On the morning of November 30,2014 on a cold and blustery winter morning (air temperature -3, windchill - 25!) one of our staff members received an unexpected call at the gate. Home for Life's front gate has a callbox so people can contact us up at the facility. A man's voice came over the intercom and said "Hey! did you know there was a dog tied to your gate?!" He then hung up.
The staff on duty ran down to the gate. There they found a starving, shivering, very scared and VERY pregnant short hair dog tied to our front gate. On her gritty old collar- so dirty that the color couldn't even be determined- was a heavy hook.
The hook had clearly been unfastened from the chain she had been tied out on. What was interesting was that on the other part of her collar was a brand new leash that had been used to tie her to Home for Life's front gate. Our theory is that a "Robin Hood" saw this poor dog's predicament; cold, starving, pregnant and chained outside with little shelter. This kind person freed her and brought her to Home for Life. Whoever had called, whoever had left her at our gate was nowhere in sight when our staff found the dog.
The dog was so frightened she would not walk up our long driveway, so we carried her. Even with this extreme duress, she was still very gentle. She is a beautiful red color with soft brown eyes and ears. We named her Rory after one of Home for Life's beloved paraplegic cats who lived at the sanctuary for many years.
The next day, Rory visited our veterinarian who determined she was very close to delivering her puppies. Home for Life rarely has puppies, let alone any pregnant animals at the sanctuary, so we had to quickly learn about all aspects about caring for dog who was about to give birth. The veterinarian found that her temperature was dropping- a sign that the delivery is imminent- and thought that she would give birth within a few days.
That evening, December 1, Rory began pacing and became very anxious. We quickly prepared a birthing box- using one of the swimming pools that our dogs play in in the summer- and lined it with soft blankets and towels. Her first puppy was born at approximately 6:30 pm that evening and 7 others followed within the next 2 hours. Rory was very conscientious about cleaning them off and making sure they were nursing, but needed a little help from HFL staff serving as midwives for puppies 6, 7 and 8 as she was very tired. It's amazing she did so well in her condition and with the stress of being left at the gate in the freezing cold.
We thought she was done at 8 puppies so left her to be quiet with her new babies. Upon returning just an hour later, we thought we were seeing things when 2 more puppies - all cleaned off and nursing- had been born. We kept counting and recounting, but our eyes were not deceiving us. We had a total of 10 puppies: 7 brown like their mom and 3 spotted. 4 little girls and 6 little boys.
Rory was fed nearly 6 times a day in those first few weeks and cleaned her plate each time. She had to build her own health back plus take care of her 10 new puppies. We took great care of Rory, keeping her warm and well-fed. We supplemented her calcium (with TUMS!) and she did the rest. Fortunately all 10 puppies survived and Rory was an excellent mom, keeping them immaculately clean and always well fed and content.
Our puppies' weights were monitored every week to be sure they were thriving and all continued to steadily gain. By three weeks, we knew we were out of the woods with them and that they would all survive. To help tell them apart, we painted their toenails. 10 different colors for 10 puppies. Once their eyes opened and they could creep and crawl, we bought collars for each puppy. We used kitten collars with a safety latch so there was no danger of the puppy getting caught by his or her collar and not being able to get loose. The collars have bells so they sound like Santa's reindeer sleigh when they run towards us.
When the puppies were 4 weeks old, it was time for their first official Home for Life portrait. They were not just a litter anymore but developing individual personalities as they became stronger and more active. Photographer Mark Luinenburg captured the puppies and their mother Rory for posterity in several touching pictures [see the gallery here] taken on the pups' 4 week birthday December 29, 2014.
Our hope for each puppy was that we would be able to find a loving home of their own. Home for Life will offer them for adoption at 8 weeks. A free spay/neuter, microchiping and first shots will be part of their adoption package. Although we will do our best to screen potential adopters to find forever homes for the puppies, we know sometimes adoptions fail for a variety of reasons. The many calls and emails we receive each week attests to the fact that many animals don't keep their homes, and the puppies' mother, Rory, illustrates that dogs often do lose their homes. For this reason, Home for Life put a safety net under all these puppies and should their adoption fail for any reason, they can always be returned to us. As for Rory, we made her a permanent member of Home for Life, and hope to perhaps train her to join our therapy dog corps as part of our community outreach work. Rory had a "home" and they didn't treat her very well. She is lucky to be alive. As Cleveland Amory wrote in his book Ranch of Dreams, about the famed Black Beauty ranch, "It is not that we are selfish hoarders of our animals. It is rather that so many of our animals came to us, in the beginning, abused or ill used that we do not want to take even the remotest chance that such misfortune would ever happen to them again."
We are grateful to KMSP-Fox 9 News and reporter Leah Beno who did a feature story about Home for Life's puppies which aired January 9th locally and on Fox affiliates in Michigan, Washington DC, Florida, Illinois and California! The interest in Rory and her puppies and their story of survival is a testament to the fact that people are hungry for good news, and a happy ending. See the Fox News feature on Home for Life's puppies here.
Our hope for each puppy is that their loving new homes will protect them so that they will never face the harsh treatment and neglect their mother did. Rory's life and those of her puppies could have so easily ended tragically, on the end of a chain, out in the cold. Instead, all 10 puppies are healthy and strong, and have eagerly started their new lives. Though it has been hard to see the puppies leave us, they will always hold a place in our hearts and will be a part of Home for Life forever. No matter what the future holds, they will always have a home at our sanctuary.
At the time of the news stories about the puppies and all the interest that followed from around the country about them we also had some inquiries about adopting Rory, but those who had asked about her never returned our questionnaire we used to screen potential owners nor otherwise followed up.
We decided not to send her away to another shelter or rescue to be adopted out to someone we didn't know. After all Rory had been through, and all we had been through with her, we just couldn't ship her out to be "recycled" through an adoption process to face an unknown fate once again.
Now spayed and fully recovered from her ordeal and hard work raising her 10 puppies, Rory has become a member in good standing of Spiderman's group: all the dogs are comparable in energy level and get along so well; what the rat terriers Jake and Tipper lack in size compared to the others, they make up with plenty of attitude. For a dog who likely lived on a chain her entire life, Rory finally has had the chance to run freely and safely in our fenced meadows and has found freedom, friendship and a place to belong at Home for Life. She is a special favorite of our staff who have been part of her remarkable journey -she never lost her sweet nature in spite of all she has gone through.
Rory is now home for life.
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