It's mid October, 2013 and we're getting ready for another busy day as the weather heats up here at Westlakes Vet Hospital.
We have had a call from a concerned neighbour of ours that they have noticed a dog wandering around the area.
They told us that the dog seemed to be pregnant as well as homeless.
As is procedure here at Westlakes Vet we advised the caller to try and coax the dog to them, and then bring her to us so we could scan her for a microchip. The goal with all lost pets that come through our doors is to get them reunited with their families as soon as possible to reduce stress and anxiety in the pets.
The caller was here within hours and trailing behind them was a very scared, very pregnant terrier mix.
She was underweight and looked to be struggling with her belly full of puppies almost certainly outweighing her.
Nurse Heidi quickly bonded with the homeless dog and worked on calming her before we scanned for a microchip, the smell and sounds of the scanner can be unnerving for dogs who are already anxious.
After she had partly settled we scanned her for a microchip, hopeful that we would hear the tell tale beep that lets us know that someone loves this girl enough to microchip her.
Unfortunately that was not the case.
Silence for this weary mother.
Nurse Heidi and Nurse Jess were already organizing a plan to save this helpless life and the unknown number of lives inside of her.
The girls knew the gloomy fate of a scared and pregnant dog in the pound system, and around that time of year the kennels are already overflowing, one pregnant dog with a belly full of pups of unknown health would be very hard to find a home for despite everyones best efforts.
They decided to take her in.
They gave her a soft bed, a big meal, a safe place to relax and a name.
She was known as 'Penny' from that day forward.
Penny needed special attention as we did not know any previous history such as vaccinations, worming, how far along her pregnancy was or even what breed the father of these puppies could be.
She came out of her shell with each passing day as she was looked after by Nurse Heidi, she started to relax and her stomach grew every day.
Not knowing what breed the father was, Penny was at a huge risk of needing a Caesarian procedure which is when the puppies cannot be delievered naturally without causing harm to themselves or their mother.
Nurse Heidi even went as far as to call Penny's finders to see if they had noticed any other dogs running free in the area hoping to find out any potential male breeds.
Unfortunately no other dogs had been seen so we were back to square one, and as Penny's belly grew, the girls grew more worried about the size of these puppies and the impact they were having on their tiny mother.
Penny came to work once a week with Nurse Heidi to try and socialize her with other people and animals and also to be looked over by Dr Paul and Dr John.
She became a part of the Westlakes Vet family over the next month.
At around noon on the 3rd of November, Nurse Jess recieved a phone call from Nurse Heidi that Penny had gone into labour!
The girls had the emergency vet number on hand in case of the worst case scenario and they sat with Penny to keep her calm and safe as the labour progressed.
There was no way to let Penny know that she was in safe hands with two vet nurses. The labour continued and she stayed calm and stuck with the girls in her purpose built whelping box.
With no idea how many puppies were on their way, the girls waited patiently and monitored Penny thoughout the day.
First to arrive was a puppy now named 'Rufus', a small black and tan boy he was born without complications and Penny was quick to clean him and get him suckling.
Over the next ten hours, another eight puppies were welcomed into the world by Penny, Nurse Jess and Nurse Heidi.
Six little boys and two little girls were born safely when Penny appeared to finish pushing and settled to suckle the pups already born, another little male was stillborn and despite the girls best efforts he could not be revived.
We think that if Penny had had sufficient nutrition and care throughout the whole of her pregnancy, all the pups would have survived.
Penny allowed Nurses Jess and Heidi to remain in her whelping box and check all the puppies for gender and any abnormalities. A mix of black and tan, brown and tan and white puppies, there was even a Penny clone in the mix!
Over the next few weeks the puppies all grew and thrived in their home environment living with Nurse Heidi and their mother.
They were featured in the Herald one Saturday morning and the girls knew it was time to find them loving forever homes of their own.
The pups all came to the clinic on that day to be vaccinated and microchipped and to potentially meet their new families.
7 of Penny's puppies found their forever homes that day, two of the boys even went to their new home together!
The 8th pup, a tan and white male now named 'Gus' found his home with Nurse Jess! Gus had been living with her since being weaned from Penny and she and her family knew it was an unbreakable bond.
With the puppies all in their forever homes it was time to turn our attention to Penny. Now having gained weight and recovering from giving birth to and feeding her puppies it was time for Nurse Jess and Heidi to reasess their position.
Fast forward two months and Nurse Jess recieves a phone call from a woman who tells her that she will adopted Penny!
While this story turned out to have a happy ending for nine lives who wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for the caring nature of two of our nurses, many others do not have such a good outcome.
It is essential that we are all responsible with our pets and if you do not plan on breeding your pet, we recommend desexing at around six months of age.
Click here to read the Herald article about Lucy and her puppies