dog rescue, emergency transport, foster dogs, fosterdogs, fostering, puppies, shelters

A Puppy Hero

This week, I was reminded again when it comes to rescue—you can’t predict anything.

Or, at least, I can’t predict anything.

The wild ride began last Wednesday when I got a message from a reader and sister animal rescue advocate, Katie, who lives in upstate PA north of Pittsburgh and works for a shelter there.

She was distraught because she had just learned that it was shelter policy (as determined by a board of directors) to spay and abort pregnant animals.

They’d just gotten in a stray who Katie said was adorable.

She was. I can vouch for that; I saw the video. She was also heavy with puppies.


Katie wondered if there was any chance that if she convinced the board to make an exception OPH might be willing to pull the mama dog and save the puppies.

I had no idea as I’m not a shelter puller and I’d never heard of us pulling a dog in PA. Certainly, there were other rescues who could help her, but time was of the essence since the dog was scheduled to be spayed the next morning.

Katie reached out to me because she had read my book, Another Good Dog, and we had connected via Facebook about rescue and fostering earlier this year. OPH was the only rescue she knew well enough to trust with this, and since she’s read my book, I imagine she also knew I would move mountains if I could to help her and this pregnant dog.

OPH agreed to pull the dog if I agreed to foster it. I hadn’t planned on fostering another pregnant mama right now, but this was a situation I simply couldn’t turn my back on. We waited to hear whether the board would allow Katie to place the dog with rescue.

When we got word that the board granted Katie’s request for an exception, I began making arrangements to meet her to get the dog and I thought two things—I hope this is the first step towards this shelter board changing its policy and omgmy house is going to be overrun

You see, I still had Tommy Hilfiger, the wild and crazy guy, who had multiple applications but had yet to be adopted.

photo by Nancy Slattery

Houdini (aka Hot Diggity Dog) was arriving on the rescheduled transport this Friday.


Plus, Daisy B, will arrive Thursday for us to babysit until Monday. For those without a program that adds up to five dogs, plus a pregnant mama.

Nick said, “You’ve officially crossed that line between rescue and hoarding.”

It’s temporary, I told him and myself. Tommy would be adopted, maybe even before Houdini got here if I was lucky. He had an adopter anxious to meet him whose car troubles had hindered his ability to get here, but seemed set on adopting and sounded like a great match. When we talked he only chuckled when I told him of Tommy’s antics, ferocious playing style, and meager housetraining abilities.

And Daisy B would be happiest out in the playyard anyway. I had purposely left this weekend free of other commitments so I could have time with her.

photo by Nancy Slattery

Houdini the Hot Diggity Dog would need a shut-down anyway to adjust to life in this crazy dog house.

And mama dog would be in the puppy room.

Fanny loved dog company

photo by Nancy Slattery

and Gracie tolerated it well enough.


It could work.

Monday morning, I bleached the puppy room, moved Tommy into the kitchen, and put together a large crate for transporting mama dog that afternoon.

And then I got message that mama dog was delivering her puppies. RIGHT NOW. At the shelter. This reminded me of another mama dog who did the same thing to me after extensive preparations.


So now we’re back to just four, possibly five dogs this weekend. And it’s an unknown when mama and pups will come to us.


But their story is an important one. Yes, we have a happy ending, but had it not been for one woman who spoke up and who did something – those puppies would be dead and gone by now, forgotten.

Instead, because Katie spoke up, because she sought a solution, and did not accept a long-standing policy, they are alive and in another eight weeks or so will join forever families just in time for Christmas. Katie is a hero. A puppy hero.

And I’m proud to be a part of a rescue organization that played a part in saving these lives, and I can’t wait to meet them and their gorgeous mama.


But here’s the biggest thing I hope you will take away from this story – the senseless destruction of adoptable animals is happening everywhere, not just in the south.

And once again it comes down to people who are willing to step up and be the ‘hero in their story’ as the motto of RARE rescue says.

You can be that hero.

Adopt. Rescue. Volunteer. Foster. Get involved.

We can fix this. It’s within our power.

Thanks for reading!


 If you’d like regular updates all my foster dogs past and present, and to find out if my house will be invaded by puppies this week, but sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

For more information on me, my writing, and my upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, visit

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit

Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.

Another Good Dog coverRecently released from Pegasus Books and available anywhere books are sold: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at



12 thoughts on “A Puppy Hero”

  1. Cara, thank goodness for your advocacy and your writing! If I have my way, we might adopt Mama when the puppies are weaned. Schuyler will be moving with Julia. I adore my daughter but can’t imagine a day without Skye. Mama will have to be willing to travel with us.

