A dog on death row gave birth to 12 puppies in an Auckland pound the night before she was due to die.
The first-time mum, a dalmatian cross called Pepper, dragged her bedding onto the concrete floor and produced her large litter.
She was emaciated, exhausted, shivering and distressed.
But Pepper had a rescue team waiting in the wings.
Her first saviour was a pound worker who couldn't bear to see the heavily pregnant dog put down.
The woman contacted North Shore's Linda Nunn from Animal Re-homing two days before Pepper was booked to die.
"The thought of an expectant mother and her mature unborn pups being killed, through no fault of their own, sent waves of adrenalin coursing through me," Linda says.
She found foster carers Deborah Lees from Helensville and her mum Fay who were prepared to care for two-year-old Pepper.
The pair's plans for Pepper were thwarted when she gave birth earlier than expected to so many puppies.
The women arrived at the pound to a pitiful sight.
Pepper was exhausted and there was no way 12 puppies could all reach her life-giving milk.
Time was of the essence if Pepper and her puppies were to be nursed back to health.
Deborah knew the dog was a survivor despite her delicate state of health.
"When I got her home she had no energy but I picked up a stick and she grabbed it - that's when I thought she was going to be okay."
Pepper and her now plump puppies are doing better every day.
Deborah and her mum initially worked in shifts day and night, taking six puppies to Pepper every two hours for feeding.
Deborah was already busy having just adopted a two-year-old labrador from Animal Rehoming two days earlier.
"When it's life or death for the animals you don't think about it," she says.
"It's about keeping them alive. The love of animals keeps us going."
Pepper has stayed brave throughout her ordeal.
"She's really been appreciative. Her eyes said it all. The look when she let us pick her puppies up. She's gentle and thoughtful and is fastidious about cleaning her babies."
The puppies, named after their colouring,include Snowflake, Tiggy and Panda, for easy identification.
The next challenge is finding homes for them all including Pepper.
- Visit the Animal Re-homing website at www.animalrehoming.co.nz to apply for adoption information or to make a donation towards the huge cost associated with the care of Pepper and her litter.
Masterpet has already contributed products including food and collars.
The story of Pepper the dog and her 12 puppies rescued from the pound will touch your heart even more when you see them on video.
Pepper's foster carer Deborah Lees talks about their road to recovery while a dozen puppies clamber over their mum.
You'll see Snowflake, Panda and their brothers and sisters.
Click below to view the video.
- North Shore Times
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