When one-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Darla waddled into the rehoming centre, it was obvious she was heaviliy pregnant as her tum was almost dragging the floor. But, the staff has no idea they were about to help deliver a GIANT litter of puppies.
When dog rescue centre worked Bradley Tovell told us what happened:
It was October 2019, and the 1-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier was heavily pregnant. She was due any day, and we had no idea how many pups she might have. Her owners brought her to us at the Blue Cross rehoming centre in Suffolk, when their circumstances changed. Working as an animal welfare assistant, I knew that this wasn’t uncommon.
But the owners had done the right thing, bringing her in. Here, she’d be safe and hopefully we’d be able to find her and the pups a new home. First, though, they’d have to be born!
‘Look at the size of her,’ I said to a colleague, as we settled Darla in. ‘I reckon she’s got six pups in there!’ We placed her in the puppy unit, where pregnant dogs benefit from underfloor heating, bigger pens, soft bedding and special food, to give her t strength she’d ne1§d for having pups.As she rested, all we could do was wait. Two days on, I popped into the unit.
‘You OK in there, girl?’ I asked her. Darla seemed quiet, and was laying on her side. §A few minutes later Sadie, the rehoming supervisor, checked on her.
‘She’s started!’ she called. I rushed in to help, quickly followed by Clare, the centre manager. Peering closer, I spotted three little pups snuggling beside Darla! Giving her space, we watched as puppy number four arrived, and then number five. When six and seven had been born, Darla looked pretty exhausted.
‘That must be it…’ I sighed. We gave Darla a rest, let her wander around the kennel. But, as she settled back down in the pen, out popped pup number eight! Clare, Sadie and I all exchanged astonished glances, speechless. How many more could there be? And, 40 minutes later, we had the answer. Darla was wiped out, in the middle of her pen, with 12 adorable puppies bundled around her. We’d never seen such a big litter, especially from a dog of Darla’s size.
‘Well done, girl!’ I said, as we gave her food and water. Checking on the puppies, we learned she’d had six boys and six girls. We gave them space-themed names – Sun, Star, Galaxy, Neptune, Earth and Jupiter for the boys. For the girls, Moon, Comet, Mercury, Venus, Pluto and Saturn.
They were adorable and each one got lots of cuddles. But Darla’s hard work wasn’t over yet. It was best if she fed them herself to start. And, with 12 hungry mouths, it was no easy task. After 24 hours, we jumped in with bottles to help her. For the first eight weeks, the pups stayed close to Mum, then we took them out in doggy pushchairs. Exploring a purpose-built area within the centre, they were wheeled around, as they weren’t ready to walk on the ground yet.
Everyday sounds, like a kettle boiling and doorbell ringing, were played to prepare them for new homes. After their vaccinations at 12 weeks, the pups were safe to go on walkies. And by December, all 12 puppies were rehomed. Best of all, Darla found her own forever home in January. But not before she was spayed! Darla gave birth to beautiful puppies, but now she deserves to put her paws up!