    Gracie looks like she might like her new sister!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Schuyler was my first thought when I saw her picture and then when she had nine puppies it gave me goosebumps. Can’t wait to meet her. Yes, Gracie does like her new sister, because while Fanny loves to wrestle and play, she’s very respectful of Gracie.


  2. I am very glad you and Katie were able to save the mama dog and her puppies. But I’m going to take a different tack, and not condemn the board for having a policy of spaying pregnant animals. It is pretty common for cat rescue and shelters to spay pregnant cats, unless the mama is so far along that it would be dangerous for her to undergo an abortion. If you know anything about kitten season, you know that there are always more and more and more kittens, and they grow out of that super-adorable fluff stage in a few weeks, and then you have kennels of rangy adolescents that elicit hardly any interest. Maybe puppies are a little easier to adopt out, especially around Christmas time.

    I don’t know anything about Katie’s shelter, and don’t know how strapped they are for funds or volunteers; what their ties are to local rescue groups. It would be wonderful if this exception starts a movement to get a network of volunteers who would be willing to care for the moms and pups. But the resources have to be there, or you would be pulling it from the animals who are also in the shelter. This article brings up several of the problems facing shelters who have to consider pregnant animals:

    Thanks for supporting Katie, and good luck with Tommy, Houdini and Gracie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good article with many good points. Spay/abort with cats does seem to be common practice and knowing how many cats there are, understandable.

      I don’t know a lot about Katie’s shelter, but it does claim a No-kill status. I’m not sure about the community, but do know they have fosters and that there were enough people invested in saving this litter that they were able to cover all the costs of medical and transport with donated money and time. Plus, knowing that she delivered four days after her scheduled spay date says she was very close to term. So, all in all, a good call and a great save.

      That said, the question of spaying early on in a pregnancy or for a dog who is sick, starving, or elderly makes sense to me. Only because I’ve sat with two older, sick dogs while they delivered dead or dying puppies. It’s devastating, not just for me as the foster, but for the dog itself. Six months after losing her puppies, Daisy would still check in the puppy room at every opportunity for her puppies.

      I’m hopeful that moving forward, Katie’s shelter will consider the option of rescue for their pregnant animals. They are north of us by almost five hours, so that puts them closer to many, many rescue groups who would likely be willing to help. In parts of the Northeast and in Canada, finding rescue puppies for people who are adamant they want a puppy isn’t always easy and when one isn’t available, they may choose to buy a puppy instead.

      Everything about sheltering animals and rescue is complicated, because you are weighing lives. I truly believe there will come a day when it won’t be so.


  3. It breaks my heart.
    The idea that the euthanasia is the way to solve the problem we created. The pet industry, it is an industry…are selling cute, and in 6 months when the cute has worn off folks who think in the terms “it’s just a dog” decide it’s time to get rid of the animal.

    Dogs give their people everything, and some people think of their dogs as a temporary amusement.

    And it’s not just dogs…do a web search on “4 Corners horse racing” and you’ll find some very confronting report of horses that didn’t run fast enough being killed at an abattoir. (it is extremely confronting so don’t look it up if you’re sensitive)

    Or the greyhound racing industry (again in Australia). Dogs that aren’t fast enough are killed. There have been multiple cases of owners getting cats from online sites to “blood” their dogs.

    Sometimes I just want to check out from the human race. Start a sanctuary, live with dogs.


    1. It is very easy to become depressed at the awful things we as humans do to animals. But I try very hard to stay focused on the animals themselves and not thier circumstances or the people who put them in those circumstances. Anger doesn’t get us anywhere and the problem is too vast. We have to focus on the animal in front of us and do all we can. Change will happen when individuals act within their own circle of influence to affect the situation. For me, I foster dogs and I write, and now I travel to shelters to write more. That’s what I can do. I know laws need to change but that’s not my skill set. I know the cat problem is massive, but again, not my skill set.

      Sometimes it’s overwhelming, as you said, and we need to take that break, bury our heads for a bit, but then we have to get back it because these animals don’t have any voice but ours. All we can do is the best we can do, but we must do something.


  4. Wonderful that there is a community of animal lovers and advocates willing and eager to go the extra mile. I have had this same thing happen…preparations for a pregnant mama only to have her deliver 9 puppies at the shelter! Transport of such a young family will be stressful, but I hope all goes well and I am excited to follow along with your adventures in your (very) full house!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The little family are on their way to me as I write this. Fingers crossed that mama won’t be too stressed out and babies make it here safely. Thanks for sharing your foster journey – I’m enjoying following it!


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