Just like her namesake in the Bible, Mother Mary, a stray dog, was very pregnant, wandering, and looking for a place to rest so she could give birth.
After receiving a tip from a concerned caller about the pregnant pooch, volunteers from Friends for Life in Houston stepped in to take care of her.
Shannon Lawson, communications director for Friends for Life, said, “When we received a call that some neighbors in the area had been feeding Mother Mary, they were concerned when they saw how pregnant she was. When they called us and asked us to help, of course we said yes.”
Being a resource for the community and providing care to homeless animals are a part of the mission of Friends for Life. It was founded in 2002 by executive director Salise Shuttlesworth and is a no-kill alternative to traditionally run shelter facilities in the area.
Lawson said Mother Mary came under the care of Friends for Life just before Christmas. Because of her obvious advanced pregnancy, volunteers worked to make sure she was comfortable and not placed around the other dogs. “When dogs are pregnant, they like their space,” Lawson said. So, a warm space was created just for her in the shower area of the facility’s wellness department.
Calling it nothing short of a Christmas miracle, Lawson explained, “Mother Mary actually started giving birth on Christmas. She delivered 12 puppies, and it was ongoing and all day. Certain members of our staff and volunteers were actually there to witness some of the births because it lasted a while and she gave birth to so many.”
The litter consisted of eight female and four male puppies. A popular Christmas song provided the inspiration for the they names: Turtledove, Drummer, Piper, Leaper, Dancer, Milky, Swan, Goose, Ringer, Birdy, Henna, and Partridge.
Lawson said that, unfortunately, one of the puppies didn’t survive. “We lost Turtledove.”
Currently, Mother Mary and her puppies are being fostered offsite by a Friends for Life staff member. Lawson said that the foster mother is equipped to take care of the babies and makes sure they are all getting adequate nutrition as they continue to grow and start to open their eyes. “It’s nice to have them in a safe home where they are not overwhelmed with all of the other activity at the shelter,” she added.
Since the rescue is located at 107 E. 22nd Street in Houston, Lawson said, “This was our own little miracle on 22nd Street. It was too perfect, especially when she started to give birth on Christmas morning.”
In addition to helping Mother Mary and her litter, Friends for Life is striving to advance its mission by continuing to reach out to the community and helping other animals in need.
Shuttlesworth said that last year, the rescue gave away more than two tons of food through its food bank. Friends for Life also underwrote more than 1,300 free surgeries for animals of residents in underserved neighborhoods, which prevented more than 26,000 animal births, she said.
When Friends for Life came into existence, she explained, “It offered a progressive choice to Houstonians who believe we can do better. We have proven that those ‘unadoptable’ animals are, in fact, adoptable, and that 75 percent of the animals we have placed in loving homes would not have made it to the adoption room floor at traditional shelters.”
Looking ahead to the future, Shuttlesworth said, “We intend to continue to expand the mentorships and partnerships in the community. We look forward to opening a veterinary clinic on the property we have purchased adjacent to our current facility, which will serve greater Houston.”
She added that by providing accessibly priced veterinary medical services, more people will be able to take better care of their animals and won’t have to take an animal to a shelter in the first place. Or have their dog end up on the streets, pregnant and looking for a safe place to have their puppies.
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About the author: Anne Forline is a freelance writer in Bellmawr, New Jersey. She is an unrepentant foster failure. Her three rescue bunnies, JoJo, Bennie, and Nibbles, allow Anne, her husband, Steve, and daughter, Cara, to share a home with them. Anne likes to run 5Ks and has placed a few times in her age division. She is also a certified teacher who homeschools Cara. Anne makes friends with all of the neighborhood dogs and keeps treats handy to give out when they pass by on their walks. See more of her work at anneforline.com, check out her Facebook page – Anne Forline – Writer, and follow her on Twitter at @AnneForline.