For one very pregnant — and blind — pit bull named Darla, her unborn litter was almost her death sentence.
Pregnant dogs are often the most at-risk when they are taken into shelters. As much as the shelter staff may want to help, the health risks to both the pregnant dogs and to their puppies can be severe. In a crowded shelter environment, newborn puppies are at high risk for infection, which can be fatal.
Even though Darla was only two weeks away from birth, the open-intake shelter in Fresno, California, planned to abort her entire litter.
Sadly, this is not uncommon. Because of shelter overcrowding, euthanasia and even full-term abortion of puppies happens often. In particular, shelters often euthanize pit bulls.
But Liesl Wilhardt, Executive Director of Luvable Dog Rescue, had a different outcome in mind. She decided to take in Darla and “allow her to continue the pregnancy.”
Reflecting on the high rate of euthanasia for pit bulls, Wilhardt told PupJournal,
“Some shelters Luvable works with have a 98% euthanasia rate for pit bulls. In fact, we’ve been told that at some shelters, the ONLY Pit Bulls getting out alive are mothers with puppies being pulled by rescue organizations. The other 98% of the pit bulls are killed simply because nobody wants them.”
When pregnant Darla came to Luvable, she was treated to their unique version of love for dogs like her — the shelter provides cottages for pit bulls, with a special focus on pregnant dogs and their litters.
Darla was given the full menu of loving care: a cottage to call her own, as well as “lots of good food, relaxing massages, belly-rubs and short walks to ease the final days of her pregnancy,” according to Wilhardt. She even had her own covered porch — heated, of course.
And yet, this gentle, blind dog’s troubles were far from over.
For one thing, Darla’s belly seemed bigger — much bigger — than it should be for a dog her size.
Wilhardt told PupJournal, “for such a tiny dog, her stomach looked grotesquely extended…far more so than I had seen with all our previous pregnant dogs. The days passed, and Darla just got bigger, and bigger and bigger. But she was eating, seemed to feel ok, and and we had no real reason to think anything was wrong. An X-ray showed eight “normal sized” puppies, so we had no real reason to worry.”