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Puppy Love: Caring for One of HRA's Most Vulnerable Populations

Neonatal puppies are one of the most vulnerable and resource-intensive populations in a shelter environment. With fast, forward-thinking coordination, and support from our incredible community, the Humane Rescue Alliance was able to care for more than 200 puppies in 2018. HRA's transport and rescue program received frequent requests for help from area shelters inundated with nursing moms and puppies. When possible, HRA is proud to help give these animals an increased chance at survival and eventual adoption.

HRA medical staff care for sick and injured puppies, working tirelessly to give them the specific medical care they often require; HRA's foster program keeps young dogs out of the shelter - where they are at an increased risk of catching potentially deadly diseases - and in loving foster homes where they can grow and thrive; and HRA adoptions team helps them find loving families.

At birth, newborn puppies' eyes and ears are shut, they are without the ability to regulate their own body temperature, they cannot urinate or defecate on their own, and require multiple feedings per day. Keeping puppies fed, warm, comfortable, and healthy is a 24/7 job! This is why it is essential to keep puppies with their moms for as long as possible, ideally until they are eight weeks old or are ready for adoption.

When HRA's Customer Care Associate, Natalie Nicholas, got the call about a mama dog who had just given birth to 11 puppies at HRA's New York Avenue adoption center, she knew she wanted to help. By the end of the night, the family was in foster care at Natalie's home. For the next few weeks, mom was able to care for her pups, away from the stress of the shelter environment. She was a fantastic mother to her puppies, and all of her babies were adopted into loving families eight weeks later.

"The bond between these puppies and their mom is inexplicable," Nicholas said, "When fostering a mom and babies, you get to see everything from the beginning to the end. All the progress they make. How they grow."

Sometimes, it isn't possible for the puppies to stay with their mother. When a small dog recently arrived at HRA in distress and clearly in labor, she was rushed to an emergency veterinary partner to have her pups delivered via cesarean section. After the four puppies were born, poor mom was too weak to properly care for them.

They went to one of HRA's experienced puppy fosters, Hollis Lampe, to be bottle fed around the clock. With tireless care, the four pups grew strong, healthy, and extremely cute. After their mom was healed, she went to her forever home, too!

An often-asked question to fosters and puppy caretakers is: don't you miss them when they go?

"By the time they're old enough to find their new homes, I'm always attached," said Lampe. "But watching them go home with their adopters and seeing them become an adored member of someone's family is amazing."

In rarer occasions, HRA foster families step up for a single puppy in need. At the end of 2017, a mama dog was transferred to the Humane Rescue Alliance from the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter; she had just given birth and they were out of space. While at HRA, mom and puppies thrived - except for one. He was found in the corner of the den, skinny and shivering, pushed out as the runt.

The medical center cared for his immediate needs (dehydration and low body temperature) while our foster team got to work and found him a loving foster who bottle fed him hourly, gave him a warm place to sleep, and watched him grow. That little runt went to his forever home a few weeks later, and is alive because of HRA's lifesaving programs.

None of this would be possible without the time, dedication, and support of the community. Between financial support, volunteering to care for these animals, and fostering them in their homes, DC is saving the lives of hundreds of puppies a year.


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