This dog's litter could set a record!
When overcrowded animal shelters become maxed out, they are forced to euthanize the least adoptable and most expensive animals, which means that among those put on death row are pregnant dogs. Since it’s already difficult for the shelter to care for the soon-to-be mom, having to care for her puppies and make sure they are getting the proper nutrition from the mom after they’re born is too much. As they grow, they will start to eat dog food and take up several kennels depending on their size, all of which is often unmanageable. That’s exactly why an overcrowded rural shelter in Missouri put Ava, a severely pregnant dog, on the euthanasia list in mid-June.
One perplexed employee at the rural county shelter decided to take matters into her own hands after she took pity on Ava and made a call to the nearby no-kill rescues that have pulled dogs from death row in the past. It was from this effort that Midwest Animal ResQ (MARQ) heard about Ava and decided they couldn’t turn their backs on her.
“The animal control officer said we were the last rescue group on her list to call,” Erin Morse, director of MARQ, told The Dodo. “Otherwise she was out of options.”
Despite not having room at their own shelter, MARQ decided to rescue Ava and knew they had to find a foster immediately. Not only is shelter life the place for a pregnant dog, but someone would need to monitor Ava and assist with the birth of her puppies, which could happen at any moment. Ava was first taken to the vet, where she was x-rayed but the number of babies in her litter could not be determined.
MARQ reached out to their volunteer foster parents and landed on Ashlee Holland. Though Holland was reluctant at first, she wound up bringing Ava into her home.
“I felt like Ava needed me,” Holland told The Dodo. “I almost didn’t accept her because I had just received a group of bottle-fed kittens from another rescue and I thought a pregnant dog, and soon to be puppies, would be too much for me. [But] I couldn’t get Ava out of my mind and so I accepted her and I’m so glad I did!”
“Ashlee offered to help…even though she’d never fostered a momma before,” MARQ said in a Facebook post.
Ava, who was a former stray dog, was at Holland’s house for two weeks before she went into labor and delivered a huge surprise. The big mom wound up giving birth to 18 puppies! Though it doesn’t break the world record of 24 puppies in a single litter, it certainly tops the record in most states and countries. All of the puppies were born healthy except for one, who sadly died shortly after being born. Ava took the whole process in stride and so far the remaining 17 are doing really well.
“They are doing fantastic! They are gaining as they should and are healthy,” Holland said.
Their momma is happy and, as soon as all the puppies are old enough and adopted out, Ava will be ready for her own forever home. She has come a long way since being hours or days away from the death of both herself and her developing puppies. As for how Holland is doing, she’s incredibly happy as well, saying that her experience with Ava has been amazing.
“Ava has changed my life just as much as I’ve changed hers,” she said. “I would do it all over again.”
If you want to follow the progress of Ava and her puppies, you can follow the Facebook page created for them, Ava and her 18 Royals.