girl 9 weeks ago as the pups were clearly from several different fathers!
I took her and her large family to the vet for a check-up. After a very thorough examination of everyone the vet declared them all fit and healthy. She agreed with me that the mother must have been getting adequate food to maintain a pregnancy and produce healthy normal pups and produce milk. We decided that the best thing for everyone was to leave all the puppies with her and rather put all our efforts into getting the best possible nutrition into her to keep her strong and maintain a good milk supply.
She was being such a good mother, cleaning them, keeping them all close, moving around so carefully without every stepping or lying on one. Taking any of them away would clearly stress her and may even cause her to try to find the missing pups leaving the others to get cold and hungry. That stress could also negatively affect her milk. And as she had so much milk suddenly reducing the demand could cause mastitis.
Eventually the (almost) full story emerged. She, and another new mother had been seen in one of the very poor areas and the rescue group had decided they could find them all better homes. They could only catch one of the mothers (neither of them being used to being handled much) so they took her and both litters of puppies. Both dogs did actually have owners who had been looking after them as best they could.
I have mixed feelings about this situation. Firstly I feel very sorry for the mother who’s suddenly had all her pups taken away! There are so many dogs belonging to so-called “civilised” homes, being fed premium dog food, sleeping on designer doggie beds but also being physically and/or emotionally abused. I was the third home in the life of just such a dog. He had been well loved in his first home and due to circumstance had to be re-homed. He then landed up being kicked around by someone in his next home until one day he got kicked down the stairs and badly injured because he was in the way and his person was in a bad mood!
Aren’t those the dogs that should rather be taken away from their people and be given a second chance at a happy life? Or the puppy who keeps escaping and gets beaten every time she comes home so that by the age of 6 months her face is already full of scars?
Perhaps a better solution is to try and assist these poorer communities with spaying and neutering their dogs, supplementing food when possible and education in basic dog care. With rescue shelters being so full of homeless dogs waiting to be loved, I think it’s important to try and be practical and realistic as well as compassionate when deciding to rescue a dog