It takes a village

All hands on deck: John Stephens says hand-raising 10 puppies has been a community effort

It’s taken a small village, and round-the-clock care, to hand-raise a litter of 10 motherless Queenstown puppies, most of whom are off to their ‘furever’ homes this week.

The pups’ granddad, John Stephens, says his golden Labrador, Lily, which he’d had for about two years, canoodled with a friend’s Rottweiler at a barbecue over summer.

Sixty-two days later, Lily went into labour.

When one pup got stuck in her birthing canal, Lily was rushed to Remarkables Vets for the rest of the puppies to be delivered via caesarean.

‘‘It was a bit like 101 Dalmatians, they operated and out came one pup, out came another pup, out came another pup … and we end up having a litter of 12,’’ Stephens says.

Sadly, the stuck puppy was stillborn and Lily didn’t wake up from anaesthesia — leaving Stephens and his family with 11 puppies to raise.

‘‘It went from pure elation … to pure devastation, just thinking ‘oh my goodness, what are we going to do without the mum? We need the mum, we can’t feed them’.

‘‘We didn’t know what to do, but that’s where the team at Remarkable Vets was so good, they actually took the pups for that first night while [wife] Nicola and I and the kids all came home crying.’’

Another pup died about four days later, leaving 10 to be hand-reared.

Stephens says it’s been a full-time job — the puppies needed feeding every two hours, then bottles had to be sterilised, formula made and there was also some cleaning up to do.

The family enlisted about 20 volunteers, including the other ‘grandparents’, Rachael Kane- Smith and Tyrone Smith, some of the Remarkable Vets team, friends — including some from Dunedin — and other Queenstown locals, using a live roster online to help coordinate shifts.

Most people did 12-hour stretches — Queenstowner Alison Beaumont clocked up nine of those — while Robin Joynes, who’s had a similar experience before, earned the nickname ‘ICU nurse’.

‘‘These pups have been brought up by the Queenstown community, which is fantastic,’’ Stephens says.

Three puppies are still to find their new homes, but Stephens says he plans to hold a reunion a year from now with all the dogs and their new families.

[email protected]

- Advertisement -